April 11, 2014 is a day that will etch itself in MMA eternity for all of those in the Arab world. Indeed, it marks the day that the Middle East’s preeminent, 77KG title (the Desert Force shield) will be defended for the first time in history by Moroccan champion, and Brazilian Top Team Boston representative, Aniss Al Hajjajy. And what better way to haze the Arab world into this historic event than to toss the Moroccan ground specialist into the cage with ravenous, Lebanese striking powerhouse, and Shogun representative, Mohamad Ghorabi.
With the excitement and anticipation of the shield defense keeping MMA fans the world-over on the edge of their seats, I took it upon myself to write these keys to victory, loosely inspired by my good friend, and veteran ESPN boxing columnist, Bernardo Pilatti. Here goes, knuckleheads:
Aniss Al Hajjajy – The champ definitely showed his mettle in taking the then up-for-grabs shield in his victory over the well-rounded Egyptian striker, Amr Wahman. He showed patience, decent leg kicks, and his grappling was on point, resulting in a vicious ground and pound win. But his striking was less than stellar.
To beat Ghorabi, he’ll need to use the same strategy he employed against Wahman. I say this because even if Hajjajy’s striking improved since his last outing, it’ll likely remain inferior to Ghorabi’s aggressive muay thai. Accordingly, he’s going to have to use leg kicks and jabs to try and keep the shorter Ghorabi at bay, keep Ghorabi guessing by changing levels, and keep his guard up when he shoots in for the takedown so as not to get caught by one of Ghorabi’s concussive shots. Also, he should try for double leg shots as opposed to single legs, because Ghorabi has shown decent takedown defense and balance. If Hajjajy can do this and keep Ghorabi down, he can grind out or pound out a win, and retain his shield in a historic defense.
Mohamad Ghorabi – The Pride of Saida looked very strong in his last outing against another strong grappler in Azzedine Belharch. It was during a scramble that Ghorabi was able to use his vicious athleticism and strength to smash his foe in an impressive KO win. However, Belharch is not quite the grappler Hajjajy is.
To take the shield, Ghorabi is going to want to keep this one standing. He’s going to have to utilize his natural athleticism, which gives him a strength and speed advantage over the champ. He’s also going to have to wade into Hajjajy, as he will be at a reach disadvantage. This is where the fight will be at its explosive best, as Hajjajy will go for the takedown, while Ghorabi will try to land his signature one-hitter-quitter to turn the lights out on the Moroccan. Ghorabi, when on the inside, will need to utilize what teammate Mohamad Karaki has taught him to stay on his feet. If he hits the ground, he’s going to have to stay active and try to pop up, as the ground will be Hajjajy’s best chance to win. If Ghorabi can utilize his athleticism to keep this thing on the feet, and effectively wade into striking distance, the shield should change hands.
George Francis, Esq., is the Combat Sports Analyst & Editor-in-Chief for Fightersrep.com.