Tomorrow night at GLORY 18 in Oklahoma there will be an epic showdown for the GLORY Lightweight Championship between two of the toughest fighters in the ultra-competitive 70kg division. Davit Kiria comes into the fight against Robin van Roosmalen as the GLORY Lightweight Champion, which should give him an edge, but in the eyes of many this is an uphill battle for the champion. Davit Kiria will be meeting van Roosmalen for the third time, with the previous two encounters ending in decision victories for van Roosmalen and leaving Kiria just out of reach of the top of the division.
For Kiria he was the unlikely GLORY Lightweight Champion. When reflecting on GLORY's Lightweight division at GLORY 12 in New York, Kiria, out of the four men involved in the tournament, was the least likely to be wearing the GLORY Lightweight Championship any time soon. Why? Because Giorgio Petrosyan was unstoppable, being Robin van Roosmalen is a shrunken Gokhan Saki, because Andy Ristie is fast, powerful and technical. On that night everyone was right and van Roosmalen made it by Kiria for a second time before moving onto the finals against the unlikely opponent that was Andy Ristie, who had just knocked out the greatest 70kg fighter that has ever competed in kickboxing.
Ristie walked away with his hand raised and when it was announced that Davit Kiria would be his first challenger, many groaned or called for a rematch with Petrosyan or van Roosmalen. Kiria was once again the fourth man in a three-man division. Kiria stepped into the ring at GLORY 14 as a serious underdog against Ristie. Ristie was the man who defeated Giorgio Petrosyan, how could he lose to the slow-starting Kiria? Ristie was doing what Ristie does throughout the early rounds, with Kiria just holding on, picking his spots and landing whatever he could in between the onslaughts by Ristie.
Then something happened; Kiria connected. All of a sudden it was a brand new fight and the last two rounds were not only competitive, but Kiria was making one of the craziest comebacks in kickboxing's history. Kiria then put the cherry on top with a knockout blow that sent Ristie crashed to the canvas and secured him the GLORY Lightweight Championship. He was not the fourth man anymore, he was the top fighter in one of the most competitive divisions in the world.
For Robin van Roosmalen the story is a bit different. Robin's career began slowly, showing lots of promise, but having problems when stepping up in competition. He was aggressive, hit hard, focusing on killer combinations, but he ran into fighters who were able to nullify his gifts and shut him down. He found a nemesis in Mootje Khamal, with many seeing Khamal as the man to take the 70kg kickboxing world by storm. Khamal earned his way into the K-1 World MAX tournament only to run into Gago Drago. But trouble was brewing within the K-1 system and It's Showtime decided to hold their own 70kg tournament -- 70kg Fast and Furious.
Van Roosmalen entered the tournament, a virtual "Murderer's Row" in the 70kg division, featuring Andy Souwer, Artur Kyshenko, Gago Drago, Chahid Oulad el Hadj, Murat Direcki, Harut Grigorian and Chris Ngimbi. Of course, missing from that lineup was 70kg ace Giorgio Petrosyan, who was forced to pull out due to the reoccurring injury to his right hand that seems to always gum up the works. Van Roosmalen wasn't expected to win the tournament, even with Petrosyan out. Instead, it was seen that Andy Souwer, Chris Ngimbi or Artur Kyshenko would walk away the victor in what was the "substitute" 2010 K-1 World MAX tournament.
Van Roosmalen shocked the kickboxing world by knocking out Chahid, fending off Chris Ngimbi's ariel assault and then putting Artur Kyshenko down and out in one round. Robin van Roosmalen went from an interesting prospect to the default #2 fighter in the 70kg division, who was only #2 because of the elephant in the room that was Giorgio Petrosyan. Van Roosmalen wouldn't have to wait long, with GLORY buying out It's Showtime and a good portion of the kickboxing world and staging the GLORY 3 70kg Slam tournament. The fans got exactly what they wanted in a final of Robin van Roosmalen vs. Giorgio Petrosyan for the official title of the #1 70kg fighter in the world. Van Roosmalen fought valiantly, but Petrosyan did as Petrosyan tends to do and walked away with a decisive, clean victory over the slugger.
Robin wasn't done yet, oh no. He ran through everyone that GLORY put in his path, fighting a smarter, more conservative style without as many defensive holes being opened up on his path to GLORY 12's Lightweight tournament. When Petrosyan was knocked out he saw opportunity against Ristie, but on that night Ristie was able to find a hole and put van Roosmalen down and out with a huge uppercut.
For both men their claim to the throne of 70kg is clear. They've both achieved so much and share one frustrating similarity; they'd be easily considered the best in the world if it wasn't for Giorgio Petrosyan. After Petrosyan's loss to Andy Ristie his claim to the #1 spot has relented, leaving things wide open for either man. Right now Davit Kiria is that man, but many consider van Roosmalen's two prior victories as a Sword of Damocles dangling above his head by a thread, just waiting for it to snap and for van Roosmalen to claim the throne.
For van Roosmalen there is no Petrosyan in his way this time, just a man that he's beaten twice before. A victory here would cement his legacy, but does he have what it takes to dethrone the newly-crowned king in Kiria?
This is why we watch kickboxing and why it's so damned great.