By IMMAF.org lead writer/photographer, Jorden Curran
Murtaza Talha Ali will be the world's highest ranked active contender when he competes at the upcoming IMMAF-WMMAA Unified Amateur World Championships.
Having most recently secured the gold medal at this year's IMMAF European Open, the 22-year-old Bahrain representative competes on home soil once again as he aims to retain the world title in Manama, the nation's capital.
Currently, the no.1 & 2 positions in IMMAF's pound-for-pound rankings are occupied by heavyweight Irman Smajic (1613 points) and women's strawweight front runner Anna Astvik (1603 points). Bahrain's light-heavyweight juggernaut occupies the no.3 spot with 1526 points, but will be the overall highest ranked contender at this year's World Championships with the Swedish duo having announced their intentions to launch professional careers.
A second World Championship gold medal, worth 800 ranking points, would see Ali smash the points total of Smajic.
Ali's conditioning was questioned early on during the 2018 European Open, as he was forced to dig deep for the first time to edge a split-decision against Sweden's Robin Larsson, avoiding an upset in the opening round of the 205lb bracket. Nevertheless, he regained form with a unanimous decision win over Irishman Cathal Manning before showcasing his best performance to date, employing his signature takedowns and heavy top game to nullify surging Swedish finalist, Anton Turkalj, who in the semi-finals forced a second round submission of world silver medalist Pavel Pahomenko.
Ali remains undefeated in amateur MMA with an 8-0 record, drawing on unrivaled strength and a lunchbox overhand right that keeps all opponents on the back foot. With the World Championships taking place from 11-1k8 November, he will have the opportunity to join an exclusive club of athletes who have won a second amateur world title. The short list currently features Jose Torres (men's bantamweight: 2014, 2015), Will Starks (welterweight: 2015, 2016) and Irman Smajic (heavyweight: 2016, 2017).