Tomorrow in Istanbul, Turkey, GLORY will present GLORY 15 Istanbul. GLORY 15 is slated to feature the GLORY Light Heavyweight Championship tournament, featuring Tyrone Spong, Saulo Cavalari, Gokhan Saki and Nathan Corbett. The winner will walk away as the first GLORY Light Heavyweight Champion, which is a huge, huge deal. So let’s run through the card.
Gokhan Saki vs. Nathan Corbett
This fight is nearly impossible to pick. There are a few factors that come into play in this fight that not only make it one of the best fights on the card, but the most difficult fight to pick. For both men they are coming off of losses at GLORY 11, but of course, Gokhan Saki was expected to win the GLORY 11 Heavyweight tournament, only to lose to Rico Verhoeven. Corbett, on the other hand, lost to Tyrone Spong in one of the biggest rematches in Kickboxing history.
So what we have here is Gokhan Saki making the cut to Light Heavyweight for the first time against Nathan Corbett in his second GLORY appearance after a beating from Tyrone Spong. Nathan Corbett has been top of the food chain at 95kg in Muay Thai for a long time now, but Kickboxing has never been his strength. That being said, he’s still very, very dangerous in the ring. He did look a bit undersized in the ring with Spong, which makes me think that he could possibly go down to Middleweight if he continues seeing problems at Light Heavyweight, but he’d rather just stay in Australia and be the king there at 95kg, probably.
Saki is going into this full of pride and high expectations, but still having to prove himself after the loss to Rico Verhoeven. Was it a “fluke” loss like he claims, or is he starting to slow down? This is the first time that he’s had to drop in weight like this, which can have an affect on a fighter, both mentally and physically. The fact remains, though, that Saki was a small Heavyweight and was a force to be reckoned with. Look no further than his last fight with Daniel Ghita to see what he can bring to the table.
If I’m forced to pick a winner I’ll have to go with Saki, but if anyone was going to be the underdog to take the whole tournament, my pick would be on Corbett. Everyone is giving him no chance, which is just silly.
Tyrone Spong vs. Saulo Cavalari
Man, I feel like fans expect this to be another demolition job by Tyrone Spong. You know what? It very well could be. Tyrone Spong is powerful, skilled and smart in the ring, which makes for a deadly combination. But then there is Saulo Cavalari. Saulo has cut his teeth in Brazil and has proven to be young, hungry and packing a serious punch.
When it comes to Saulo Cavalari he is still a bit of an unknown factor when it comes to facing elite talent. His two fights in GLORY thus far have been against Filip Verlinden and Mourad Bouzidi, two talented fighters, but two fighters who have found themselves out of reach when it comes to being called elite. This is the ultimate test for Saulo and a huge step up in competition for him. This is either where he breaks or keeps it together and proves himself.
For Spong this is, as he said, just another fight. The thing is, Tyrone Spong is human. We’ve learned that in a few different ways now, the first being in the ring. Michael Duut was able to drop Tyrone Spong at GLORY 9, which showed us that he’s human and can be dropped. Then there was the crushing losses of two people close to him earlier this year.Tyrone Spong is human, guys. On the other side of the coin, he’s scary talented, scary powerful and his fight IQ is off-the-charts. Tyrone Spong is the real deal.
This fight seems like it is easy to pick, but the reality is that Saulo hits hard and is a pretty skilled guy. If he can slip something through Tyrone’s defenses there is a very real chance of him putting Spong onto his back. The only problem is keeping him there. Tyrone Spong should walk away from this fight with his hand raised, but stranger things have happened in GLORY tournaments, right?
Danyo Ilunga vs. Andrei Stoica
It is my professional opinion that Danyo Ilunga, the former It’s Showtime 95kg Champion, belongs in the equation when you are talking GLORY’s Light Heavyweight division. Hell, he was a Finalist in the GLORY 9 Light Heavyweight tournament! That being said, booking decisions are booking decisions and hopefully he gets the first crack at the winner of the tournament if he wins here. Andrei Stoica makes his GLORY debut here and, well, the stakes couldn’t be higher for Stoica in this fight, on a night where the best Light Heavyweights in the world are featured and he is getting a prime spot against a former Champion.
Danyo Ilunga is a frustrating fighter sometimes. Just super frustrating. When we saw Danyo Ilunga first start working with Remy Bonjasky we saw the somewhat messy Ilunga turned into an air-tight technician. I mean, the guy looked incredible. We’ve seen glimpses of that in his fights since then, but things tend to degrade pretty quickly when he gets into trouble. Ilunga has the ability to be one of the best Light Heavyweights in the world if he can keep his stuff together. A win here should get him a title shot, but who knows?
For Andrei Stoica, how do I put this? This fight will either make Andrei Stoica a star or break him and send him back to Romania for the rest of his career. Andrei Stoica is a skilled fighter, no doubt, but many believe that Stoica has been heavily protected by his promotion/management in SuperKombat. I’ve had Romanian fans for years telling me how amazing Andrei Stoica is and now is his time to prove it. His track record outside of SuperKombat events has not been stellar, so now is his time to shine. There is just no other choice if he wants to be taken seriously.
This is Danyo Ilunga’s fight to lose, so I see him taking the win, but Stoica indeed has a good shot.
Robin van Roosmalen vs. Marat Grigorian
Lots of fans are viewing this as a one-sided affair leaning heavily towards Robin van Roosmalen, but honestly, those fans aren’t looking at the bigger picture. Robin van Roosmalen is absolutely one of the top 70kg fighters in the world, yes, but Marat Grigorian is a force in his own right. Marat Grigorian is only 22 years old and has already shown that he’s not only a competent fighter, but a great one at that.
Robin’s style is a crazy brawling one that can at times be completely controlled, at other times it can be a bit reckless. Grigorian is a very well-composed fighter for his age and I think will surprise a lot of fans when he steps into the ring with van Roosmalen. Do I pick Marat to win against Robin? I’m not sure I’m ready to go that far, no, but it is entirely possible.
GLORY 15 Light Heavyweight Tournament Finals
If things play out perfectly we end up with Tyrone Spong vs. Gokhan Saki II in the finals, which would be tremendous. As we know, the last time that they met in the ring Saki was able to stop Spong and walk away with the victory. But, if we’ve seen anything in the past year, we’ve seen that Tyrone Spong is a better fighter and a more mature person than he was in the past. He’s done a lot of growing up over the years and I think would not only be ready for this rematch, but would welcome the challenge.
Part of Saki’s success against Heavyweights has been his superior speed and ability to piece together combinations. At Heavyweight that is a very special skill, at Light Heavyweight it is commonplace. So take Saki’s one great strength and put him against a guy who is stronger than him and possibly as fast? I’m not sure how Saki will react to that. Saki has power, no doubt, but it tends to come in volume as opposed to in one shot. I’m just not sure that Spong will find himself in a position where Saki is landing 10 clean shots on him to knock him down. Comparatively, Spong has the ability to drop someone with one punch and put them out for good -- and that was at Heavyweight -- making him a deadly match for Saki. Don’t believe me? Watch Saki vs. Badr Hari. Hari is not known for his combos and was able to knock Saki down when he found a gap to land a clean shot.
I see Tyrone Spong walking away as the GLORY Light Heavyweight Champion.