UAE leading the way for Arab nations at Asian Games, Saudi Arabia hoping for more

At the midway stage of the Asian Games, Saudi Arabia have already won two medals, but the second week of the world’s second-largest multisport event is where the Kingdom hopes to enjoy more success. (AFP)
Updated 25 August 2018

UAE leading the way for Arab nations at Asian Games, Saudi Arabia hoping for more

JAKARTA: At the midway stage of the Asian Games, Saudi Arabia have already won two medals, but the second week of the world’s second-largest multisport event is where the Kingdom hopes to enjoy more success.
Hussain Al-Harbi secured the Saudi National Olympic Committee its first medal of the 2018 Games — a silver — on Friday when he finished one-point behind winner Youngjeon Choi in the Men’s 300m Standard Rifle shooting event in Palembang. The 42-year-old was then accompanied into the record books 24-hours later in Jakarta by Tareg Ali Hamedi, who defeated Shadykanov Adilet of Kyrgyzstan 4-0 in the bronze medal match of the men’s +84kg karate event.
“This is not for me alone, but for all the Saudi people,” Al-Harbi said after scoring 568 points across the three disciplines: kneeling, prone, and standing. “The competition was strong, especially with the Korean players. My ambition was gold, but I was denied by a single point. Thanks and appreciation must go to the Saudi delegation. Our sport is moving in the right direction.”
Hamedi, 20, was named by the World Karate Federation in 2016 as the sport’s most promising and distinguished player, but lost 4-1 to eventual gold medallist Sajad Ganjzadeh in the semifinal. The Dammam-born athlete’s bronze medal was Saudi Arabia’s seventh in Karate across the 10 Asian Games the Kingdom has competed. Although the wait for gold continues, karate is now the country’s second-most successful sport behind athletics.
Saudi have won 29 medals in athletics, including 17 golds, since first participating in the 1978 Asiad.
It is hoped that this figure will be added to in the coming week as 17 of Saudi’s 169-athlete delegation take to the track and field inside the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium. The last time Saudi left an Asian Games with less than seven medals was in 1990 so expectations are high.
Abdullah Abkar Mohammed will contest the 100m semifinal on Sunday after finishing second in his qualifying heat, just 0.02 seconds behind Chunhan Yang of Chinese Taipei who clocked 10.13.
Mohammed competed at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and has a personal best of 10.04.
Meanwhile the football team must beat Japan on Sunday to reach the semifinal, the volleyball side face Taipei this evening, and the water polo team get their campaign underway this afternoon against Vietnam. Jiu jitsu action will also take place on Sunday, although Saudi have yet to show they can compete at the same level of their Gulf neighbors, the UAE.

The Emirates in fact top the medal standings among the Arab countries, in large part to their jiu-jitsu contingent who have so far secured two golds, four silvers and a bronze. Ali Allanjawi also won gold for his country in the Runabout Limited category of jet-ski to help the Emirates climb to 12th in the overall standings. Jordan are similarly strong in combat competition, sharing their seven medals across jiu-jitsu (one silver and two bronze) and taekwondo (one gold and three bronze).
Lebanon with one gold and a bronze in shooting, a silver in wrestling and bronze in taekwondo, sit 22nd in the table, narrowly ahead of Iraq, who won gold in weightlifting through Safa Rashed, and Bahrain, who won two silvers in athletics. Meanwhile Saudi and Qatar share 27th place with two medals apiece after Qatar won silver in weightlifting and bronze in shooting.

UFC Fight Island delivers goods as Kamaru Usman reigns supreme in Abu Dhabi

Updated 12 July 2020

UFC Fight Island delivers goods as Kamaru Usman reigns supreme in Abu Dhabi

  • Alexander Volkanovski, Petr Yan and Rose Namajunas also score big victories at UFC 251
  • Main fight courted controversy with fans questioning the referee’s decision

DUBAI: It might have taken place behind closed doors, but Fight Island in Abu Dhabi delivered on its promises, with Kamaru Usman retaining his welterweight title after defeating Jorge Masvidal in UFC 251’s main event on Yas Island.

MMA fans in the Middle East had to set their alarm clocks for the early hours of Sunday, July 12, to watch the biggest international sporting event since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, with action at Flash Forum in the UAE capital kicking off at 2 a.m. local time.

At the weekend Masvidal had called Usman “weak-minded,” but the man who had replaced Gilbert Burns on only six days’ notice would come to regret those words, losing (50-45, 50-45, 49-46) to the “Nigerian Nightmare, ” who had words of praise for his opponent nonetheless.

“Gamebred [Masvidal] is the biggest, baddest dude out there right now,” Usman said. “I had to switch gears on six days’ notice. I know a lot was made of him taking this fight on short notice, but he was preparing. All these guys are preparing for one guy—and that’s me at the top of the mountain. I had to make a mental shift. I trained for Gilbert and had a completely different game plan. I had a lot of other things coming into the fight, but that’s no excuse.”

With the champion curiously focused on stomping on his opponent’s feet, the fight initially lacked the entertainment value of earlier bouts on the main card.

The challenger had edged the first round, but by the end of the second Usman looked to have squared it at 19-19. With the American fighter’s early energy subsiding, Usman took control of the fight to shade rounds three and four by taking the fight to the canvas. 

Kamaru Usman on his way to victory over Jorge Masvidal. (Getty Images/ UFC) 

“Gamebred is tough and he showed it out there,” he added. “He took a lot of big elbows on bottom, but he kept getting up and fighting. He didn’t quit.”

Masvidal needed to overcome Usman’s grappling tactics with a stoppage in the fifth and final round. This proved beyond his reach and Usman’s UFC record now stands at an impressive 12 wins and no losses, emulating the starts made by Anderson Silva and Khabib Nurmagomedov in MMA’s premier organization.

“I’m at the top of the mountain, I’m the champion,” Usman said. “Everybody’s looking at me. So there’s never going to be a shortage of contenders.”

The two fights leading up to the main event had arguably been the highlights of Fight Island, at once brutal and not short on controversy.

The American Max Holloway had looked set to avenge his loss to Australian Alexander Volkanovski in December’s UFC 245 after dominating the first two rounds comfortably. A stoppage or even knockout looked on the cards. However, Volkanovski reasserted himself in round three, and though he still looked to be trailing by most estimates by the end of the fight, was surprisingly awarded a split decision victory (48-47, 48-47, 47-48). The champion remains unbeaten after 19 professional MMA fights.

“It was a tough fight. He stood there and didn’t take a backwards step,” Volkanovski said. “He made it tough for me in the earlier rounds, I didn’t use the kicks as much as I would have liked, but I got the job done. That’s the main thing. I knew it was two rounds a piece going into that last round. I had to win that last round. I wanted a finish. He went for the finish. Unfortunately, neither of us got it. I won the decision and that’s what counts.”

“He’s a gamer,” he added. “We’re both hard workers, but I got the job done. Nothing but respect to Max. We had words, but maybe he was just trying to get in my head.”

The decision, however, did not go down well with fight fans online. Across social media, audiences voiced their dismay, many calling the fight 3-2 in favor of Holloway, and others posting barbed comments and memes questioning the judges’ competence and eyesight.

Just prior to that dramatic conclusion, the vacant bantamweight title had gone to Petr Yan who defeated Brazilian legend Jose Aldo in another controversial fight, though for entirely different reasons. As the undefeated Russian pounded his opponent mercilessly, the referee inexplicably allowed the fight to continue when a stoppage looked inevitable, and much needed. On Twitter,  “stop the fight” trended alongside #UFC251.

Russian champion Petr Yan lands a punch on Jose Aldo of Brazil. (Getty Images/ UFC)

“I expected it to be a hard fight,” Yan said. “He hit my leg and I was forced to change stance. It got me off my game a little bit. It is a crazy situation in the world to prepare for this fight. The world was closed, but we worked hard to prepare. Aldo is a legend. I have only respect for him.”

Yan revealed that he had planned to put pressure on his opponent, tire him out and then attack after the third round.

“That’s exactly what happened,” he said. “In the first and second round, he had hard punches and low kicks. I waited and pressured him. After the second round, I started to work. It was a good knockout. I liked it. My division has very tough fighters in the top five. The nmumber 1 contender is Aljamain Sterling. I will fight everyone. I like it, it’s my job.”

After the main card had kicked off with Amanda Ribas forcing Paige VanZant into a quick submission, one of the most anticipated fights of the night saw Rose Namajunas regain her straw-weight title by defeating Jessica Andrade by a split-decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29), the American having lost the title to her Brazilian rival at UFC 237 in May, 2019.

Rose Namajunas overcame Jessica Andrade at UFC 251 in Abu Dhabi. (Getty Images/ UFC)

“It was fun, man,” Namajunas said. “I was just in the right state of mind. That’s everything. Early on in the fight, I was doing great. Then I think she hit the desperation button and started really unloading. She caught me a couple times, but I just stayed strong.

Namajunas v Andrade was later named the fight of the night.

The prelims had seen Jiri Prochazka, on his UFC debut, showed why he is one of MMA’s most exciting talents by knocking out Volkan Oezdemir; Muslim Salikhov edged Zaleski dos Santos on a split decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28); Marcin Tybura overcame Maxim Grishin; Makwan Amirkhani stopped Dan Henry in the first round; and Leonardo Santos beat Roman Bogatov (29-26, 29-26, 29-26).

In the Early prelims Maxim Grishin of Poland won his heavyweight against Russian  Marcin Tybura (30-27, 30-27, 30-26); Raulian Paiva overcame Zhalgas Zhumagulov (29-28, 29-28, 29-28); Brazilian Karol Rosa defeated compatriot Vanessa Melo (30-26, 30-26, 30-27); and Davey Grant had kicked UFC Fight Island with a knockout win over Martin Day.

UFC Fight Island is set to air three more pay-per-view fight nights on July 15, 18 and 25. All will take place at Flash Forum.