Moreno soars to capture historic first medal for Portugal

Pictured above: Portugal’s Mario Moreno takes victory in the IMMAF European Open quarter-finals – photo by Jorden Curran.

Portugal’s Mario Moreno made his international IMMAF debut last week in sensational fashion, dramatically capturing the silver medal in the Men’s Bantamweight bracket at the 2017 IMMAF European Open Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Backed by national coaches Luis Barneto and Andre Silva, in addition to team mates Militon Mateus, Goncalo Forminga and Anton Pugach, Moreno secured the first medal in the history of Portugal’s national amateur MMA team and did so with an abundance of passion as he soared into the 135lb tournament final. Team Portugal first competed at the 2014 IMMAF World Championships in Las Vegas and have featured in each World and European Open Championships to date with 2017 being the nation’s breakthrough year.

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Moreno takes a silent moment following his opening victory at the 2017 European Open tournament

Moreno kicked off his European Open campaign on Day 2 of the competition (March 30) and thoroughly outpointed Lebanon’s Eddy Nassif to take away a Unanimous Decision victory with fast movements and a varied display of striking flair and quick instincts on the ground. The wheels were rolling into Day 3 and the emotion hit home following victory in the quarter-finals as the 30-year-old secured his place in the semis. The intensity was felt as Moreno rallied to snatch a come-from-behind submission win over Bulgaria’s 2016 bronze medalist Rostilav Raichev with a triangle choke in the second round of action. The new tournament darkhorse leaped to his feet with an outcry of emotion and a teary eyed samba dance which would become his signature celebration. 

With a podium finish now guaranteed, he carried the very same passion and flair into the semi-finals against Irishman Daryl Clarke, a product of SBG Ireland, who had also notched up a pair of victories en route to the penultimate bout including a hard fought split-decision win over promising Albanian competitor Floris Doskja. The energized Moreno wasted little time and after a short scramble on the ground where Clarke battled to tie up a leg lock, Moreno strongly forced home a rear-naked-choke submission in the first round.

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Moreno celebrates his gutsy win over Raichev – photo by Jorden Curran

Moreno’s journey came to a bittersweet end as he faced off against the so far unstoppable ground assault of Team UK’s undefeated Adam Amarasinghe. The UK standout and fellow IMMAF debutant had showcased his unquestionable specialty for takedowns in each of his previous contests and grabbed victory in the semis with a unanimous points victory over the division’s top seed Marco Zannetti.

Heading into the third and final round of the tournament finale, Amarasinghe had maintained full control by shutting down his man against the cage fence. However, Moreno’s heart remained determined and he slipped free of Amarainghe’s clutches to deliver a series of Hail Mary strikes to come within moments of a sudden TKO stoppage. Despite Moreno’s efforts, the Brit took the shots well and made it to his feet before clinching up to see out the round.

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Moreno rallied in the final moments against Amarasinghe – photo by Jorden Curran

Moreno’s friendly approach and positive attitude was felt by all in attendance and his honor was proven as he paid respect to each opponent, win or lose. Moreno has succeeded through humble surroundings, surviving in one of Portugal’s poorer neighborhoods within Barreiro and making ends meet as a construction worker with the generosity of his coach and team mates helping him get by. This generosity and his own battle for success has flourished to produce a historic achievement for Portuguese MMA of which the nation can build upon with pride.

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By IMMAF.org lead writer and website manager, Jorden Curran

The post Moreno soars to capture historic first medal for Portugal appeared first on IMMAF.

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