UAE kickboxing champion Ilyass Habibali stretched his record to 20 wins and two defeats after a unanimous decision VICTORY over three-time world champion Michael Wakeling in the main lightweight contest at the UAM Fight Night K1 Pro Championship at Etihad Arena.
The two fighters exchanged furious blows throughout the three rounds, until the Briton found himself on the canvas midway through the third.
When the bell rang to end the bout, Habibali looked the more confident of the two and his confidence was justified, the crowd erupting when the decision was announced.
“I am very proud of this great achievement,” Habibali said. “It was a very intense fight and Wakeling was a great opponent.
“I felt it was very close. I studied his game and knew it would be tough, but this achievement has been a reward for my hard work. To beat such a champion – a world champion – is amazing. I want to dedicate the win to the UAE leadership and the UAE people.”
The headline contest was one of 14 bouts featuring an elite line-up of men and women from 16 countries, marking the first event of the Emirates’ new kickboxing season.
In the co-main event, Turkey's Vedat Hoduk delivered a first-round knockout to win his super middleweight bout.
In the last seconds of the opening round, the Istanbul native followed up a flurry of body shots with a huge head-kick that sent his Moldovan opponent Lilian Porcireanu crashing to the ground.
“It has been a difficult week,” an emotional Hoduk said, wrapped in the Turkish flag and dedicating his win to the victims of this week’s catastrophic earthquake.
“I was considering not being here tonight because I know there are a lot of people in my country that need help just now. But I kept my word and got the win, so I would like to dedicate this tonight to the all the Turkish people and especially all the victims who lost their lives. I will go straight there now to help however I can.”
Abdullah Saeed Al Neyadi, chairman of the UAE Muaythai and Kickboxing Federation, congratulated the winners and the success of the first championship of the year.
“It was fantastic to see not only such a strong line-up of elite athletes from around the globe, but also such a great turn out at Etihad Arena,” he said.
“The UAE, and Abu Dhabi in particular, has established a combat sports legacy in recent years and we’re excited to build upon this foundation to further enhance kickboxing in the region.”