How competitive swimming primed Said Sowma for heavyweight MMA gold

Said Sowma looks down at his Titan FC title. Credit: Said Sowma, Instagram.

Championship round cardio and a point-focused, round-winning striking style aren’t usually the first things that come to mind when one thinks of the heavyweight division, but that’s why former Titan FC heavyweight champion Said Sowma’s career may be an interesting one to watch.

Before fighting, Sowma (6-2) was a competitive swimmer. He started swimming at age 5 and continued competing even after he started kickboxing at age 15. This background is apparent in his fighting style – that of a disciplined, lifelong athlete.

Sowma bolsters his swimmer’s cardio with an efficient striking output. While Sowma throws more volume strikes than the average heavyweight, he does so with a relaxed, low-power style; even his head kicks are nonchalant. These factors, combined with a low-risk style, leave him looking fresh long after his opponent has started to fall off in the later rounds of the fight.

Sowma couples his cardio and high-output striking with solid takedown defense, forcing his opponents to play his game and try to keep up.

His strong takedown defense, above-average cage positioning, and BJJ purple belt make wrestling Said a dangerous approach. Even high-level wrestlers like Pennsylvania State All-American Jimmy Lawson (2-1) and NCAA Division II national champion Tyrell Fortune (9-1, 1 NC) have struggled to put him on his back, and often seem wary to grapple with him at all.

Sowma’s Titan FC title win over former Shamrock FC champion Bobby Brent (17-8) perfectly captures what many find exciting about him. Sowma never let the fight become a brawl. Instead, he kept things calm and controlled, picking Brent apart one strike at a time. Kicking often, Sowma chopped away at Brent’s leg and peppered him with long, safe strikes.

Even as Brent became less mobile and more desperate, Sowma stayed patient and risk-averse, and when Brent was saved by the bell at the end of round two, Said came out for round three with the same respect he’d given to Brent before he was wounded.

Sowma would finish Brent with strikes in the third round, capturing the Titan FC title – and the biggest win of his career – in the process.

All indicators point to Sowma having the cautious, methodical approach of a much more experienced fighter, and at 28, with an in-progress computer science degree to match his intelligent fighting style, his potential for growth is thrilling.

The primary questions for Sowma going forward are these: what happens when he has to fight differently? If Sowma’s opponent scores heavily to begin a round, can Sowma pick up his pace to try to salvage the round? If Sowma’s down two rounds, can he flip the “force a finish” switch?

Sowma’s pro debut against 6’8″ Bellator signee Steve Mowry (8-0) featured a much more brawly version of Sowma, as he tried to stay inside to overcome a nine-inch height disadvantage. This would suggest that he can vary his game plan to negate his opponent’s strengths and target their weaknesses. However, that fight also ended with Sowma retiring between rounds two and three, hardly able to stand up – not only due to damage, but exhaustion, which may explain why he doesn’t often fight that way. This remains the lone time when Sowma physically appeared exhausted in his MMA career to date.

Since immigrating to the US at 18-years old from the South American country Suriname, Said has spent the last nine years at the decorated American Top Team, training with high-level athletes like former UFC Champions Junior dos Santos and Andrei Arlovski, contenders Aleksei Oleinik and Greg Hardy, as well as his countryman, Jairzinho Rozenstruik.

With a strong team and a strong mind, MMA fans should look forward to seeing Said Sowma develop, and hopefully, he does so fast – as a new addition to Bellator’s roster, his competition is about to test his skills like never before.