Ireland at the IMMAFs: Full Tournament Recap

After a busy week over at the IMMAF World Championships in Abu Dhabi, Team Ireland’s amateur fighters walk away from the tournament with 1 gold, 1 silver, and 2 bronze medals. Though it was a mixed bag of results that ended with an 18-20 record for the IMMAA representatives, there were plenty of positives to take back to Ireland. The star of the week was Team Ryano’s Nadine Abbott-Bissett, who was crowned the Women’s Atomweight World Champion.

Let’s take a look back on the highs and the lows of the week that was for Irish MMA.

DAY 1: 24/01/2022
Ryan Keogh opened the competition for Team Ireland, but unfortunately the SBG Ireland featherweight couldn’t repeat the spectacular run that saw him score three finishes to win the IMMAF Junior World Cup last September. After a closely contested fight, Keogh lost to Tajikistan’s Manuchehr Rioev via Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).

Max Lally was the first fighter to register a win for the Irish, as the 2021 IMMAF Youth World Champion continued to deliver the type of performance that has the Irish MMA scene buzzing about the undefeated 18-year-old SBG Charlestown representative. Lally exhibited his composure after eating a combo of strikes by taking Estonia’s Caspar Vahemets to the mat before submitting via Rear Naked Choke at 1:40 in round 2.

Holohan Martial Arts’ Adam McEnroe dominated Guyana’s Corwin D’Anjou over just under 7 minutes, landing some pounding strikes before the fight was finally waved off by the ref and McEnroe was declared the winner via TKO Round 2, 1:51.

After a grueling three rounds, Northern Ireland’s Cameron Clements lost to the eventual bronze medalist, Russian Abdyla Aliev, via Unanimous Decision (30-25, 30-26, 30-27).

Northern Ireland featherweight Damien McKenna delivered a barrage of uppercuts on the UAE’s Saeed Alhosani to score a devastating finish via first-round KO.

In the bantamweight division, Team Ryano’s Taylor Quinn lost via first-round submission to Belgium’s Movsar Ibragimov.

Rounding out the action on Day 1 for Team Ireland, SBG Cork City/SBG Killarney fighter Ethan Guerin locked in a second-round submission (Ankle Lock) over Lebanon’s Elie Mansour.

DAY 2: 25/01/2022

Day 2 got off to a rough start for Team Ireland as Caitlyn Hadfield suffered a second-round TKO at the hands of RMMAU’s Vera Buga.

Sarah Carney earned Ireland’s first win of Day 2 with a hard-fought split decision over RMMAU’s Liubov Salnikova (28-29, 29-28, 29-28). The win advanced the Holohan Martial Arts fighter to the quarter final of the senior flyweight bracket.

SBG Ireland’s Kian McCarton lost via second-round submission (standing guillotine choke) to RMMAU’s Dmitriy Pankov in the junior flyweight division.

Kerry Ann Vernon returned Ireland to the win column with a strong performance as she defeated Slovakia’s Elina Tauber via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28, 30-27) to book her spot in the bantamweight quarter final.

Team Ryano’s Jamie Abbott-Bissett stormed through Germany’s Nesim Abboud to win a dominant Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-26) and progress to the senior flyweight quarter final.

Northern Ireland’s Eoghan Teague lost via Unanimous Decision to Spain’s Rafael Calderon Coria (30-27, 29-26, 29-26).

Gary Rooney delivered a fantastic performance against the UAE’s Juma Albdoor. After a controversial ending to the second round due to a potential missed tap and a timekeeping issue, Rooney finished Albdoor in the third with a head-and-arm choke.

Damien McKenna was unable to replicate his Day 1 performance, losing to Miro Honkanen (Finland) via Submission (Armbar) in Round 2.

The grappling of Finnish fighter Max Hynninen was too much for Ireland’s Liam Hand, who lost via Submission (Rear Naked Choke) in Round 3.

Solomon Simon lost via Unanimous Decision to Portugal’s Ze Machado (30-27, 30-27, 30-26).

Ethan Guerin showed his toughness against England’s Teddy Stringer, but the Irishman was on the receiving end of some heavy damage in round 2, prompting the ref to wave it off after the bell.

Max Lally fought a calculated and mature fight to earn a Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) over Mongolia’s Bat-Ochir Batsaikhan. However, Lally picked up a shoulder injury during the fight, which would later call a halt to his tournament progression.

Adam McEnroe was unable to make it two wins in as many days, losing via first-round submission to Bahrain’s Murad Guseinov.

SBG Tullamore’s Jordan Scully delivered a brilliant performance in the junior welterweight division, comfortably defeating Mexico’s Cruz Garcia via Unanimous Decision (30-25, 30-26, 30-26) to reach the quarter final.

Daniel O’Sullivan comfortably won two rounds against Aremiti Tinirau of French Polynesia to claim a Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28), progressing to the senior middleweight quarter finals.

Corkonian Paul Buckley won a Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) over Estonian Kristjan Toniste to book his spot in the middleweight quarter finals, and leave Team Ireland with a winning record of 12-11 after Day 2.

DAY 3: 26/01/2022

Day 3 delivered some unfortunate news that one of Ireland’s brightest stars Max Lally had been ruled out of his Jr Lightweight bout versus Behruz Khurshedzoda (Tajikistan) due to injury.

Nadine Abbott-Bissett delivered a stunning performance over Tuymegul Zhunys, mauling her opponent before locking in a second-round submission against the Kazakhstani fighter. The Team Ryano fighter booked her spot in the atomweight semi-finals with the win.

After battling to a hard-fought decision win in her first fight of the tournament, Sarah Carney ended up on the wrong end of the judges’ scorecard after a close fight vs Beatriz Consuli Diniz (Bahrain).

SBG Ireland’s Éabha Cruise defeated Norway’s Victoria Paulsen via decision to set up an all-Irish semi final vs Kiya O’Sullivan in the Jr. Flyweight division. O’Sullivan received a bye in the first round.

Kerry Ann Vernon lost a razor-close decision to Bahrain’s Raiane Vinuto Guimaraes (30-27, 29-28, 30-27). An entertaining back-and-forth war, I will admit I was a bit surprised by these scorecards.

Spaniard Rafael Calderon Coria’s grappling was too strong on the day for Ireland’s Jamie Abbott-Bissett, who lost via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28).

Gary Rooney went crashing out of the flyweight division, losing to Kazakhstan’s Dastan Zhakypbekov via Split Decision (29-28, 30-27, 28-29).

There appeared to be a theme in Day 3. Like Gary Rooney and Jamie Abbott-Bissett, Jordan Scully was unable to replicate the dominance he displayed in his opening performance of the tournament, succumbing to a rear-naked choke in round 1 vs Shamkhan Kushagov (RMMAU).

Eventual tournament winner Fergus Jenkins (New Zealand) choked Ireland’s Daniel O’Sullivan unconscious in the first round of their middleweight quarter-final matchup.

Team Ireland ended Day 3 of the World Championships on a positive note as Paul Buckley advanced to the middleweight semi-final with a dominant Unanimous Decision over Italy’s Francesco Fornasieri (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).

DAY 4: 27/01/2022

Nadine Abbott-Bissett topped her quarter-final performance with a masterclass in the atomweight semi-final. The Team Ryano fighter dominated India’s Vridhi Kumari before scoring a 3rd-round TKO to give earn her a shot at a gold medal.

Ireland teammates Kiya O’Sullivan and Éabha Cruise battled to a decision in the junior flyweight semi-final, but it was CMAC MMA’s O’Sullivan who emerged victorious with a Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28). The win moved Kiya to the final, and Cruise picked up a bronze medal in defeat.

There was much confusion over the middleweight semi-final matchup between Ireland’s Paul Buckley and New Zealander Fergus Jenkins, with MyNextMatch listing Jenkins as out due to injury. The reality was a clerical error, meaning the fight went ahead in the end. Similar to his decimation of Daniel O’Sullivan, Jenkins made quick work of Buckley, making it his second first-round submission over an Irish opponent on the bounce. While Buckley didn’t advance to the finals, he returned to Ireland with a bronze medal.

DAY 5: 28/01/2022

Day 5 was a showcase of junior gold medal fights, and Team Ireland’s sole representative on the day was CMAC MMA’s Kiya O’Sullivan. Though O’Sullivan fought to a close decision, she would have to settle for silver. Ultimately, Kazakhstan’s Karina Sisenova won a Split Decision (30-27, 28-29, 29-28) to walk away with the flyweight gold medal.

DAY 6: 29/01/2022

After a relatively underwhelming latter half of the tournament for the Irish contingent in Abu Dhabi, all hopes now lay on the shoulders of Team Ryano’s Nadine Abbott-Bissett, and boy did she deliver.

Abbott-Bissett capped off a phenomenal tournament with her third win of the week, overcoming a valiant effort from Finland’s Jenna Horto to take the Unanimous Decision (29-28, 30-27, 29-28). It was a back-and-forth affair, but Abbott-Bissett fought courageously and intelligently to etch her name in the history books as the 2021 IMMAF Women’s Atomweight World Champion, the first Irish senior gold medalist since Ryan Spillane and Lee Hammond emerged victorious in 2018.

Overall, it was a mixed tournament for Team Ireland. Though the team ended with a relatively underwhelming medal haul in comparison to previous years, there is a lot to be hopeful for looking ahead to future tournaments. With another World Championships tournament targeted for late 2022, all eyes will be on the upcoming National Championships to see which familiar and new faces will emerge in the next Irish amateur squad.

Check out the full list of Irish IMMAF medalists over the years below:

Women’s Atomweight – Gold – Nadine Abbott-Bissett (Ireland)
Women’s Jr Flyweight – Silver – Kiya O’Sullivan (Ireland)
Men’s Middleweight – Bronze – Paul Buckley (Ireland)
Women’s Jr Flyweight – Bronze – Éabha Cruise (Ireland)

Cancelled due to COVID-19

Women’s Bantamweight – Silver – Shauna Bannon (Ireland)
Men’s Featherweight – Bronze – Alexander O’Sullivan (Ireland)

Women’s Jr Atomweight – Silver – Nadine Abbott-Bissett (Ireland)
Women’s Jr Flyweight – Silver – Megan Hamill (Ireland)
Men’s Jr Flyweight – Bronze – Gary Rooney (Ireland)
Women’s Jr Flyweight – Bronze – Sineadh Ni Nuallain (Ireland)

Men’s Heavyweight – Gold – Ryan Spillane (Ireland)
Men’s Lightweight – Gold – Lee Hammond (Ireland)
Women’s Bantamweight – Bronze – Dee Begley (Ireland)

Men’s Jr Flyweight – Gold – Ger Harris (Ireland)
Men’s Jr Heavyweight – Silver – Trevor Makengo (Ireland)
Men’s Jr Welterweight – Silver – Paddy Wilkinson (Ireland)
Men’s Jr Lightweight – Bronze – Patrick Lehane (Ireland)
Men’s Jr Featherweight – Bronze – Alexander O’Sullivan (Ireland)

Women’s Featherweight – Silver – Courtney McCrudden (Northern Ireland)
Women’s Flyweight – Silver – Danni Neilan (Ireland)
Men’s Heavyweight – Bronze – Ryan Spillane (Ireland)

Men’s Light Heavyweight: Gold – Matthew Sheehan (Ireland)
Women’s Featherweight – Gold – Leah McCourt (Northern Ireland)
Men’s Featherweight: Silver – Nathan Kelly (Ireland)
Men’s Flyweight – Silver – David Fogarty (Ireland)
Men’s Heavyweight: Bronze – Scott Trelford (Northern Ireland)
Men’s Welterweight: Bronze – Cian Cowley (Ireland)
Men’s Featherweight: Bronze – Eoghan Drumgoole (Ireland)
Men’s Bantamweight – Bronze – Hughie O’Rourke (Ireland)

Men’s Featherweight: Gold – Frans Mlambo (Ireland)
Women’s Featherweight: Silver – Sinéad Kavanagh (Ireland)

Men’s Light Heavyweight: Bronze – Aaron Wallace (Ireland)

Andy is a multimedia reporter, interviewer, writer, with a strong focus on Irish MMA. Co-host of The Auld Triangle podcast. Follow Andy on Twitter (@andyste123) and Instagram (@andystevensonMMA).

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