Team Kazakhstan picked up right where it left off at last year’s GAMMA Asian Championships by claiming the lion’s share of the medals at a superb GAMMA World Championships 2021 that concluded today at the Sporthallen Zuid in Amsterdam.
An impressive 27 of the 40 competing nations secured at least one medal, but it was Kazakhstan that led the way, winning 7 golds, followed by Poland (5) in second and Team USA (3) in third. The Kazakhs claimed 17 medals in total (7 gold, 8 silver and 2 bronze).
When the lights dimmed and music blared to signal the start of Day 3 of competition, the stage was set for a highly entertaining finale to the event, with a full 29 gold-medal bouts on the card.
The spoils of the opening match went to Azerbaijan’s Fatali Talibov, who beat Akhmet Amir of Kazakhstan in less than a minute to become the first World Champion of the year in the men’s 52.2kg MMA category.
With four bouts coming in quick succession before the first medals were awarded, there was plenty of action for fans who had taken their seats early. The first women’s match saw MMA debutant Victoria Anthony of the USA using her wrestling skills to keep India’s Sarita Rathod pinned for a large part of the contest to emerge victorious after a judge’s decision.
Yernaz Mussabek became the first medallist for Kazakhstan when he forced German opponent Rasanbek Gadzhiev into submission in the second round of their 56.7kg contest. In an all-European women’s 56.7kg bout, Karolina Chlobuszewska fought off a spirited display from Frenchwoman Morgane Dehaye to take the gold medal.
In the men’s 83.9kg category final, Nail Azizov from Azerbaijan took on Mehdi Taki from Italy. The two men forged a friendship during the European Championships in Kyiv last year and could even be seen talking to each other during the fight. Taki was awarded the win by judges’ decision, and with it became Italy’s first ever MMA World Champion.
Australia’s Danielle Curtis followed with a victory over Meruyert Ibrayeva in the women’s 65.8kg category to claim her country’s only gold of these World Championships.
The first medal of the day in the Striking MMA category was awarded to Begzhan Abilkassym of Kazakhstan in the men’s 52.2kg category after he defeated India’s Kishor Kumar. Soon after, also in the 52.2kg weight category, compatriot Tomiris Zhussupova was beaten by Devi Surbala Laishram, securing the first gold for India.
Back-to-back victories for Poland came next, as Joanna Walorska recorded a TKO against India’s Indiyana B in the 65.8kg Striking MMA category and Filip Szostak was gifted gold when teammate Tomasz Broton withdrew because of injury in the 77.1kg Striking MMA division.
In the women’s heavyweight Striking MMA category (72.6kg), Samoan Inna Leniu overpowered Tunisian Nourhen Sahraoui in a true war of attrition. Leniu will consider it a long trip well worth the taking to return back to Samoa as World Champion.
Kazakhstan was already guaranteed another gold medal in the men’s 65.8kg division, with two teammates facing each other. Koshen Akanov stopped the bout in the final round to take the spoils over Belgizhan Seitenov. The quest for a quick succession of gold medals for Kazakhstan was thwarted by Kyrgyzstan athlete Iler Uulu Bakhtier, who was given the judges’ decision over Nurtaza Jumakhanov in the 70.3kg Striking MMA category.
Ehtiram Darishov won Azerbaijan’s second world title when defeating Nika Gudushauri of Georgia in the men’s 61.2kg category, before the women returned in the 72.6kg category, where Miriam Ramos Santana claimed Spain’s first gold medal with a victory over Kyrgyzstan’s Makhabat Orozbekova. In a contest that had the Spanish fans cheering every blow, Santana was declared the winner after the bout went the full distance.
Kazakhstan did not have to wait long for another medal as Imran Taisultanov left American Colin Robinson motionless on the canvas, stopping the contest at the end of the first round of the 93.0kg final. The heavyweight battle in the men’s +120.2kg lasted less than a minute as Team USA’s Lawrence Phillips got the better of Latvian Martinsh Bozhevnieks, winning by TKO.
It was back to winning ways for Kazakhstan when Kairatbek Zharekeyev knocked out his Polish opponent, Patryk Rogoz, midway through the second round in the 93.0kg Striking MMA category.
19-year-old Veronika Smolkova of Slovakia impressed after the break with a first-round technical knockout of Aikorik Kuandykova of Kazakhstan in the women’s 61.2kg Striking MMA category. Smolkova knocked her opponent to the canvas with an expertly timed kick, and finished the bout with an excellent combination of lefts and rights that forced the referee to step in.
In the men’s 70.3kg, Kyrgyzstan’s Murtazaali Magomedov won his country’s second gold medal of the day with a hard-fought victory over Australia’s Kevin Kophamel. Both athletes defeated three opponents en route to the final, so it was no surprise that the match was largely a grappling affair, with Magomedov taking the match to the ground early and Kophamel countering with a number submission attempts. In the end, the judges unanimously agreed that Magomedov had done enough to lift the title.
India’s Longtsukumba Ao and Jordan’s Wasfi Ismael Eid Mohammad left everything in the ring in the men’s 65.8kg Striking MMA final. Both athletes were on the front foot throughout, much to the delight of the crowd, but it was the Jordanian who was judged to have landed the most strikes, winning the title in a unanimous decision.
In the men’s 61.2kg Striking MMA division, Sairan Sagyndykov of Kazakhstan employed a series of highlight-reel takedowns to defeat opponent Dastan Sulaimanov of Kyrgyzstan.
Local heroine Kelly Hamming looked to be in cruise control in the final of the women’s 61.2kg MMA division, heading into the final round with a large point advantage. But Lebanon’s sole competitor at these World Championships, Sandar Succar, had other plans, applying an arm bar that led to a tap out.
“That’s my style, I make my opponents tired then I strike hard,” said Succar after the win. “I’ve been working four years for this moment. It’s amazing.”
It was a battle between experienced veteran and youthful upstart in the men’s 83.9kg Striking MMA final. 36-year-old Titus Tugume of Uganda, a hugely popular kickboxer in his home country, took on 24-year-old Draganski Bartlomiej of Poland for the gold. Youth prevailed, with Bartlomiej knocking Tugume to the canvas twice before the ref stopped the fight in the first round during an exchange of heavy blows.
American Hannah Rokala and German Songuel Karatorak exhibited a bit of everything in the final of the women’s 52.2kg MMA category. Both looked like seasoned professionals on the ground and with their striking games. One of the most technically sound matches of these World Championships, it was Rokala who walked away with the title following a unanimous decision by the judges.
Eljan Gassanov of Kazakhstan also earned a unanimous decision over Poland’s Marcin Blaziak in the Men’s 77.1kg MMA, before the heavyweights took to the ring to conclude an exceptional day of competition.
First up were Valentino Misiedjan of the Netherlands and Nursultan Tursynkulov of Kazakhstan in the Men’s 120.2kg Striking MMA final, followed by Georgia’s Giorgi Chochishvili vs Poland’s Iwo Baraniewski in the Men’s 120.2kg MMA match.
Misiedjan and Tursynkulov came out swinging and it looked like one or the other would end the proceedings quickly. In the end it was Tursynkulov’s bloody nose that resulted in a technical knockout for Misiedjan in the first round.
Chochishvili and Baraniewski brought the World Championships to a close in style, with the Pole bringing Chochishvili to the ground early before raining lefts and rights on his opponent that prompted the referee to end the bout.
GAMMA President Alexander Engelhardt concluded: “This is the future of MMA. This is the way we can grow the sport form the grassroots where you can have people involved that normally do not come to MMA. You can see how exciting this sport is. The ambience, the atmosphere, the people around the competition are the real spirit.
Engelhardt added that 2022 will be a busy year for GAMMA, with the continental championships, a World Youth Championship and the 2022 World Championships all scheduled.