Five matches we need to see at the GR World Cup

By Eric Olanowski

BAKU, Azerbaijan (October 27) --- The Greco-Roman portion of the 2022 calendar comes to a close November 5-6 in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku. The Greco-Roman World Cup entries feature a mixture of credentialed veterans who own a combined eight world titles and a youthful group of rising stars ready to make their mark on the senior level.

With the insane level of talent headed to Baku, there will be some great matches on the two-day slate. Some matches we’ve seen before, while others we’ll see for the first time. Here are five potential matchups we'd like to see at next weekend in Baku.

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5. 55kg - Eldaniz AZIZLI (AZE) vs. Poya DAD MARZ (IRI)

Azizli and Dad Marz head into Baku fresh off winning world titles.

Azizli was arguably the most dominant Greco-Roman wrestler at the World Championships in Belgrade. He added a second world title to his credentialed resume and further established himself as the weights top wrestler after outscoring his four opponents 34-0.

Dad Marz is two weeks removed from winning gold at the U23 World Championships, where he cruised past all four of his opponents en route to 55kg title.

Iran and Azerbaijan are in opposite groups. Depending on how the group stage plays out, this match will take place on November 6.

4. 77kg - Zoltan LEVAI (HUN/ All-World Team) vs. Sanan SULEYMANOV (AZE)

After facing devastating heartbreaks in Serbia, Levai and Suleymanov are poised to make some noise at the World Cup, and nothing would ease the pain of facing defeat more than picking up a win over a fellow world silver medalist.

These two met once before, and that was in the finals of the 2020 European Championships, where Suleymanov picked up the 3-1 win over Levai.

In addition to Levai having that European finals loss on his mind, he’ll also be thinking about his last loss, which came in Serbia. The Hungarian, who finished the season ranked third in the world, is fresh off punching his ticket to the world finals but he suffered an upsetting 8-0 first-period loss to Akzhol MAKHMUDOV (KGZ).

Meanwhile, Suleymanov, after reaching the 2021 world finals, lost to Idris Hanpasaevic IBAEV (GER) in their opening round meeting at the World Championships and failed to bring home a second consecutive world medal.

The All-World team Azerbaijan are in Group A. This match will take place during the third session on November 5 at 19:30 (local time).

3. 72kg - Mate NEMES (SRB) vs. Ulvu GANIZADE (AZE)

This will be the first of two matchups between a Serbian reigning world champion and an Azerbaijani wrestler who is ranked No. 1 in the world. The second will be between 67kg, where Sebastian NAD (SRB) will take on Hasrat JAFAROV (AZE).

This would be the first meeting between Nemes and Ganizade.

In his last outing, Nemes shocked the world by pulling off the biggest upset of the ’22 season, taking out defending world and Olympic champion Mohammadreza GERAEI (IRI) to win the 67kg world gold on home soil.

Ganizade rounded out his 2022 season as the top-ranked wrestler in the world at 72kg. The 23-year-old fell to Ali ARSALAN (SRB) in the finals of the World Championships and settled for a silver medal. Outside of his Belgrade silver, Ganizdae also won a bronze medal at the European Championships and a silver medal at the Matteo Pellicone Ranking Series event.

Serbia and Azerbaijan are both in Group A. This match will take place during the first session on November 5 at 10:00 (local time).

2. 67kg - Sebastian Nad vs. Hasrat Jafarov

This would be a matchup of the reigning world champion at 63kg and the top-ranked wrestler in the world at 67kg. It’ll also be a rematch from the bronze-medal bout from the 2022 European Championships.

Nad is coming off one of the most surprising world title runs in recent memory. The 25-year-old’s breakout performance in Belgrade was highlighted by wins over 2021 world runner-up Leri ABULADZE (GEO) and 2022 European silver medalist Taleh MAMMADOV (AZE).

But it seems that Nad’s days competiting down at 63kg were short lived. He was without question the biggest 63kg wrestler in Belgrade, and after struggling immensely to make weight in Serbia, he’s moving back up to his natural weight of 67kg, where he wrestled in all five senior competitions prior to the 2022 World Championships.

Jafarov, after going 11-2 on the season, heads into the World Cup as the top-ranked wrestler in the world at 67kg. The 20-year-old star won gold at the Matteo Pellicone Ranking Series event and bronze medals at the World and European Championships.

In their last meeting at the 2022 European Championships, Jafarov defeated Nad for the European bronze medal and owns the upper hand coming into Baku.

Serbia and Azerbaijan are both in Group A. This match will take place during the first session on November 5 at 10:00 (local time).

1. 82kg - Burhan AKBUDAK (TUR) vs. Rafig HUSEYNOV (AZE)

Fellow world champions Akbudak and Huseynov are ranked first and second in the world at 82kg, respectively, and could meet for a third time in their career.

Coming into Baku, they’ve split their pair of previous meetings.

Akbudak, the 2022 82kg world champion, opened up his ’22 campaign with three wins in Istanbul, but none bigger than his dominate 9-0 win over the Huseynov in the semifinals of the Yasar Dogu Ranking Series event.

Prior to that, Huseynov, the Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist and ’21 world champion, edged his Turkish rival, 2-1, to claim the Oslo world title.

Turkey and Azerbaijan are in opposite groups. Depending on how the group stage plays out, this match would take place on November 6.

Catch all the action from Baku, live on the United World Wrestling app or on www.uww.org.


Iran beats Azerbaijan to win Greco-Roman World Cup

By Vinay Siwach

BAKU, Azerbaijan (November 6) -- What a Greco-Roman World Cup that was. Iran and Azerbaijan were neck-to-neck with both winning five bouts. But the classification points gave Iran the win. Iran claims the World Cup it last won in 2016. Azerbaijan finishes second for the second time in a row.

The All-World team finishes third.


21:10: Iran wins the Greco-Roman World Cup! Aliakbar YOUSOFI (IRI) with a barrage of stepouts to beat Beka KANDELAKI (AZE) 6-3 and win the title for Iran on classification points. Kandelaki led 3-1 at the break but Yousofi broke Kandelaki and scored four stepouts in the second period along the fleeing point. Iran finishes with 21 classification points to 19 of Azerbaijan.

21:00: It all comes down to this bout. Aliakbar YOUSOFI (IRI) vs Beka KANDELAKI (AZE) at 130kg for the World Cup title. Both teams are tied for classification points with 18 each. The winner takes it all. Kandelaki begins with a turn from par terre to lead 3-0. Yousofi gets a stepout just before the break. He begins the second period with a stepout. Kandelaki's lead is cut to 3-2. A tiring Kandelaki can't stop the stepouts. He trails 5-3 with two minutes remaining. Another stepout and the win for Yousofi.

20:45: Mehdi BALIHAMZEHDEH (IRI) beats Arif NIFTULLAYEV (AZE) and Iran has cut it down to 5-4. Balihamzehdeh was trailing 2-1 but a takedown and turn to lead 5-2 and the win. The title comes down to the final bout at 130kg. A win is all that is needed.

20:33: Abolfazl CHOUBANI (IRI) the hero for Iran! He keeps Iran in the match with a 2-1 win over Murad AHMADIYEV (AZE). Azerbaijan still leads 5-3 but Iran will hope to win the final two bouts and make it 5-5 to stand a chance.

20:20: Now at 82kg, Mohammadhossein MAHMOODI (IRI) will look to bring back Iran in this. But Rafig HUSEYNOV (AZE) with exposure when he was put in par terre to lead 2-1. He locked Mahmoodi's elbow to get the points. A par terre position for Huseynov in the second period. Mahmoodi is cautioned for two points but no more damage was done. Huseynov wins 5-1. Azerbaijan leads 5-2.

20:10: This is now turning out to be a difficult one for Iran. Sanan SULEYMANOV (AZE) with a controlled 7-1 win over Aref HABIBOLLAHI (IRI) at 77kg. The win has propelled Azerbaijan to a 4-2 lead. Two more wins out of four bouts will seal it for Azerbaijan.

19:50: A challenge that Iran will regret if the final result doesn't go in its favor. Mohammadreza ROSTAMI (IRI) was leading Ulvi GANIZADE (AZE) 3-3 with over a minute remaining. A challenge for negative wrestling but it was clean. Ganizade got the 4-3 lead and the win. Azerbaijan is now in the lead 3-2.

19:35: Two young stars. Two of the best at 67kg. Two wrestlers who will be dominant for a long time. Seyed SOHRABI (IRI) and Hasrat JAFAROV (AZE) on the mat now. Sohrabi gets the early call for passivity. But he doesn't get any turn from par terre. Relentless from both wrestlers. Sohrabi will go at the break leading 1-0. Sohrabi with a body lock and tries to throw Jafarov but, are you kidding me, Jafarov with a one-handed counter for four! Iran challenges the call but it is a clear four. Jafarov leads 5-1. A victory for Jafarov at 67kg over Sohrabi. The crowd is electric.

19:25: World bronze medalist Taleh MAMMADOV (AZE) now wrestling Iman Hossein Khoon MOHAMMADI (IRI) at 63kg. He is cautioned for two points for negative wrestling. 2-0 lead for Khoon Mohammadi who scores a takedown as well to lead 4-0 at the break. The second passivity against Mammadov and Khoon Mohammadi asks for standing. Mammadov is cautioned again and Khoon Mohammadi leads 7-0. A stepout to complete an 8-0 win for Iran which leads 2-1 now.

19:15: Nihat MAMMADLI (AZE) replaces an injured Murad MAMMADOV (AZE) at 60kg. He is facing Mehdi MOHSEN NEJAD (IRI). A passivity call against Mammadli but Mohsen Nejad doesn't get the turn. A stepout for Mohsen Nejad as he leads 2-0 at the break. In the second period, Mohsen Nejad gets the advantage again. This time he turns Mammadli but gets stuck on the second attempt. Mammadli with a turn as well to make it 5-4. But Mohsen Nejad hangs on for the win. It's tied 1-1.

19:05: The first match is at 55kg. Two-time world champion Eldaniz AZIZLI (AZE) takes on U23 world champion Poya DAD MARZ (IRI). Azizli wins 4-1 and puts Azerbaijan in the lead.

Now it is time for the big match! Iran is taking on Azerbaijan in Baku for the World Cup. 

18:55: U23 world champion Fatih BOZKURT (TUR) beats Mantas KNYSTAUTAS (UWW) 3-1 but it doesn't matter as the All-World team wins the bronze medal via classification points. Both teams have five wins but the All-World team has 22 points to Turkiye's 19. What a performance from the All-World team.

18:40: What a win for Nikoloz KAKHELASHVILI (UWW)! He beats two-time world champion Metehan BASAR (TUR) 1-1 at 97kg. The win all but confirms the third place for the All-World team. Mantas KNYSTAUTAS (UWW) has to avoid getting pinned at 130kg.

18:30: Ali CENGIZ (TUR) ties with for Turkiye! He beats Alex KESSIDIS (UWW) 4-2 at 87kg and it has become a thriller. The All-World team was looking very close to winning this but it has turned around.

18:20: A rematch of the World Championships final coming up at 82kg between Burhan AKBUDAK (TUR) and Jalgasbay BERDIMURATOV (UWW). The first passivity is against Akbudak and Berdimuratov scores a turn to lead 3-0. He starts the second period with a stepout. Akbudak then goes behind and scores a four before two turns make it 8-4. A point against Akbudak for being passive but that doesn't change the final result of the bout as Akbudak wins 8-5. The All-World team still leads Turkiye 4-3.

18:10: A long bout between world silver medalist Zoltan LEVAI (HUN) and Yunus BASAR (TUR) and it is the Turkiye wrestler who comes out on top 7-6. Basar first got the turn from par terre before a surprise arm throw for a 7-3 lead. Levai did score a takedown but Basar held on top a 7-6 win. Turkiye now has two wins from six bouts.

17:55: A battle between the two world bronze medalists and Selcuk CAN (TUR) looked like winning the bout after he got the turn from par terre against Andrii KULYK (UWW). But Kulyk jumped over and pinned Can for the win. The All-World team now leads 4-1.

17:40: Murat FIRAT (TUR) brings Turkiye back into this match. He beats Joni KHETSURIANI (UWW) 1-1 as the two exchanges passivity points in this 67kg bout. The All-World team still leads 3-1 but Turkiye is crawling back.

17:32: World silver medalist Leri ABULADZE (GEO) makes it 3-0 for the All-World team. He beats Ahmet UYAR (TUR) 3-1 after getting a turn in par terre.

17:20: At 60kg, Mukremin AKTAS (TUR) and Aidos SULTANGALI (UWW) going up against each other. Aktas gets the 1-0 lead for the passivity. But he fails to get any action. Sultangali goes behind and scores a throw for four. He continues the action for a gut wrench to lead 6-1 at the break. Aktas is called passive in the second period and Sultangali was happy to get the 7-1 win. A 2-0 lead for the All-World team.

17:05: The first bout of the Turkiye vs All-Star team is at 55kg between Muhammet CAKIR (TUR) and world silver medalist Nugzari TSURTSUMIA (GEO). Early action in the bout as Tsurtsumia takes a 4-0 lead. But he tries an arm throw which Cakir defends and scores a takedown. He then goes for an arm throw and gets four to lead 6-4. A stepout makes it 7-4. Just before the break, Tsurtsumia gets a takedown on the edge. Turkiye challenges the call but loses. Cakir leads 7-7 on criteria at the break. Tsurtsumia is on the attack in the second period and scores a stepout. Cakir struggling with his conditioning now. A takedown for Tsurtsumia as he builds a 10-7 lead. No more scoring action in the bout and Tsurtsumia gives All-World team the lead.

17:00: Welcome to the medal bouts of the Greco-Roman World Cup in Baku. Turkiye will take on the All-World team for third place.