Pictured: Kazakhstan’s Zhan Kenzhebayev.
By IMMAF.org lead writer, Jorden Curran
Amateur MMA’s top ranked nation once again lead the medal count of the latest IMMAF championships event, the 2017 Singapore Asian Open. Sweden’s national amateur MMA team, consisting of 11 athletes, secured a total of 9 medals; 4 gold, 3 silver and 2 bronze.
World and European Open champion Irman Smajic secured gold in his return to the heavyweight bracket and remains undefeated so far in 2017. In addition, world champion and former pound-for-pound number 1 Gabriella Ringblom returned to action and got back to winning ways as she secured the Women’s Flyweight title. European Open silver medalist Tobias Harila topped the Men’s lightweight division with all wins coming via TKO and European Open bronze medalist Heytham Rabhi battled his way to the middleweight final where he bested top Australian standout Joseph Luciano, also taking gold with a sweep of stoppage victories.
Taking silver in the Women’s flyweight bracket was Anja Saxmark. The former world silver medalist and European Open bronze medalist showcased her calculated submission game once again to advance to the finals where she came runner up via the judge’s scorecards against Ringblom in an all Swedish final. Also taking silver was 2016 European Open Men’s bantamweight champion Renato Vidovic and this year’s European Open light-heavyweight champion Anton Turkalj.
2016 European Open champion Daniel Schalander advanced to the Men’s featherweight finals but was forced to settle for bronze in addition to 2017 European Open welterweight bronze medalist Axel Karlsson.
In comparison, Kazakhstan left Singapore as the biggest success story of the inaugural IMMAF Asian Open and thus far have been the breakthrough nation of 2017 with results that put the world on notice ahead of the November World Championships in Bahrain.
Hot on the heels of Sweden, Kazakhstan finished second in the medal table and bested a number of Swedish and world standouts in the process with all but two of the national representatives competing for the first time on the international IMMAF platform. The team of 9 athletes secured 3 golds, 2 silvers and 3 bronze for a total of 8 medals. The Kazakh national team saw its momentum snowball following strong performances at the 2017 European Open that resulted in 3 podium finishes with 1 silver and 2 bronze.
Kazakhstan’s golden trio each announced themselves with historic debut IMMAF performances. Upon finishing his opening bout in just 37 seconds, Men’s flyweight Yernaz Mussabek stormed into the semi-finals where he stopped two-time European Open bronze medalist Hussain Abdulla in the opening round before going on to finish 2016 World bronze medalist Josh Neale in the final, all wins coming via choke hold submissions.
Claiming the Men’s bantamweight gold, Olzhas Moldagaliyev dispatched of Australia’s Jean Romano and the UK’s Raf Voza before taking a unanimous decision win over Sweden’s 2016 European Open champion Renato Vidovic.
It took a quartet of victories for Zhan Kenzhebayev to earn the Asian Open welterweight title. The IMMAF championships newcomer had to go the distance in order to surpass Malaysia’s Jace Law before submitting the Czech Republic’s Radek Dusil in the quarter-finals. In a hotly contested semi-final Kenzhebayev edged a split-decision win over Swedish standout Axel Karlsson and his most emphatic performance emerged in the finals as the Kazakh forced a TKO stoppage in the second round against impressive Belrusian Alex Sadovski, also an international newcomer.
Women’s strawweight Ayan Tursyn earned silver with a TKO stoppage in the final round of her semi-final bout with Malaysian Amirah Makhta but saw her run ended in the finals by the USA’s ultra talented Hannah Scoggins.
Men’s featherweight silver medalist Bekzat Zhassiya produced one of the event’s biggest upsets with a decision win over Sweden’s Schalander, one of Scandinavia’s top young prospects.
Light-heavyweight Kudaibergen Toleubayev and Men’s Lightweight Jokhar Taimuskhanov returned to each earn bronze after claiming silver and bronze respectively at the 2017 European Open. Taimuskhanov advanced to the semis where he suffered a TKO loss to Sweden’s Harila while Toleubayev lost out via a semi-final split-decision to Lebanon’s Imad Hoayek who went on to the win the gold at 205lbs.
Middleweight Meirambek Demeubayev secured bronze with a TKO stoppage over Daniel Karlsson before coming coming up short on the semi-final scorecards to Australia’s Luciano.
With the Kazakhstan national team potentially emerging as the newest force in amateur MMA’s world scene, just 2 events remain on the 2017 calendar with the African Open kicking off on August 28 and serving as the final stop before the end of year World Championships.
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