Picture: Varpu Rinne takes a unanimous decision win over Candian Eloise Picard.
The IMMAF European Open Championships of Amateur MMA concluded yesterday, November 22, with a total of 13 gold medal championships being awarded to victorious athletes at the pinnacle of their journey in Birmingham.
There is no question that the Scandinavian nations as a whole commanded the greatest presence throughout the week. Finland, Sweden, Iceland, and Norway each boasted some of the largest and most diverse teams of amateur fighters, with their followers leading the way as the most vocal spectators.
Of the 19 countries that competed at the IMMAF European Open between November 19th and 22nd, it was Finland who ruled the gold count with three European Open Championship gold medals.
Varpu Rinne claimed her gold medal in the Women’s 135lb bantamweight division with a series of unanimous decision victories.
Rinne’s opening bout came against Iceland’s Ingibjorg Birna Arsaelsdott with the Finn cruising to her first victory on the scorecards. However, this was followed by greater adversity the following day in the semi-final against Canadian Eloise Picard, who after losing a one-sided opening round on the feet, established herself immediately after a touch of gloves in the second, before securing a takedown to gain control of the second stanza. The Canadian appeared to be in control during the first half of the final round, but a later rally from Rinne saw her gain a dominant top position and impressed the judges enough to see the Finn advance to the final via unanimous decision.
The final bout was mostly decided as an intense striking contest. Both Rinne and Sweden’s Gabriella Ringblom displayed constant focus and technique, maintaining a steady back-and-forth pace throughout the three rounds. As a well trained boxing specialist with grappling to boot, Ringblom’s constant movement and footwork was a highlight of the tournament as she moved in and out to land punches and defend takedowns with her excellent sprawl. Ringblom’s energy and movement proved to be an unbreakable puzzle for her first two opponents, but the more rangy kickboxing attack of Rinne accumulated on the judges’ scorecards. The never-ending focus on Rinne’s face showed her mentality to be most durable and her efforts were rewarded as she took a close unanimous decision win.
In the Women’s 145lb featherweight bracket it was Sanna Merta who produced one of the tournament’s most impressive roads to the final with two stoppage wins to mark her place as the division’s top competitor. In the opening bout Merta swept through Team Ireland representative Lindsey Doyle to force a TKO stoppage in the second round and followed this up in the semi-final when claiming a submission victory over Germany’s Julia Dorny. Dorny’s self-belief and attack was continuous throughout the first two rounds, but Merta was able to push through the varied array of kicks coming from her German opposition and dealt back effective blows of her own. Dorny completed a number of takedowns but twice she was forced to escape an arm-bar having wound up in Merta’s guard. In the third round Merta again secured arm-bar attempt but this time was able to submit Dorny.
Picture: Sanna Merta with her hand raised following victory over Julia Dorny
Merta faced Sweden’s Cornelia Holm in the gold medal bout. The fight featured back-and-forth striking but with contrasting styles. Holm was on her toes and light on her feet, circling back and forth looking to set up strong right handed shots while Merta appeared more reserved with her energy, flat footed, but with a higher volume of strikes. Merta developed more of a lead as the bout progressed past the close first round and into the later stages. A takedown from Holm was countered by Merta with a triangle choke attempt before transitioning for an omaplata as the second round closed. In the final round Merta secured a well timed hip-toss as Holm shot in for another takedown, and she would go on to claim a unanimous decision victory.
In the Men’s 135lb bantamweight division Abdul Hussein left a long trail of victories en route to claiming Finland’s final gold medal of the IMMAF European Open Championships. In the opening bout Germany’s Daniel Moeller came out energetically with fast hands but was soon clinched and forcibly taken down where he remained with Hussein retaining the dominant top position, and the Finn went on to force a TKO stoppage in the second round.
In the quarter-final bout Hussein completed a submission stoppage over Bulgarian Steliyan Ivaylov at 0:44 in to the second round, but was forced to go the distance in the semi-finals after a striking tear up with Sweden’s Renato Vidovic resulted in the Finn being awarded a unanimous decision win.
Picture: Abdul Hussein throws a high kick against Renato Vidovic
Hussein met Italian Marco Zannetti in the final and this would be his closest battle of the week. The Finn wowed onlookers in the first round when lifting Zannetti of his feet for a heavy takedown, but was soon having to survive a Guillotine attempt as the first stanza ended. Following the second round both men came out, still looking fresh and ready to go. Hussein may have won over the judges in the final moments as he transition to take the back of Zannetti and finish the round in full control. Hussein was awarded Championship victory via a split-decision.
Finland left the IMMAF European Open with six medals in total, with Mia Isola taking silver in the Women’s lightweight division, plus Inka Auvinen (Women’s flyweight) and Sini Koivunen (Women’s lightweight) each claiming bronze.
For a full list of medallists from the 2015 European Open Championships visit: http://www.immaf.org/championships/2015-immaf-european-open-championships/2015-immaf-european-medallists/