2017 European Open Preview: Men’s Flyweight

Irishman David Fogarty will continue in his pursuit of clinching IMMAF gold for the first time at the 2017 European Open Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria.

As the 2016 European Open and World Championships silver medalist at 125lbs, Fogarty will enter this year’s European Open, taking place from March 29 to April 2, as the no.1 seed going in to the Men’s Flyweight bracket draw.

While the 27-year-old currently sits 3rd in the IMMAF Men’s Flyweight rankings, his closest competing rival, Serdar Altas, has been forced to withdraw from competition due to injury. The Swedish standout, who earned World Championship silver in 2015 and Africa Open gold last year, made his way to the European Open podium for the first time when he claimed the gold medal following a hotly contested 2016 final in Prague that resulted in a Unanimous Decision win for the 22-year-old Swede.

Fogarty’s skill as a BJJ technician has seen him able to effectively fight off of his back and never let off the pressure with keen instincts for triangle and arm-bar set ups.

Bronze medalists Berik Shinaliyev (Kazakhstan) and Sanan Safarli (Azerbaijan) return to the competition after promising first appearances last year. Safarli secured his semi-final place with a first round guillotine choke submission to overcome Sweden’s Dennis Ryden, the oldest competitor in the division at age 30. Safarli was eventually eliminated by Altas via submission, a second round rear-naked-choke. Meanwhile, lone Kazakh Shinaliyev found cult hero status with his untamed striking style producing a body shot TKO finish with a crowd pleasing spinning-back-kick planted upon Bahrain’s Hussain Abdulla, a former bronze medalist in his own right making national history when earning a first ever podium spot for Bahrain in 2015.

Tristar Gym Lebanon’s Roland Yacoubain enters as a newcomer to the competition having most recently claimed a first round submission stoppage under the banner of prominent Lebanese promotion Cedar Fighting Championships (CFC).

In addition, Irishman Dylan Kennedy returns to the division. The Dubliner was also eliminated by Altas last year via a Unanimous Decision but remains with full potential yet to be seen, competing at just 20 years of age. Bulgarian Nikolay Ivalyov, also aged 20, completes the current lineup as a veteran of the past 2 IMMAF World Championships and 2015 European Open.

It is yet to be confirmed if the Swedish MMA Federation will nominate a replacement for Altas.

By IMMAF.org lead writer and website manager, Jorden Curran