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A Look at the Truly SUPER GLORY 28 SuperFight Series

The consensus on GLORY 28 is that it’s one of the most packed GLORY cards of all-time, but by looking at the main card alone you wouldn’t get that impression. Sure, GLORY 28’s main card is good, but where the show really shines is in the undercard, dubbed the SuperFight Series. The SuperFight Series will be airing on UFC’s Fight Pass platform and, in a way, GLORY is putting their best foot forward on Fight Pass this time around with two world title fights and three incredible fights on top of that.

As a fan of kickboxing I’m perhaps more excited for the SuperFight Series than I am for the main card. Sure, the main card is great, but there is so much going on here that it’s hard to NOT want to talk about it.

GLORY Light Heavyweight Championship: Saulo Cavalari(C) vs. Artem Vakhitov

Honestly, I’m not sure why this fight isn’t on the main card outside of looking to give the SFS an incredible main event. Sure, fans were really itching for Gokhan Saki to get back into the ring, but I’m almost more excited about what the division looks like without Saki than what it looks like with him. Artem Vakhitov is a skilled, exciting young fighter and Saulo Cavalari has been running roughshod over this division in Saki’s absence. 

While to some that means nothing, I assure you that it means a lot. Saki is a great fighter and a famous name from K-1, but there seems to be a division of fans who refuse to give Cavalari his due simply because he hasn’t fought Saki yet. Saki pulled out of this fight, the official reason was injury, but there have been questions as to what injury it was and if there might be, or if this is some sort of contract situation. Either way Saki isn’t getting any younger and his ability to earn money continues to dwindle with the more time he’s away from the ring fighting the best of the best. 

While I think that Vakhitov poses an interesting challenge for Cavalari, the Cavalari that we’ve seen grow and evolve in the GLORY ring is a complete fighter that will do what it takes to retain his title.

Xavier Vigney vs. Freddy Kemayo

As an American, Xavier Vigney has had to prove himself time and time again to be taken seriously. His professional career started in the K-1 ring against a veteran fighter in Seth Petruzelli and ever since then he’s had some degree of spotlight on him, although there have always been lingering doubts. Heavyweight was once the big money weight in kickboxing, but now things may have shifted just a bit. Since that intense focus on heavyweight isn’t there anymore, GLORY has been able to take things slowly with Vigney before pushing him into the deepest waters and seeing if he’ll sink or swim.

The incremental challenges that they’ve been giving him have all proven to be stuff that he can handle and while his style isn’t exactly explosive, Rico Verhoeven’s style wasn’t explosive or refined in his earlier days and he turned into an amazing talent. I’m not sure that Vigney will reach the same heights, but there is always the potential. Daniel Sam was considered a step up in competition for Vigney and he handled it with poise and a cool head. Now Freddy Kemayo is his next step up. Kemayo is a well known fighter who has always been on the fringe of the top of the division, perhaps best known as the guy who got body-bagged by Anderson “Braddock” Silva back in 2010 in one of the best high kick KO’s of all time. 

That being said, Kemayo is still a tough fighter and while things haven’t exactly been sunshine for him of late, stopping Vigney dead in his path towards kickboxing elitedom would be a feather in his cap and a reason for people to start taking him seriously again.

But, I think Vigney has this. 

GLORY Featherweight Championship: Serhiy Adamchuk(C) vs. Mosab Amrani

At this point I feel for the GLORY Featherweight Championship. Unless Mosab is able to wrest the title away from Adamchuk’s defensive grasp here the title’s interest level might drop below zero. Adamchuk is a talented, skilled fighter, but to be frank, his performances in the GLORY ring have been abysmal to watch. The way that he won the title was shameful, to say the least, in perhaps one of GLORY’s worst title fights to date.

As a fan, I have no reason to want to watch Adamchuk anymore now that I know what he’s prepared to do to hold that title. Outside of referee interference on the level of Artem/Marcus there is little chance of this fight being something worth watching. I say that as someone well aware of what Mosab is capable of and how he’s been consistently one of the most exciting, watchable fighters of the past five years. 

Adamchuk by smothering and rabbit punches.

Jason Wilnis vs. Filip Verlinden

This is a really interesting fight, especially with the prospect of Artem Levin gone from the Middleweight division and things opening up a bit. Wilnis was last in the ring against Joe Schilling, forced to stop fighting due to an injury after having Joe in some serious trouble. Sure, Joe was working him over pretty hard early on, but Wilnis fought back and had Joe wobbling into the ropes before the injury and having to call the fight.

Needless to say, Wilnis is showing a lot of promise and could be a major player in the division. Verlinden is a guy that early on was shoved anywhere that he was needed, but now he finally seems comfortable at Middleweight, although he’s still taking random Light Heavyweight fights. Verlinden has a rather unremarkable-yet-functional style that has gotten him to where he is today. I think that Wilnis probably takes this, but Verlinden can never be counted out.

Josh Jauncey vs. Johan Tkac

Tkac is stepping up on short notice to fight Jauncey, which is admirable, but Jauncey has gotten the name recognition that he has now because of just how good of a young fighter he really is. The fight with Petrosyan showed a ton of promise and honestly, I just look forward to continue watching Jauncey grow into one of the best fighters in the weight division.

Jauncey takes it.

Maykol Yurk vs. Eddy Naït-Slimani

Maykol burst onto the scene at GLORY 26 with a huge win over Shane Oblonsky before putting up a courageous fight against Mosab before tasting bitter, bitter defeat. Now he gets a challenge that is a bit more manageable for him in Eddy Nait-Slimani. Eddy is a capable, aggressive fighter with a thai style that should make for fireworks here. I think that Maykol takes it but that it won’t be easy.

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GLORY 28 Breakdown; or, Will Sitthichai Rise Again?

This Saturday, live on ESPN3, will be the biggest GLORY event of 2016 to date with GLORY 28. GLORY 28 is headlined by a bout for the GLORY Heavyweight Championship between dominant champion Rico Verhoeven and challenger Mladen Brestovac. The co-headliner is the man who came so close to dethroning Nieky Holzken in Murthel Groenhart as he begins that ascent back up the ladder to challenge Holzken again by taking on Cedric Doumbe of France. 

GLORY’s Lightweight division might be the one stacked with the most talent on on Saturday we’ll have a new contender for the GLORY Lightweight Championship after four men vie for that role in a one-night tournament. Former champion Davit Kiria will have a chance at redemption for himself as he once again takes on Sitthichai Sitsongpeenong and Marat Grigorian will take on Anatoly Moiseev.

There’s a lot going on here. 

GLORY Heavyweight Championship: Rico Verhoeven(C) vs. Mladen Brestovac

There was a time when we all thought that Rico Verhoeven would be a meddling heavyweight who would never realize his full potential. Just kind of a technical deer-in-the-headlights who knew what he was doing, but never put it all together. The Rico Verhoeven that we know now in 2016 is an entirely different fighter. He’s the fully-realized, real deal of a heavyweight champion. I’m not sure who in GLORY’s heavyweight division has the ability to overcome Verhoeven. Errol’s last showing wasn’t exactly inspiring of confidence, so the question now is who will be the man to usurp the newly-crowned king of kickboxing?

Mladen Brestovac would like to be that guy. Really, it’s difficult to say exactly where Brestovac is in the pantheon of heavyweights right now, with two losses to Benjamin Adegbuyi and a loss to recent signee Ismael Londt. That being said, at GLORY 14 he crushed serious contender and dual-champion (Kunlun and Enfusion) Jahfarr Wilnis with a high kick. Brestovac has been on the European circuit for many years, focusing more on Eastern Europe, away from most of the much-hyped Dutch fighters such as Verhoeven. Over the past few years Brestovac has emerged as a force of nature within this division and while, yes, Adegbuyi did fail twice, styles make fights. 

Brestovac is not as aggressive as Benny, plus he has a better gas tank in most of his fights. While his style is not entirely remarkable, if at times a tad bit too defensive, he has solid instincts of when to pounce and when to hold back. While not as famous as Cro Cop’s, his left high kick is something to fear and has taken the scalps of many of his opponents. This all could make for a technical fight that doesn’t exactly provide fireworks, but the title of the top heavyweight in the world is up for grabs, so caution could be thrown to the wind and the gloves and kicks could start flying with ferocity.

I’ve still got Rico winning this.

Murthel Groenhart vs. Cedric Doumbe

No offense intended towards Mr. Doumbe, but the purpose of this fight is to showcase Murthel Groenhart. Groenhart came so close to dethroning Nieky Holzken that one wonders why he hasn’t been tapped for an immediate rematch. This fight seems like a bone thrown his way to get him back on the winning path. That being said, Groenhart has not always been entirely motivated in situations like these and Cedric Doumbe is a French fighter in front of a French crowd, if he could steal a win here this could be huge for his career.

I’ve still got Murthel, though.

GLORY Lightweight Contender’s Tournament

Sitthichai vs. Davit Kiria

Ah, here we are again. Sitthichai should, by most metrics, already be the GLORY Lightweight Champion, yet here he is, forced to run through another tournament for another shot at Robin van Roosmalen. In a way, it’s sort of a shame, but that just seems to be how GLORY operates. Sitthichai is easily the favorite for this tournament, but that seems to overlook the former GLORY Lightweight Champion Davit Kiria.

To say that Kiria’s career has been spotted of late is an understatement. He’s got two losses in a row in the GLORY ring, although in between those were wins in Kunlun. Kiria and Sitthichai met in the last GLORY contender tournament and it ended with Kiria huddled over in pain from a knee in the second round. I’d like to say that Kiria bounced back strong since then. He did bounce back with a win over David Calvo in China in what was a strong performance against the tough Calvo, but then he fell to Enriko Gogokhia in December. A win here would be the world for Kiria, but I’m not sure that it happens. Styles make fights and Sitthichai seems to have his number.

Sitthichai takes this.

Marat Grigorian vs. Anatoly Moiseev

Marat Grigorian should have probably been in that last tournament, but thankfully, he’s here. The lack of Jauncey or Petrosyan does detract a bit from this tournament, but I’m happy to see Grigorian getting his due. Anatoly Moiseev should be considered serious competition for anyone within the division. He's been a well known quantity for years now and the prospect of these two mixing it up has me incredibly excited. But, this still feel's like Marat's fight.

Marat takes it. Setting up...

Marat Grigorian vs. Sitthichai Sitsongpeenong

A rematch from December, which saw Sitthichai take a decision victory over Marat, this is a huge fight if we do, indeed get this as the finals. Both men exemplify where the lightweight division is right now and where it’s heading and I’m looking forward to seeing them lock horns. A lot of this fight will depend on who is more tired and who took more damage. I’d give Sitthichai a slight edge in a standard fight, but for a second fight of the evening, who knows?

I think that Sitthichai takes it, but I’d love to be proven wrong. 

GLORY 28 is shaping up to be an awesome card, look back for a peek into the GLORY SuperFight Series tomorrow.

 

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An argument for why now is the best time ever to be a kickboxing fan

As usual, I began my weekly prep of the Warman Kickfighting podcast show by writing out my notes. I watched the Thai stadium muay thai fights for critical breakdown. Then I rewatched fights from the Glory 28 participants before this weekends event. As I watched them, I realize that I had just done this for a Glory card two weeks ago. Then it hit me that there seems to be multiple major cards every week. From Enfusion having their most successful card, to Lion Fight having another stoppage filled event, every weekend has been full of fights. In the next two months we have Yokkao, Bellator's kickboxing league, Holland's World Fighting League, and another Glory card. I have been a kickboxing fan for a long time. I cannot remember a better time to be a kickboxing fan, and yet we may be held back from enjoying it by our oldest fan base.

BLESSED AND CURSED BY OUR HISTORY

In the 90s, when K-1 emerged muay thai and kickboxing didn't just have several events. They dominated the martial arts sporting combat culture. UFC at that time was considered street fighting. The term mixed martial artist was not in use. A skilled martial artist tested themselves in kickboxing or muay thai. They had the K-1 World Grand Prix, which put the value of state and country driven world titles and put the athletes to the test in a tournament field of the best. Names like Aerts, Hoost, Bernardo, Hug, and Lebanner emerge as consistent victors and major international stars. But just as important as the star, the major K-1 tournament produced a holy place. Everyone wanted to one day fight in Japan, where there was borderline idol worship of elite combatants. 

Along with this came the advancement of technology. Computers went from novelty to mandatory in homes across the world. With this brought the emergence of fight forums, where people from all around the world would weigh in on the events of their region, stars to look out for, and of course, long breakdowns of the major K-1 fight cards. European based Super League got some attention, but clearly, the leagues of note were K-1’s Heavyweight and 70kg Max divisions. 

Flash Forward to 2011. K-1, due to multiple reasons, ran into financial trouble. They began to do less and less shows and eventually had to cancel their World Cup. They had no K-1 WGP that year. Interests down, the emergence of mixed martial arts and the UFC as the new leader in the culture of combat sports, and many proclaimed the end of kickboxing. 

THE TURN

Then, the Glory group attempted to buy K-1. They decided against it after seeing the mess of contracts and debt they would be absorbing. But, rich people play the game of business best, and they were able to purchase Simon Rutz's It’s Showtime management team. Rutz had almost every major European K-1 star under his roster and they were pulled from K-1 and began fighting in Glory on a regular basis. 

K-1 was also hit with a fantastic turn for the best. The K-1 Global Holdings Ltd. attempted to recreate the old flame of K-1s greatness. A failed attempt of an event in USA and a K-1 World Grand Prix that did not have the best fighters in the world ruined the brand more than helped it. The group that took over at the end of the K-1 Global run decided to focus on smaller weights and remain in the Asian Market of which they had great history. 

In the last two years both companies have overcome rocky starts and have begun to have consistent success. Glory had the early mistake. A failed PPV event and the longest fight card ever on NYE did not push the brand. However, they signed major US television deals with Spike and now ESPN, something K-1 never accomplished. Just as important as being seen is creating stars. Nieky Holzken and Rico Verhoeven are Glory brand created stars. Sure a young Holzken fought in K-1 and lost to superstar Buakaw. That drained down version wasn't his best showing, though. Holzken, now fighting at 77kgs, is considered the must see guy in the sport. His combinations, body shots, knockout power, and fight flow are amazing. Verhoeven went from journeyman heavyweight with no punching pop, to the unchallenged best in the world and the KO power to match his awesome technique. 

Improved K-1 too had some failure. A K-1 Max GP that ended in scandal as one of the fighters(Two time champ Buakaw) said that he was warned of foul play in the judges and refused to fight the extra round of a K-1 MAX FINAL MATCH. Since then they have focused on weight classes that have elite Japanese athletes. K-1 had their most success with Masato, a young, exciting fighter who the girls loved and had the skill to beat the elite. As many of Japan's elite combat sport athletes are shorter, focusing on weight classes like 65kgs, 60kgs, and now 55kgs has produced several athletes from Japan that create Japanese television interests. Masaaki Noiri, brothers Koya and Hirotaka Urabe, Japanese adopted Kimura "Phillip" Minoru and 55kg stud Takeru are their homegrown stars. K-1 puts on five solid shows a year and though they don't have the production value of events past, the crowd and ring action are excellent every card. 

With the success of these two super powers, we have solid paychecks from China. Kunlun is hard to follow because it has a lot of fights, but not a lot of narrative. However they have put together some fantastic 4 man tournaments and super fights on their cards. Kunlun is also not exclusive, meaning that K-1 and Glory athletes are able to pick up a fight here and there and grab good paydays, as long as it doesn't conflict with their major promotions events. 

As for women, this is also the best time to be in the sport. When I first fell in love with kickboxing and Muay Thai it was a three woman list at most. Names like Rijker, De Randamie, Kitchen, Rivera-Parr, and Elmont were amazing competitors, but got very little recognition. Thanks to Enfusion, Kunlun and now Bellator's kickboxing league. There aren't just good paydays out there. There are great exposure opportunities as well. Iman Barlow was the first woman pushed by Enfusion and after a reality show victory, they began pushing Anissa Meksen as well. Denise Keilholtz is an Enfusion champion who will now be fighting for Bellator's kickboxing company as well. Lion Fight was birthed on champions like American Tiffany van Soest. We are truly in a different age. Despite this, older fans are still missing the above improvements and continuing to think kickboxing remains in a down period.

CHANGING MINDS

The struggle with noticing the improvement is the old guard of kickboxing fans that misunderstood success in the kickboxing prime of 1994-2003. They judge today's athletes with old expectations. They recognize kickboxing as K-1, the way people recognize MMA as UFC. With no heavyweights winning tournaments in Japan once a year, they assume the sport is down.

They also struggled to grasp the movement of technology. I think a major reason why older fans feel the sport is dead is because it lived on fight forums. As "Lord Gaul" I was a 1000+ post man on several sites. We would talk about every punch in every fight for months before and after. With that being absent, people see the sport as dead. 

What those fans have missed in these two examples is that K-1 was only good for the heavyweights and Max weight guys. Dimitri Shukuta and Joeri Mes were the elite 77kg fighters of their era. But they had no home. The moment Super League went away they were forced to look for single fights. Mes at the end of his career was able to lean down and take a few K-1 fights. But for the majority of those in-between the weight classes, this was a loss. Guys like Kamel Jamel, Anuwat, Liam Harrison were too small, and guys like Clifton Brown and Nathan Corbett were stuck in the middle. Imagine if they had a middleweight K-1 belt to battle for. Tyrone Spong moving up the weight classes would have gotten even more attention if he won the K-1 belt at every single weight on his way up to heavyweight. We are in a special time when the most prominent company has a home for the majority of the world's weight classes.

The technology evolved for the best. YouTube was pretty new when I got into kickboxing and it was actually looked down upon in kickboxing communities. People wanted links to download for their hard drives. Sendspace and Megaupload where the acceptable modes of sharing and those that didn't share were called "leechers." We are 10plus years past that now. YouTube is the heavyweight champ in the video world. Not only can you find most videos there, but the major promotions upload content for you to watch, as advertising money can be made with viewership. So of course the number of visitors to the fight forums would go down once access to the videos got easier. Twitter is another addition. We use to post and then press reload to see other peoples post. It is far easier posting on the ever scrolling wall of twitter. You can now watch a stream of the event on your computer and tweet on your phone...or vice versa. 

Now I am not saying this changes cover everything we had in the prime years. I personally dreamed of the Japanese crowd when I pursued a kickboxing career. The K-1 tournament was indeed a special event exclusive to kickboxing, with its awesome white belt and massive trophy prize. Also all the cultural challenged aren't gone. Now stand up fighters see kickboxing and Muay Thai as something they do in preparation for MMA careers. However I can't help but be excited for the next generation of kickboxers. Enfusion and Glory do ten plus shows a year. K-1 and Yokkao do five plus, and Kunlun does fifteen plus. There are more opportunities to fight in front of large audiences, have access to more television and online stream exposure, make better paydays, and they can pursue kickboxing combat sports careers with more opportunities to compete than ever before. 

 

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ESPN3 Airing GLORY 28 Live at 4pm Eastern on Saturday

This Saturday in Paris, France we'll see one of GLORY's best cards to date with GLORY 28. GLORY 28 will be airing live on ESPN3 at 4pm Eastern on Saturday (remember, ESPN3 is their web platform) and will be replayed Sunday night at 9pm Eastern on ESPN2. That means that the GLORY SuperFight Series card will be airing live on UFC Fight Pass at 1:30pm Eastern time.

GLORY 28 Paris (Live on ESPN3 at 4 p.m. ET)

Heavyweight Title Headline Bout: Rico Verhoeven (c) vs. Mladen Brestovac

Lightweight Tournament Final Bout: Winner of Bout A vs. Winner of Bout B

Welterweight Co-Headline Bout: Murthel Groenhart vs. Cédric Doumbé

Lightweight Tournament Semi-Final Bout B: Marat Grigorian vs. Djimé

Lightweight Tournament Semi-Final Bout A: Sittichai vs. Davit Kiria

GLORY SuperFight Series Paris (Live on UFC FIGHT PASS at 1 p.m. ET)

Light Heavyweight Title Headline Bout: Saulo Cavalari (c) vs. Artem Vakhitov

Heavyweight Co-Headline Bout: Freddy Kemayo vs. Xavier Vigney

Featherweight Title Bout: Serhiy Adamchuk (c) vs. Mosab Amrani

Middleweight Bout: Jason Wilnis vs. Filip Verlinden

Lightweight Bout: Josh Jauncey vs. Johan Tkac

Featherweight Bout: Maykol Yurk vs. Eddy Naït-Slimani

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