Pasha Kharkhachaev, in world champion gold, began with victory ©IMMAF

Super-heavyweight Pasha Kharkhachaev began his bid for a third International Mixed Martial Arts Association (IMMAF) World Championship title in a row with a commanding performance here in Abu Dhabi.

The Russian-born fighter, who is competing for Bahrain as part of their foreign legion of stars, is undefeated and known for his devastating huge punches.

It did not take Kharkhachaev, who has a background in sambo, long to bust open the right eye of Murad Dzhamaldinov, who was representing the Russian Mixed Martial Arts Union (RMMAU).

Dzhamaldinov was checked by a doctor before the end of the first round but was allowed to continue, and Kharkhachaev took the fight to the ground where he was equally in control.

He was awarded the fight, which attracted huge attention inside the Jiu-Jitsu Arena here, by unanimous decision to move into the semi-finals.

Murad Dzhamaldinov's eye was badly injured early in the fight ©IMMAF
Murad Dzhamaldinov's eye was badly injured early in the fight ©IMMAF

With all of today's bouts being last-eight clashes, every fighter who won knew they were guaranteed at least a bronze medal.

Nobody has won three IMMAF world titles before with Kazakhstan strawweight Bagdat Zhubanysh, like Kharkhachaev, also trying to achieve the feat.

He defeated Magomed Sheikhov of Bahrain by unanimous decision after connecting with a huge left hand in the second round, and a superb uppercut in the third.

Elsewhere, an excellent semi-final has been set up in the women's featherweight class between two reigning world champions.

The 2019 winner Sabrina Laurentina De Sousa of Bahrain began her title defence in style by submitting Mexico's Andrea Guzman with a first-round armbar.

She will now face New Zealand's Michelle Montague, the lightweight world champion who has dropped down a weight division.

Montague forced the RMMAU's Nina Kharinova to tap out in round two via a body triangle and will be hoping to avenge her defeat to De Sousa in the previous meeting between the pair.

There is another strong contender on the other side of the draw in World Cup winner Cecilie Bolander of Norway, who submitted Ukraine's Marianna Skuba with an armbar in the first round.

Kazakhstan strawweight Bagdat Zhubanysh remains on course for a third world title ©IMMAF
Kazakhstan strawweight Bagdat Zhubanysh remains on course for a third world title ©IMMAF

A great fight saw Ramazan Gitinov of Bahrain, the reigning welterweight world champion, eliminate a battling Teddy Stringer of England.

Pakistan can celebrate their first medal at the IMMAF World Championships after Ismail Khan stunned Italy's World Cup winner Fidel Gramiccia with a unanimous-decision win at bantamweight.

There was a strong display from Tajikistan's welterweight World Cup winner Jovidon Mahmudov, who defeated Fredrick Hoifodt of Norway in round two with a guillotine choke.

Spain's Juan Izquierdo, another World Cup champion who got the better of Japanese favourite Reo Yamaguchi yesterday, is through at featherweight thanks to a unanimous win over Tajikistan's Manuchehr Rioev.

In the women's strawweight, World Cup winner Josefine Modig of Sweden won an all-Scandinavian battle with Finland's Janika Antinmaa by unanimous decision, following a huge right hand in round two.

European Open champion Beatriz Consuli Diniz defeated Sarah Carney of Ireland on all of the scorecards in the women's flyweight, but Paulina Kontna of Poland exited the bantamweight competition.

Kontna, another European Open winner, tapped out to an armbar applied by Tatiana Postarnakova of the RMMAU.

In the women's atomweight, a category that is up for grabs due to the two favourites testing positive for COVID-19, Finland's fancied Jenna Horto is through but only after a split verdict against Vera Buga of the RMMAU.

A number of other athletes impressed including Germany's Tom Hoelemann who won for the second consecutive day thanks to a huge head kick.

He flattened Artem Hashenko of Ukraine at heavyweight to move into the last four by TKO.

Murad Guseinov of Bahrain, who had shone up to this point with two quick submission wins, was eliminated by Abdyla Aliev of the RMMAU who triumphed by split decision.

Dzhamal Medzhidov of the RMMAU was in great form at light heavyweight as he stopped Australia's Patrick Best.

After throwing his opponent twice with a suplex, he mounted him and reined down punches before the ref stepped in.

Sweden's Robin Enontekio is also a threat at light heavyweight after backing up a win with a huge punch yesterday by spinning Anthony Nantois of France into an armbar submission in round one.

Sabrina Laurentina De Sousa of Bahrain set up a battle of the world champions in the women's featherweight ©IMMAF
Sabrina Laurentina De Sousa of Bahrain set up a battle of the world champions in the women's featherweight ©IMMAF

Two big Kazakh knockouts came courtesy firstly of Bekzat Zhassiya, who celebrated with a backflip after flooring Sweden's Daniyal Shamkhalov with a left hand at featherweight.

At lightweight, Neimat Assadov hammered down a punch on Julian Schlouch of French Polynesia following some ground and pound which proved enough for the finish.

There was a blow for Sweden's Millie Eriksson, the World Cup champion in the women's flyweight who was unable to compete against Brazil's Giulliany Perea.

Bahrain's Aieza Ramos Bertolso, the European Open winner, also went through against Diana Naidenova of the RMMAU for the same reason in the women's strawweight.

This means Bertolso, who achieved a bye in round one, has won a bronze medal without taking to the cage.

Men's heavyweight favourite Rasul Magomedov of Bahrain, the World Cup and European Open champion, was another to get the day off as the RMMAU's Konstantin Chernichenko could not compete.

The semi-finals will be held in Abu Dhabi tomorrow.