DUBAI // Bob Sapp, the American heavyweight, was declared the winner of the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) bout at the Aviation Club in Dubai last night after a move which left his opponent requiring a protective on his leg.
The main event of the international 10-bout fightcard, which featured boxing MMA and muay-thai kickboxing, pitched Sapp against Tofan Pirani, of Sweden, in three scheduled rounds of MMA. Tofani looked to have overcome the massive difference in size to be on his way to a points victory when, late in the second round, a vicious kick to Sapp's leg went wrong and Pirani fell to the ground in pain. Sapp was declared the winner as Pirani left the ring with his leg in a makeshift cast.
In the evening's opening bout - a boxing match lasting three rounds - Mohammed Akram, of Syria, dominated Iran's Mehrdad to win on points. Mehrdad, a scrawny 24-year-old, tired badly towards the end to the extent that for long periods of the final round, he continually failed to keep his guard up and did not throw a punch.
After watching grown men fighting with padded gloves, the concept of two men slugging it out with only mitts and bravery always appears absurd. Gurgat Mamedov, of Uzbekistan, provided an early indicator of what was to be expected when he slammed his opponent, Hossam Mandahaki, on to the floor before straddling him and aiming blows at the Iranian's head.
Within two rounds, the fight was stopped: Mandahaki calling submission as Mamedov twisted his arm during a lengthy struggle.
In the first Muay Thai event of the evening, Kerry Bennett from England and introduced as the WKBF Pan-Asian and WKBF Middle East champion, was unanimously adjudged to have beaten France-based Croatian Marija Malenica after the scheduled three rounds.
Such was the Londoner's superiority that in the final round Malenica must have almost exerted more energy picking herself off the floor than she did through throwing punches. As the bell rang, the result was so obvious that both fighters left the ring before the winner had been announced.
On returning to the spotlight to applause, Bennett said she was pleased with her performance and thankful for the challenge her opponent offered. "I did what I was trained to do, so I'm happy," said Bennett, who spent a year living in Thailand and performed a traditional pre- and post-fight Thai ritual. "I'm just glad I had a tough fight because the last few have been a bit too easy."
The most anticipated bout of the undercard involved Swedish boxer Mikaela Lauren, the reigning WBPF champion, and Thailand-based Chantal Ughi of Italy. Lauren, who had won 14 of her 15 fights going into last night's bout, was in no mood to taint her record. The tall blonde won by KO after only one minute and 51 seconds.
"To be honest, I felt very strong and was very excited to be fighting in Dubai," said the Stockholm-based fighter. "I couldn't hold it back and just wanted to knock her out as soon as possible and and I guess I did what I was supposed to do."
After a mixmatched female fight, the following male boxing, featuring Iran's national champion Mehdi Ramezani and Sweden's Akilles Adnan, could not have been more different. Starting with impressive intensity, both men maintained their aggression throughout the fight and despite Adnan being knocked down in the first round, he fought back to win the later rounds. The judges scored it a draw, causing the Adnan camp to furiously protest.
"It was a good score," referee Steve Smoger later said. "Akilles dropped two points for going down in the first, but then he won the last two. All fair."
Eisa, Aldah, the UAE's only professional boxer was the ultimate draw but the penultimate fight. He defeated Miguel Angel Munguia on points after five rounds to send the small pockets of Emirati supporters into cheers of joy and improve his record to eight wins from 10 fights.
The emirates have recently been strongly linked with hosting potential world title fights in the future, so the low turnout – only one of the four stands at the venue was anywhere near-capacity – will have been disappointing for promoters.