x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Brave Ahli wins battle against Ferreira

Two Emirati fighters are winners and while Ahli takes punishment his courage carries him to victory over tough Brazilian.

Ali Mohammed Ali Abdullah Ahli celebrates after winning his fight against Luciano Ferreira last night.
Ali Mohammed Ali Abdullah Ahli celebrates after winning his fight against Luciano Ferreira last night.

ABU DHABI // He looked overmatched, then resolute, then narrowly defeated, then finally exhilarated.

Somewhere in there, he even let out a primal scream.

Ali Mohammed Ali Abdullah Ahli, an Emirati mixed-martial arts fighter who trains in Dubai, went through a gamut in his debut professional bout on Friday night. He became the first of two Emirati winners on the nine-bout undercard at Round 2 of the Abu Dhabi Fighting Championship at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.

The second would come hours later in the form of the mixed-martial arts champion Hassan al Rumaithi, who scored more than enough through some bloody gruel with Paulo Lamberto of Italy to win by unanimous decision and improve his professional record to 3-1. Al Rumaithi won despite losing copious amounts of blood through his nose during the first round, much of which drained on to Lamberto's left shoulder.

Steeling himself through that, al Rumaithi gained an advantage in the second round, when after two minutes he loosed two kicks that helped him open up a barrage upon the backed-up Lamberto. From there, the fighters landed only very sporadic punches and kicks as both appeared exhausted, mostly from their intensive first-round tussle.

Both matches preceded the semi-finals of the Fighting Championship, which happened late last night and pitted Marcos "Santa Cruz" Oliveria of Brazil against Neil Wain of England, and Shamil Abdurahimov of Russia against Sokoudjou Nkamhoua of Cameroon.

Helping lift the lid on the evening, the bearded Ahli smiled brightly at the finish of the taut, rugged three rounds even as his Brazilian opponent Luciano Ferreira roamed the ring with arms aloft, celebrating a plausible victory while sporting a left eye surrounded by deep-red blood.

Yet when the public-address announcer read the judges' scorings at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, Ahli had won on a split decision, the first judge's card going 29-28 for Ferreira and the latter two 29-28 for Ahli.

As an enthused crowd approved, he plunged to the mat and kissed it as Ferreira, whose career record fell to 3-2-0, looked slightly bewildered.

Bringing his 0-0 record to the welterweight bought, the 76kg Ahli ran into a barrage of early trouble from his shorter, thicker opponent. He took a flurry 50 seconds into the match, whereupon Ferreira forced him on to his back, a turn that would repeat itself often in the match.

Only when Ahli emerged from that thicket and went upright about a minute later did the near-capacity crowd that encircled the cage begin to chant: "Ahli! Ahli!"

By the third minute, Ahli began to land a few punches and to have a clear sense of himself in the match, just before Ferreira slammed him down once more. After Ferreira also landed some punches, Ahli's nose looked as if under duress and it seemed he did well to withstand the first round.

From there, however, he demonstrated a durable will, landing punches early with Ferreira in the second round and almost upending his shorter opponent three minutes into that round. By the final minute of that round, he had Ferreira on the defensive.

By the beginning of the third and final round, he had let out his guttural scream, and from there he held in even though Ferreira took him down about two minutes in and he contorted his way out of that.

With the crowd chanting his name again, he proceeded to punch Ferreira enough and with enough dispatch to yield a seriously bloody face through the latter part of the round. He stayed even through Ferreira's charges, hugged his opponent and smiled at having completed his first bout.

Within minutes, he would smile more.

cculpepper@thenational.ae