Semi-final bouts set up for Abu Dhabi Fighting Championship

Uzbekistan's Shamil Abdurahimov believes his superior striking ability will see him through to the Dh1 million open weight category final.

Hassan al Rumaithi, the Emirati MMA fighter, who is all set to make his second appearance as a professional, considers it his responsibility to win to popularise the sport in the country.
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ABU DHABI // Having been drawn against Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou Nkamhoua, the judo specialist, in the semi-finals of the Abu Dhabi Fighting Championship (ADFC), the region's first mixed martial arts (MMA) event, Uzbekistan's Shamil Abdurahimov believes his superior striking ability will see him through to the Dh1 million open weight category final.

Abdurahimov, who reached ADFC: Round 2 by defeating Jeff "The Snowman" Monson by a majority decision six months ago, expects his arm to be raised, again, when the championship resumes at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre on October 22. "It will be a good fight against Nkamhoua and I will need to prepare very well to beat him," Abdurahimov said yesterday, just hours after a glittering fight-card launch at the Emirates Palace hotel on Wednesday night.

"We are working on different defences, especially to counter his judo. My striking ability, specifically my boxing and kickboxing, will be key, as will my wushu-sanda [a striking-orientated MMA form that is heavily influenced by grappling techniques]." Nkamhoua only reached the semi-finals because of Dave "Pee Wee" Herman's disqualification for illegal knee use and Abdurahimov insists he saw enough in that contest to be confident of reaching the final and the seven-figure prize. "Herman made some mistakes against him, but otherwise I think he would have won. That makes me confident that I can beat him and reach the final," added Abdurahmiov.

In the other championship semi-final, Marcos Oliveira, the Brazilian Pan American MMA champion, who needed just 17 seconds to beat Johan Romming in round 1 on a technical knockout, will face Britain's Neil "Old Skool" Wain, who knocked out Poland's Przemyslaw "Misiek" Mysiala in March. The pick of the eight undercard bouts - which have yet to be revealed - will undoubtedly be Hassan al Rumaithi, the up-and-coming UAE fighter who will be making his second appearance as a professional. Although al Rumaithi's opponent remains unconfirmed, the Emirates' first MMA fighter is confident of taking his overall record to 3-1.

"I see it as my responsibility to win, but everyone keeps telling me just to go there to have fun and enjoy myself," said al Rumaithi. "Of course I feel pressure to win, but mostly I force it on myself because we want more Emiratis to get involved in the sport and it can only help if they see me winning. We want locals to take up the sport so that we can build it in the UAE." Al Rumaithi, who became involved in MMA while studying Brazilian jiu-jitsu at Abu Dhabi Combat Club, confessed that he knows little about his mystery opponent who will come from Spain, but insisted ADFC organisers had promised to supply him with videos in preparation for the three-round fight.

"I only know my opponent's first name is Paulo, but I couldn't find anything on YouTube," said al Rumaithi - whose only MMA experiences prior to defeating Silviano Valenti in ADFC: Round 1 were two amateur fights in Holland last year. "I'm sure I've been paired against someone with a similar record though, there's no point in throwing me in with vastly experienced professionals. To build the sport locally, we need UAE fighters to be competing and hopefully winning, not just getting beat up.

"My training is all normal at the moment, but when I see some videos of my opponent I'll know where to target the technical and tactical aspects of my game."