By IMMAF.org lead writer, Jorden Curran
The national amateur team put forward by the MMA Federation of Australia will be in action next month at the 2017 IMMAF Asian Open Championships. The Oceania team consisting of 7 athletes will be bidding to upset a number of leading amateur champions across 6 weight brackets.
The Aussie national team was last in action at the 2016 IMMAF World Championships in Las Vegas, USA, and secured several encouraging victories in deep brackets, despite the nation claiming just one medal as Middleweight Andrew Stanway clinched bronze.
World championships veteran Joseph Luciano, who featured in the 2016 welterweight bracket, returns to the national lineup this time among the middleweights. Fighting out of Frankston, Melbourne, Luciano kicked off his Las Vegas campaign with a unanimous decision win over the powerful Austrian standout Florian Aberger and advanced to the quarter-finals with an additional decision win over seasoned French technician Henri Dimiri. In international tournaments since, athletes who have bested either Aberger or Dimitri have each progressed to the championship final, however Luciano was eliminated from the 2016 Worlds as one of the final 8, eventually falling to the USA’s Will Starks who went on to retain the world championship crown.
In Singapore Luciano will have the opportunity to showcase his full potential once again, fighting alongside fellow middleweight contender and team Australia newcomer Sam Lawson. Among their tournament rivals, the duo from down under will have their eye on number 6 ranked middleweight Hetham Rabhi who last earned bronze at the 2017 European Open and will likely enter next month’s bracket as the no.1 seed. Luciano will find confidence in Rabhi himself having previously lost out to Aberger via the judge’s scorecards at the European Open in 2016.
The 25-year-old will joined by 6 fellow team members, each stepping up to the international level for the first time. On the road to Singapore a number of Australia’s finest amateurs benefited from domestic tournament experience, including Luciano, as they competed at the annual Arnold Classic Australian MMA Championships.
Australia’s full team lineup includes:
Ed Bavelock – Coach
Alish Smith – Women’s Flyweight
Junior Faatui – Men’s Featherweight
Sam Lawson – Middleweight
Jean Alexander Romano – Men’s Bantamweight
Cody Barnwell – Welterweight
Ioannis Skiadas – Men’s Lightweight
Joseph Luciano – Middleweight
In addition, 20-year-old Alish Smith perhaps receives the most lucrative opportunity not only for championship success but valuable experience against top level competition. She enters the Women’s Flyweight bracket with returning world champion and former pound-for-pound number 1, Gabriella Ringblom, plus former world silver medalist and no.4 ranked flyweight Anja Saxmark.
Over the years countless challengers and amateur champions competing on the IMMAF international platform have proven the example that weight cutting is not essential for success and that the health benefits and comfort of being closer to a natural weight throughout the tournament process has been key to their success. Will this be the catalyst that sees Luciano earn his first IMMAF championship medal? Find out next month when the 2017 IMMAF Asian Open Championships take place from June 12 -16 at Marina Bay Sands hotel as IMMAF’s first championship in Asia supported by the UFC’s on-going commitment to developing MMA in the region.
For live team developments and results visit MyNextMatch.com.