Mohammed Al Housani introduces us to the UAE jiu-jitsu team competing for gold at this year's Abu Dhabi World Professional Championship.
UAE jiu-jitsu team mix of speed, experience and power
The UAE team have prepared thoroughly for the Abu Dhabi World Professional Championship. They spent two months in Portugal and the United States as part of their training, competing in several international tournaments such as the European Championships in Portugal and the Houston Open. They also underwent extensive training at Renzo Gracie's famed academy in New York. Based on the intensity of their preparation this year, the team have set their sights on making up for last year's disappointing championship which yielded only gold for Abdullah Al Ketbi, in the white/blue belt category of the senior division. The previous year the team won four gold medals. We analyse the credentials of the prospects of some of the UAE fighters this year.
Faisal Al Ketbi (purple belt, Under 98kg)
Arriving from a wrestling background, Al Ketbi is widely regarded as the No 1 jiu-jitsu fighter in the country. Competing in the Over 92kg and open weight divisions in the Gi, he won two gold medals in 2010. The 24 year old's trademark move is the double leg takedown but last year he found the transition from blue belt to purple belt tough and had to settle for a silver after forfeiting the final because of an injury he sustained in his semi-final. He is seeking retribution this year as he goes for two golds to take his all-time tally to five.
Yahya Mansour Al Hammadi (purple belt, Over 98kg)
Al Hammadi is a two-time world champion (2009, 2010). He is always on the highlight reels of Abu Dhabi Sports TV programmes because of his embrace of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, in 2010, after an impressive display against Marcelo Tarso from Brazil. Al Hammadi is a black belt in judo and his fighting style is based around looking for early throws and hanging on for the finish. He is also one of the fiercest competitors in team as evidenced by his fights in the 2009 and 2010 event. Unlike Al Ketbi, he tends to surrender points rather easily, and that is what he will want to avoid.
Hassan Al Rumaithi (blue belt, U70kg)
He is the only one out of the crew to try his luck in mixed martial arts. The 28 year old is well-rounded practitioner of wrestling and judo and was with the team for their two-month training with Renzo Gracie. Al Rumaithi is the first Emirati mixed martial artist and the only member of the team to hold a significant record in the sport, winning both of his fights at the Abu Dhabi Fighting Championship in 2010. He was recently named as one of the "40 Most Famous Emiratis" in a capital magazine survey. Punches, kicks and elbows are not permitted in jiu-jitsu so he will have to stick to the disciplines of a sport he has been involved in since childhood. He will be keen to execute his favourites submission, the triangle choke, and dictate the style of the fight.
Talib Al Kurbi (purple belt, U70kg)
One of the traditional jiu-jitsu fighters on the team, Al Kurbi is probably the man who epitomises what the sport is about. When he first started learning jiu-jitsu, he had no prior experiences in wrestling or judo like the others, so his classic style is reminiscent of the world-class fighters from Brazil. Many jiu-jitsu enthusiasts in Abu Dhabi compare him to the great Marcelo Garcia and consider him to be the Emirati version of the multi ADCC champion. He has arguably the best guard in the country and he will use the guard to sweep the opponent when he least expects it.
Ali Al Darei (blue belt, U68kg)
The fastest fighter in the UAE team. His speed and technique on the mats helped him win many domestic tournaments, but the World Professional Championship has eluded him so far. He will have to rely on his speed and judo experience, as he is one of the oldest practitioners of the game. His strengths are his Judo experience and balance while standing or on top of a grounded opponent trying to sweep him.
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