The IMMAF European Open saw some very competitive matches and some slick submissions on day 2 as the semi-finals are now set.
IMMAF Worlds finalist Anja Saxmark got a submission victory to ink her spot in the flyweight semi’s, while Icelandic representative Sunna Rannveig got a split decision over Italy’s llaria Norcia on the other side of the bracket.
We initially didn’t think we were going to have a women’s bantamweight tournament, but we saw Gabriella Ringblom of Sweden and Varpru Rinne of Finland take home unanimous decision in that category in two quarterfinal matches.
The semi-finals in the rest of the divisions happen Saturday.
Day 2 Results
Aleksandra Toncheva Plamenova (Bulgaria) def. Deborah Osullivan (Ireland) by Submission (Rear naked choke) 1:33 Round 2
Raluca Dinescu (Romania) def. Polly Beauchamp (UK) by split decision
Europe’s top amateur female prospects are in Birmingham, England for the International MMA Federation European Open.
Over a dozen countries have sent representatives including newcomers from Iceland and Azerbaijan. Silver medalist Anja Saxmarx from Sweden and quarterfinalist Amy O’Mara from England are among the World Championship vets in the tournaments. The IMMAF is also introducing a lightweight tournament at this event.
The only fight in the female divisions on Thursday saw Ireland’s Meagan O’Loughlin defeat England’s Wendy McKenna by unanimous decision in the opening round of the flyweight tournament.
The matches will be posted on UFC Fight Pass in the coming weeks.
Here are the draws for the four women’s divisions’ tournaments.
Strawweight (115 lbs)
Deborah O’Sullivan (IRE) vs. Aleksandra Toncheva (BUL)
Polly Beauchamp (UK) vs. Raluca Dinescu (ROM)
Amy Omara (UK) vs. O’Sullivan/Toncheva winner
Lyudmila Sadirina (AZE) vs. Beauchamp/Dinescu winner
Flyweight (125 lbs)
Anja Saxmarx (SWE) vs. Meagan O’Loughlin (IRE)
Ika Auvinen (FIN) vs. Sissel Hansen-Brynjulfsen (NOR)
Sunna Davidsdottir-Rannveig (ISL) vs. Ilaria Norcia (ITL)
Anette ã–Sterberg (FIN) vs. Michaela Dostalova (CZE)
At Cage 31 in Helsinki, Finland Lucie Pudilova defeated Suvi Salmimies by split decision.
Also in Finland Kate Jackson defeated Linn Wennergren by split decision at Fight Night Kuopio 13 in Kuopio
In pro MMA action Friday, at XFN 25 in Tulsa, Okalahoma, Jaymee Jones defeated Ronni Lawrence by unanimous decision.
Paige VanZant has her next challenge, and it is against her toughest test to date.
VanZant will take on Joanne Calderwood at UFC Fight Night 80 in Las Vegas December 10th. The fight will be the main event.
VanZant (6-1) has been on a roll since entering the UFC, having won three straight in the promotion. Her only loss came to Tecia Torres, and has yet to be finished.
She will face fellow InvictaFC alum Calderwood (10-1) who is coming off a win over Cortney Casey. Calderwood went undefeated until her loss to Maryna Moroz earlier this year.
Another match on the card sees a returning Emily Peters-Kagan taking on Kailin Curran who are both looking for their first UFC win.
The event will stream on UFC Fight Pass.
As the new USADA random drug testing has started for the fighters in the UFC, Claudia Gadhela got tested this past week. The results are yet to be released.
Former UFC champ Calra Esparza stated on social media she had to fill out a schedule for the USADA just in case they wanted to test her.
Charmaine Tweet has a new opponent for her upcoming homecoming match, and it is a familiar face.
Anna Barone will look to avenge her last loss to Tweet in what will be the end of a trilogy at PrestigeFC in Weyburn, Canada October 24th. They will fight at 155 pounds.
Tweet (6-5) lost her second pro fight to Barone (2-4) by KO in 18 seconds in 2011. Tweet would get her revenge three years latter with a first rounf rear naked choke.
Also on the card, Bobbi Jo Dalziel takes on Christina Barry in a 150 catchweight bout.
The card will stream and will have more details as they become available.
Coming off her first pro loss, strawweight prospect Danielle Taylor will take on Calie Cutler has been announced for KOTC in Las Vegas October 17th.
Taylor (5-1) was the KOTC 115 champ before being defeated this August to Jamie Colleen. Cutler’s only loss was to Kaline Mederios and has yet to be finished as a pro.
The match will eventually on Mav TV.
IMMAF 2015 flyweight champ Micol Di Segni will make her pro debut against Danella Eliasov October 4th at EFC in Joahnnesburg, South Africa. The Italian standout Segni is helping to head a movement to again acceptance for female fighting in her home country. Eliasov won her pro debut this past February.
Alexandra Buch will face Katharina Lehner at GMC 7 on November 7th in Castrop-Rauxel, Germany. They will fight at at catchweight for 138. Buch (8-4) is on a two fight losing streak while Lehner (3-0) is undefeated at featherweight. Lehner will face Judith Ruis October 24th in Germany before her match with Buch.
Suriname will see three female MMA bouts on Halloween.
Torarica Summer Fights announced an event this week which will see the MMA debut of world kickboxing champion Denise Kielholtz. Her opponet is to be announced. Also on the card, Natasha Ribeiro De Souza and Chavella Lee will have separate fights and in amateur action, Sandy Shara takes on Wendy Santos.
Brazil’s upcoming all female promotion AFC Athenas has signed WSOF and XFC vet Kalindra Faria. The promotion is looking to debut in January 2016.
Southern Asia will see some bouts this coming weekend:
Super Fight League will return home to India with top Indian female fighter Daizy Singh taking on Lalvenhimi. This will stream on the SFL youtube channel Saturday morning September 18th.
On Sunday September 19th, Angela Lee will return to the OneFC cage taking on Russia’s Elena Pashnina. The card will stream on the OneFC website for $10.
Keri Ann Melendez announced will make her Bellator debut in late spring.
The heavier female weights divisions will now have a solid platform to grow.
The IMMAF announced Tuesday they will open up the 155 and 170 women’s divisions starting with the European Open Championships of Amateur MMA, in Birmingham, England November 19 -22.
The decision comes after teams demanded the divisions to be added. The IMMAF also stated they could add a 105 division in the future if they get enough requests.
The IMMAF has become a platform to make amateur divisions worldwide and provide a regulatory body for those countries without one. The World Championship Tournament will take place in July 2016 in Vegas for the third year.
Finland’s Minna Grusander didn’t take much time to get her first pro bout.
MMA Viking broke the news Tuesday the IMMAF 2015 strawweight tournament champion will take on Iman Darabi at Fight Night Finland’s event October 10th. The fight will take place at a catchweight of 110 pounds.
Anja Saxmark was one of two females representing the country at the IMMAF this past weekend (bantamweight Lisa Engelke was the other). Saxmark would take home a silver at flyweight and has proven Swedish women can have success on the world stage.
“The girls are really, really good and they are really tough,” Saxmark told us. “You have to be in really good shape. You have to be strong and lift weights outside of MMA. Most of us girls train with the guys so I am very strong, but the guys hold back a little bit. When you get into the ring with the girls you are like ‘Wow she is tough!'”
Having done seventeen kickboxing bouts during her two year career in that sport, Saxmark transitioned to MMA two years ago and hasn’t looked back. She took up submission grappling to round out her game.
Fighting out of Gladius MMA, Saxmark is a fine example for the other female fighters in her gym.
“Not many women are competing yet, but in a group of 30-40 guys at our gym there are 5 girls, so it’s a few. I am the only girl in the competing group. Last year I applied for every fight I could, and the only one I got was the one that qualified me for the national team.”
She tells us that it won’t be too long before we will see a few of these women make the transition to competing like she has. Even outside her team, Saxmark has been doing her part to spread the word about MMA, even if competing isn’t the ultimate goal.
“I think it’s a really good sport for women because we are born weaker physically and it’s good to build sslf esteem. We need to learn to protect ourselves. I think it’s a very healthy sport. I am a personal trainer and I would recommend anyone train martial arts for just the cardio.”
While it maybe a while until we see Sweden catch up with the rest of the world, Saxmark has help her country get a jump start to make it’s mark in the women’s divisions.
As I walked into the IMMAF tournament for the first time, I had missed the first 2 female bouts due to just getting into town. In a little alcove outside where the action was I saw this fighter moving around like she was warming up. It was Minna Grusander. I introduced myself and was a little perplexed.
“Didn’t you just win your fight today?” I asked.
She replied “I still have two more to go this week.”
Grusander had come into the tournament representing what has been an international female MMA powerhouse in Finland. Two of her country women have made the big stages here in the U.S.
“It’s awesome right now with the situation with female fighters in Finland,” Grusander explained me. “We have great fighters in Tina Lahdemaki (UFC) and Katja Kankaanpää (Invicta). It’s a huge motivation to see Finnish girls in top organizations.”
The duo have done their part to help develop the country’s female fighting talent, doing all female seminars and helping Grusander train going into the tournament.
With their help and the help of her local gym Finn Fighters, Grusander was able to grab the brass ring and won the IMMAF strawweight tournament.
Grusander started her MMA journey a year and a half ago, and coming to the IMMAF gave her validity in what she is doing is worth wild.
“It’s been great to see how much I’ve grown in the last year and a half. It’s great to have the feeling of confidence in the game.”
So much confidence in fact she has announced her intent on turning pro at atomweight. She is looking to follow the lead of her fellow countrywoman Kankaanpää and sign with Invicta. Although this may not happen overnight, she sees opportunity to gain experience in Europe.
“It’s a great thing to have tested myself right now and seeing other European fighters out here. I know if I don’t make it into Invicta right away, I know there could be great fights in Europe as well.”
Grusander is very familiar with Kansas City, home of InvictaFC, as she trained at American Top Team HD run by Jason High and JC Davis.
It’s not just the company that she trains with that makes her special. With her shining personality, her hard work effort, and natural skill, she has not only won a world championship, but has started to make herself a star in her own right.
A trio of Italian fighters came to Vegas on a mission and they made a huge statement after it was all said and done.
Micol Disegni, Lucrezia Ria, and Maria Vittoria Colonna all made it to the finals of the IMMAF 2015 World amateur tournament, with Disegni and Ria gaining the gold in the flyweight and bantamweight divisions respectfully. Colonna took home a silver at strawweight.
“We left Italy knowing out team was really strong,” Colonna told us. “We know it is a really hard tournament. It takes a little bit of luck but you need a lot of concentration and that’s what we did.”
Italy has just recently expanded their female divisions, having held several pro and amateur matches in the past year. It was Disegni who was a part of the tournament last year and had helped spark the movement for female fighting in her home country.
“I have learned so much from last year. I was at the 2014 IMMAF and lost to the eventual winner. I learn so much from that fight. I focused the past year on what was missing from my grappling, which was my strength. I kept training in wrestling to make it better. I trained with Maria, a national champion in kickboxing and undefeated, so my striking improved so much. I was unable to strike, punch, or kick well at last year’s tournament and I dedicated this year to improving my striking and I am proud of what I accomplished this year.”
Although Colonna had a solid amateur kickboxing career and many opportunities to fight there, she decided to dedicate herself to MMA.
“I am a five time national champion (in kickboxing) and I found there was something missing in that sport. That’s the reason I started to do MMA.”
Ria had trained in Judo before taking up MMA. An injury served as a good reason to concentrate on her striking going into the sport. Judo, however, helped make the transition to MMA easier.
“Judo teaches you a lot about physical contact, so you get used to MMA in which physical contact is something you have to deal with often.”
Like many countries, the stigma of female fighting is the biggest obstacle. This barrier is slowly coming down in Italy.
“In Italy it was so difficult to see girls fighting because of the idea of them doing so,” DiSegni observed. “Now everyone can see we can do the same sports as boys and still be feminine. Colonna is a mom. I am a model. You can fight and don’t have to look like a boy to be strong and successful.”
“The people are getting used to see the female fights,” Colonna added. “We live in a country full of Catholics so the perspective of women is different.”
The trip to the IMMAF tournament not only meant putting their names on the world stage, but gaining inspiration and prospective on the global women’s division scene.
“Meeting Joanna (Jedrzejczyk) gave me so much strength; to look her in the eyes and see the strength in her eyes in such a pretty girl meant a lot to me. Her eyes were so fierce. It made me be so proud of being a female fighter. I went to see Invicta to see Cyborg and the other girl fighters, and these fighters are the reason why I am a female fighter. Seeing such strong girls make me proud to be a female fighter.”
The team agrees the exposure from the tournament and the connections they have made will give them opportunities not only to expand the sport in Italy, but a chance to fight around the world.
“I really hope there are more and more fights for girls in Italy,” DiSigni commented. “I am planning on turning pro after my tournament win, and fight some pro fights in Italy and then Europe, then hopefully get into America as well.”
Colonna also expressed interest in turning pro soon.
Italy is well on its way to creating a thriving female fighting scene and don’t be surprised if you see any of these three talented athletes on a major card sometime soon.
Women’s freestyle wrestling has become a great outlet for talent and Canada boast a great female grappling tradition.
Jamie Herrington was the latest to see success coming from the wrestling to MMA, having won the 2015 IMMAF amateur featherweight tournament this past weekend. She defeated a tough Irish fighter in Sinead Kavanagh in the finals. Herrington would get the TKO in round 3 to win the gold.
“The World championships is the experience of a lifetime,” Herrington told us. “Even though it’s new to the world, I take it as a great experience to fight people from all around the world. Learning the different background, learning the different fight styles. I had a lot of fun.”
Having wrestled for 15 years and winning several championships in the sport, she made the move to MMA for practical reasons.
“I moved away from the city and MMA is the closest thing to me. Coming from wrestling and moving to MMA was a great opportunity and it was one I am happy I chose.”
During this camp, she got instruction from the legendary 5 Star Gym, home of UFC fighters George St. Pierre and Rory MacDonald. She has also trained with several gyms across the country to hone her skills.
Herrington had only started her MMA journey a year ago and has made an impact quickly. After the title win, she is now looking to go pro.
“I would like to go pro in the fall. I am currently 8-0. With a little more practice I can take my skills into the pro MMA world.”
After an exciting week of action, four women stood atop of their divisions as true world amateur MMA champions.
Undefeated amateur Jamie Herrington took home the gold at 145 with her win over Irish amateur boxing champ Sinead Kavanagh by TKO at 2:27 of round 3rd.
Italy took home two golds as flyweight Micol Disegni (unanimous decision) and bantamweight Lucrezia Ria (TKO doctor’s stoppage round 1) would get the titles over Sweden’s Anja Saxmark and France’s Lucie Bertaud respectfully.
Their teammate Maria Vittoria Colonna came up a bit short as she lost a unanimous decision to rising Finnish star Minna Grusander.
We will post interviews with the winners this week.
Here are the final standings:
Gold: Jamie Herrington (Canada)
Silver: Sinead Kavanagh (Ireland)
Bronze:Julia Dorny (Germany) and Lindsay Lawrence (USA)
Gold: Lucrezia Ria (Italy)
Silver: Lucie Bertaud (France)
Bronze: Kimberley Defiori (USA) and Lisa Engelke (Sweden)
Gold: Micol Disegni (Italy)
Silver: Anja Saxmark (Sweden)
Bronze: Natalie Jean Ausmeier (South Africa) and Michaela Dostalova (Czech Republic)
Gold: Minna Grusander (Finland)
Silver: Maria Vittoria Colonna (Italy)
Bronze: Sarah Archer (New Zealand) and Codie Wareham (USA)