On Saturday, Dec. 10, GLORY will hold its biggest fight card to date, dubbed GLORY: Collision. The pay-per-view event features a heavyweight mega-fight between current champion Rico Verhoeven and the sport’s bad boy, Badr Hari. The pair will meet at the König Pilsener Arena in Oberhausen, Germany.
The 27-year-old Verhoeven has won 10 of his last 11 bouts, including five straight title defenses inside the GLORY ring. Since defeating Daniel Ghita to earn the title at GLORY 17, he’s bested Errol Zimmerman, Benjamin Adegbuyi (twice), Mladen Brestovac and Anderson “Braddock” Silva. The Dutchman defeated Silva at GLORY 33 on Sept. 9.
Hari, meanwhile, has won five straight, including four by way of stoppage. The 31-year-old Dutch-Moroccan holds more than 100 career kickboxing wins, with more than 90 of those wins coming via knockout.
Also on the pay-per-view portion of the card, welterweight king Nieky Holzken will put his title on the line against Cedric Doumbé. That won’t be the only title fight on the card, as lightweight champion Sittichai Sitsongpeenong takes on Marat Grigorian in the main event of the GLORY 36 portion of the card, and the promotion will crown a women’s super bantamweight champion on the pay-per-view portion of the card.
The event kicks off Saturday with the five-fight GLORY 36 main card streaming live on ESPN3 at 11 a.m. ET. The five-fight GLORY 36 SuperFight Series follows live and free on UFC Fight Pass at 1:30 p.m. ET. Finally, the four-fight GLORY: Collision portion of the event kicks off at 4 p.m. ET, live on pay-per-view.
Combat Press writers Rob Tatum and Zach Aittama preview the card in this edition of Toe-to-Toe.
The headlining bout between current GLORY heavyweight champion Rico Verhoeven and the sport’s long-reigning bad boy Badr Hari is easily one of the most anticipated heavyweight match-ups in years. Will this fight showcase a final changing of the guard in the division with a Verhoeven victory? Or will Hari resurrect the form that made him one of the most feared fighters on the planet?
Aittama: This is very much a changing-of-the-guard fight, but whether or not Hari makes it easy on Verhoeven remains to be seen. Hari doesn’t seem like the type of guy to let anything go without a fight. This is a man that kicked the head of a downed opponent in the finals of the 2008 K-1 World Grand Prix. After knocking out current top-10 heavyweight Errol Zimmerman and three-time K-1 World GP champion Peter Aerts in the same night, Hari threw away his chance at a K-1 title by throwing a kick at legend Remy Bonjasky. After losing in the finals of the 2009 K-1 World Grand Prix to all-time great Semmy Schilt, Hari kicked another opponent in the head while he was downed the following year. This is a man known for his skirmishes in bars, clubs and even a cafe. He’s been wrapped up with assaults and police run-ins for nearly 10 years.
So why is Hari back? Why is he returning for the first time in 16 months and for only the second time in the past 30 months? It’s all about the money. That’s what makes this match-up so intriguing. Hari negotiated the promotion out of a title fight for the purposes of what he believes is a money-making endeavor. If he were to beat the long-reigning champion in a non-title affair, he would have the upper hand on future negotiations for a rematch. While that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad situation for GLORY, Verhoeven is the fighter the promotion is behind and the fighter with the most on the line on Saturday night. If Hari returns to the ring and gets obliterated, then he can find another home with someone willing to pay his expensive fight purse. There are a few promoters with criminal backgrounds that would be exactly what Hari could be looking for.
It seems like Hari is taking this fight seriously, however. His training camp and physical appearance is something we haven’t seen from him in a very long time. This is a man who was feared by most heavyweights in the world at one point. If he can bring that level of technique and aggression and turn it into an upset victory on Saturday night, it could potentially re-invigorate his passion for fighting in a ring instead of the club. It seems like I’m picking at Hari’s past, and that’s because I am. This was a fighter that was going to be one of the great heavyweights in kickboxing history, and instead became one of the biggest disappointments. I hope Hari comes to the ring ready to take on the clear No. 1 heavyweight in the world. If he comes into this fight focused, properly prepared and with just a little bit of crazy, he has a chance to unseat the heavyweight king.
Verhoeven will be doing everything in his power to put Hari away in impressive fashion. He’s consistently gotten better over his stellar run of victories in the GLORY ring. He’s defeated every heavyweight put in his way inside the promotion. His only defeat in the past nearly four-year stretch was a decision loss to top-10 heavyweight Andrey Gerasimchuk in Kunlun Fight, in a bout that many believed Verhoeven took lightly. The loss outside of the promotion may have been the motivation Verhoeven needed to take his training to the next level. Not only has he dominated the heavyweight ranks, but he’s added MMA to his list of future endeavors. If he can add Hari to the long list of big-time wins, many will consider Verhoeven to be the best heavyweight in this era of kickboxing. It’s not that Verhoeven doesn’t have challenges left to face — Ismael Londt is owed a title shot after winning the contender tournament — but a win over Hari cements his legacy as one of the best.
The three-round nature of this fight favors Hari’s aggressive style, but Verhoeven has recently found confidence in his abilities at all ranges. He will likely try to keep Hari on the outside and make him pay every time he closes distance. Verhoeven will have to be on point with his footwork and sharp with his counters if he hopes to land the shot that could put Hari away. Hari is the most dangerous opponent Verhoeven has faced in years, and all it takes is one shot to send Verhoeven crashing to the mat. This is a fight where anything could happen, and with Hari, who knows what type of antics could accompany the action. All I really know is, this is a fight you do not want to miss.
Tatum: One of the most interesting aspects to this match-up is the similarity between Hari’s career path and the path of Verhoeven. Both began their careers at a very young age (16) and both found their stride after about five years of competition. The biggest difference, however, is the sheer volume of fights that Hari has at just 31 years of age. He has doubled Verhoeven’s fight total despite being only four years older and having fought just four times since 2013. It’s that discrepancy, more than anything, that makes this fight feel so much like a “passing of the guard” scenario.
As for the fight itself, you’d be hard pressed to find a pair of heavyweights with more contrasting styles. Hari is a wrecking machine, both in and out of the ring, who has decimated some of the biggest names in the sport. His resume looks like a who’s who of the heavyweight division — Ray Sefo, the aforementioned Aerts and Schilt, and Alistair Overeem have all fallen to the aggressive style that Hari brings to the ring. But it’s that go-big-or-go-home style that has led to Hari’s eight knockout losses as well. Almost 90 percent of the time that Hari steps into a ring, someone ends up staring at the lights.
Verhoeven, meanwhile, has evolved significantly in recent years. Once considered a “safe” fighter content to stay outside and win on the scorecards, the Dutchman has mastered his use of range. It has led to recent stoppage wins over Benjamin Adegbuyi and Anderson “Braddock” Silva. Although Verhoeven is still a patient fighter, he’s learned how to best utilize his tools and skill set to capitalize on openings when they arise.
I’m going to echo my colleague and take Verhoeven to emerge victorious in this fight. While Hari is going to come out like someone possessed and try to score an early knockout, it’s Verhoeven’s patience and control of range that will be the difference. He won’t finish Hari in the three-round affair, but he should be able to claim victory on the scorecards.
The headliner doesn’t feature gold on the line, but elsewhere on the card, two of the sport’s pound-for-pound best put their belts on the line. Welterweight king Nieky Holzken battles Cedric Doumbé and lightweight champion Sittichai Sitsongpeenong takes on Marat Grigorian. Is there a chance either titleholder relinquishes his title? Which fighter puts on the most impressive performance?
Tatum: If the main event of this card doesn’t get you excited, then the prospect of Holzken and Sittichai both fighting on it should do the trick. It’s not often that the Combat Press No. 1 and No. 2-ranked pound-for-pound fighters appear on the same card. As for whether there’s a chance that either champion loses their belt, you have to look deeper at the match-ups.
First up, there’s Holzken’s fight with Cameroon native Cedric Doumbé. The champion enters the title defense having not tasted defeat since 2012, but that hardly tells the story. The Dutchman looked surprisingly vulnerable in both of his match-ups with Murthel Groenhart, a man that Doumbé defeated at GLORY 28 earlier this year. Holzken is a notorious slow starter, and it nearly cost him in his first meeting with Groenhart. However, the second meeting was very different. Instead of patiently using his boxing and setting up his patented left hook, Holzken attacked Groenhart with an onslaught of low kicks. It was enough to give the champion a lead on the scorecards, but he faded badly as the fight progressed. The strategy was atypical of Holzken and was likely a product of his familiarity with Groenhart. I do not envision a repeat performance against Doumbé.
Doumbé also rides an impressive winning streak into the fight, having won 11 of his 12 fights this year. The lone loss, a decision against China’s Fang Bian, was very controversial. You have to go back 18 fights to GLORY 22 to find when Doumbé looked overmatched in the ring. That fight came against Yoann Kongolo, a man that Holzken largely dominated at GLORY 29 earlier this year. Doumbé has a propensity for knockouts and likes to throw with power. That strategy will be his downfall against Holzken’s boxing. Holzken has been finished in the past, but his movement and angles will be too much for Doumbé. The challenger will make it to the final bell, but it will be another win for Holzken on the scorecards.
The lightweight title clash is more predictable. Sittichai and Grigorian have met twice previously and Sittichai has come out on top in both instances. The wild card leading into this fight is that Sittichai is coming off his first setback of 2016, a decision loss to Superbon Banchamek at Kunlun Fight 53. It’s possible that the Thai fighter could be looking past Grigorian, having already defeated him both in the Kunlun and GLORY rings. However, this would mean ignoring the stylistic nightmare that this fight is for Grigorian. The Belgian fighter is very aggressive and always comes forward. While that allows him to overwhelm some opponents, it has failed him over and over against the division’s elite. It’s led to two losses against Sittichai, one to Robin van Roosmalen, one to Yodsanklai Fairtex and one to Serhiy Adamchuk over the last three years. Like his fellow challenger, Doumbé, Grigorian is impossible to put away, but that only seems like a recipe for five rounds of Sittichai crushing his right arm and liver with kicks from the southpaw stance. The Thai fighter’s control of range through his kicking attack is unmatched in the division, and he’ll once again defeat Grigorian.
In summary, no, I don’t see either belt changing hands in Germany. Since both title challengers are durable, predicting which fighter has the more impressive performance becomes difficult. Holzken is the more the patient of the two champions. His offensive attack is more deliberate and less flashy than Sittichai. That leads me to believe that Sittichai’s relentless kicking attack will be what leaves the lasting impression on Saturday.
Aittama: The titles won’t change hands, but an upset is definitely not out of the question.
Sittichai came out victorious twice before against Grigorian, but we can’t pretend both fights weren’t razor close.
The first contest was an exciting battle for a spot in the semifinals of the 2015 Kunlun Fight 70-kilogram tournament. Sittichai did an excellent job of keeping Grigorian at bay with his left kick and punching combinations, but the scrappy Armenian-Belgian fought his way back into the fight late. Sittichai earned the decision and moved on to capture the tournament crown with a knockout of top-five lightweight Superbon and former top-10 kickboxer turned professional boxer Enriko Gogokhia on the same night.
The second meeting took place in the finals of the GLORY 28 welterweight contender tournament finals and was much closer than the first meeting. Sittichai clearly won the first fight, but what might have happened if they fought two more rounds? Luckily, GLORY management wanted to answer this question. Now, we have the third fight with the title on the line. The fight was originally scheduled for GLORY 35 before a Sittichai injury kept him from competing. There were rumblings that Sittichai was injured heading into his bout with Superbon at Kunlun Fight 53, and the outcome could lead us to believe that was the case. Sittichai is one of the most active kickboxers in the sport, and he’s not exactly fighting opponents he can roll over. Over the past two years, Sittichai has won 21 fights, including wins over 10 current or former top-10 opponents. There was no question who the best fighter of the year was in 2015, and Sittichai is already at the top of the list in 2016 despite dropping his most recent outing.
Even with the laundry list of accomplishments for Sittichai, this third match-up with Grigorian may be the closest. We don’t really know how well the injury has healed while Sittichai was away. What we do know is that Grigorian has been on a tear through the lower rungs of the division, putting each and every opponent away with his ferocious knockout power. It remains to be seen if Grigorian can stop Sittichai like he has done to the 28 other fighters he stopped, but he is one of the biggest punchers in the division and Sittichai was badly hurt in his match-up with Mohamed Mezouari earlier this year. The Dutch kickboxer, who resides just outside the top 10, dropped Sittichai with a beautiful uppercut. Mezouari couldn’t put him away, though, and Sittichai rallied in the next round to put on one of the most brutal beatings of his career. The depth of skill that Sittichai employs is unlike most in the world, which is why he has been consistently among the top kickboxers on the planet for the better part of the past 18 months. Grigorian has a chance to do the impossible with his stellar boxing combinations and sneaky kick setups, but Sittichai is the No. 1-ranked fighter for a reason. His left middle kick and fluidity between outside and inside range will be enough to earn him the decision nod.
It seems like my colleague believes Holzken clearly gets past Doumbé. I’m not of the same opinion. In fact, Doumbé might be the toughest test Holzken has faced in GLORY since his second meeting with the aforementioned Groenhart at GLORY 26. Doumbé is not only riding an incredible winning streak in 2016 — terrible decisions from biased judging aside — but he also has a skill set that could threaten Holzken if the champion gets off to a slow start or fades late. Holzken is the superior boxer, and he looked great with his low kicks against Groenhart at GLORY 34, but what has me second guessing myself is Holzken’s inconsistency. He hasn’t put together a complete performance since before arguably losing against Groenhart at GLORY 26. He started slow in his title defense against the aforementioned Kongolo and faded in the third match with Groenhart. He’s look inconsistent from round to round and from fight to fight.
The game plan to defeat Holzken is out there, but no one has been able to execute it over the course of five rounds. Doumbé will get the chance. He needs to get this fight started quickly and keep pushing through the final bell. If Doumbé can make this a tough, grueling fight inside, then he could stand to tire out the champion. However, the likelihood of this happening isn’t great. Holzken is typically a slow starter, but he ran into trouble late in Denver. He won’t face the same issues with elevation in Oberhausen. I’m picking Holzken to retain, but this fight won’t be so comfortable for the champion if Doumbé follows the blueprint.
Both of these fights will be tremendous displays of skill and heart. All four of these men are incredibly tough. None are unlikely to go out without giving everything in the fight. Sittichai will have a very tough outing, but he will come out of this bout with Grigorian as the best kickboxer in the world.
This card actually features two tournaments: a lightweight contender tournament on the GLORY 36 portion of the card and the conclusion of the Women’s Super Bantamweight Grand Prix, which will be split between the SuperFight Series and the Collision main card. Which fighters leave the ring with tournament titles?
Aittama: The lightweight tournament features four of GLORY’s top lightweights vying for the next shot at the winner of GLORY 36’s championship bout between Sittichai and Grigorian. The one-night, four-man contender tourney features two stellar semifinal match-ups. Top-10 competitor Anatoly Moiseev faces off against top French Muay Thai specialist Dylan Salvador, while former featherweight Yodkhunpon Sitmonchai welcomes promotional newcomer Hysni Beqiri.
The high-level fight between Russia’s Moiseev and France’s Salvador is likely to produce the tournament champion. Moiseev, 27, has 19 wins and just one loss in his budding kickboxing career that began six years ago. Since making his GLORY debut in early 2015, Moiseev has picked up big victories inside the promotion over Max Baumert, Teo Mikelic and former top-10 fighter Josh Jauncey. He strung together stellar wins outside of the promotion against Enfusion 70-kilogram champ Jonay Risco and Kunlun Fight veterans Serginio Kanters and Cristian Milea. He has one of his biggest tests to date in the way of receiving his first major kickboxing title shot.
Salvador is a slick southpaw with a knack for winning when the stakes are the highest. He has fought some of the best fighters all over the world. He’s one of the very few men to hold victories over Kaew Weerasakreck and Sittichai Sitsongpeenong, two of the world’s best kickboxers. Salvador lost in his bid to become one of the few to unseat Kunlun Fight star Buakaw Banchamek. However, he returned to the win column against Sittichai’s teammate, Manaowan Sitsongpeenong at La Nuit Des Challenges in October. This open-stance battle will be determined on Moiseev’s boxing combinations and underrated kicking offense against the left middle kick of Salvador.
In the other tournament semifinal, Yodkhunpon Sitmonchai welcomes Hysni Beqiri to the GLORY ring. Thailand’s Yodkhunpon was a once promising Muay Thai prospect with a penchant for the knockout. He made his GLORY debut as a 20-year-old with more than 100 fights and 51 knockouts. Yodkhunpon made the transition from high-level Muay Thai to kickboxing when he signed with the promotion in 2014. He defeated Raz Sarkisjan in his debut. He was not only fighting up a weight division, but he was handicapped from using elbows, sweeps and the clinch, all key components in a Muay Thai fighter’s game. He’s looking for redemption in a new weight division after losing to eventual champion Gabriel Varga in the one-night, four-man featherweight contender tournament at GLORY 17.
Swiss kickboxer Hysni Beqiri debuts in GLORY against a tough opponent. If you’re a fan of kickboxing, the name Beqiri might be familiar. Hysni’s brother, Shemsi Beqiri, competed in the promotion three times prior, getting a win over Yoshihiro Sato in the opening round of the inaugural GLORY 1 70-kilogram Slam tournament. Shemsi is still fighting and training with his young brother. The skilled youngster has won 48 of his 50 professional bouts with big victories over GLORY vet Warren Stevelmans, Erkan Varol and Marco Pique. Beqiri will have a significant size advantage over Yodkhunpon heading into this competitive match-up.
If Salvador can use the southpaw stance to his advantage against Moiseev, then he has the ability to take home the next shot at the title. Salvador will need to safely navigate Moiseev’s highly skilled, process-driven game while also scoring enough to sway the judges in his favor. This is an extremely close match-up on paper. The winner of this bout will take home the tournament, and I believe that man will be Salvador. If Sittichai defends his title on Saturday night, the rubber match with Salvador will be set for the GLORY lightweight world title.
In the women’s super bantamweight tournament field, former Lion Fight champion Tiffany van Soest takes on Canada’s Jessica Gladstone and undefeated French kickboxing champion Amel Dehby meets the Netherlands’ Isis Verbeek. While I commend GLORY for putting together a strong tournament field, some of the top fighters originally scheduled to participate were pulled when they signed elsewhere. Two of the world’s top female fighters remain, and they are competing from opposite ends of the bracket on a collision course for the finals. Gladstone unfortunately has to take on American and top pound-for-pound great van Soest in her semifinal bout. Despite Tiff “Time Bomb” not being able to use her full range of Muay Thai skills, she is the clear favorite and will likely make short work of Gladstone. Dehby, 25, is one of the least talked about female fighters in kickboxing, but she is one of the best in her weight division in the world. After picking up a big win against South Korean prospect Ji-Waen Lee at GLORY 35, Dehby is ready to top Kunlun Fight veteran Verbeek in her semifinal match-up.
Wins from van Soest and Dehby in the semifinals would set up what should be one hell of a final. Van Soest will be searching for another major world title after tasting defeat in her Invicta FC debut. The question should be raised if van Soest can actively train in both kickboxing and MMA and stay competitive with the very best in the kickboxing world. That question will be answered when she meets Dehby in the finals. As good as van Soest is, Dehby may just have the recipe to take down the 27-year-old multi-sport athlete.
Tatum: My fellow writer makes a compelling case for his predictions, but ultimately, I’m going to disagree with both of his picks.
In fairness to Mr. Aittama, the opening round match-up between Salvador and Moiseev is the most difficult fight on this card to predict. On one thing, my fellow panelist and I can agree: the winner of this fight will capture the lightweight contender tournament. The Frenchman Salvador carries an impressive resume into his GLORY debut. After all, he’s one of only four men to defeat current lightweight titleholder Sittichai in the last five years — a stretch of more than 50 fights. However, Salvador did recently drop a bout to another Thai legend, Buakaw Banchamek, at Kunlun Fight 53 in September. It’s that loss that plants a seed of doubt in my mind. Moiseev, on the other hand, has been steadily climbing the 70-kilogram ranks. His lone loss came against current title challenger Marat Grigorian on the scorecards at GLORY 28. He rebounded with three straight wins and will look to add a big name to his resume against Salvador. Salvador has more experience, but look for Moiseev to continue his ascension up the ranks with a decision win in the semifinals before cruising past an overmatched Yodkhunpon or Beqiri in the final.
Predicting the Women’s Super Bantamweight Grand Prix isn’t as difficult, but three of the four combatants could easily walk away with the tournament crown. Van Soest should take out Gladstone both convincingly and easily. The fight is a mismatch, and van Soest should punch her ticket to the finals without much resistance. The Dehby/Verbeek match-up is similar to the Salvador/Moiseev bout mentioned above. This is going to be a war. The 21-year-old Verbeek was able to best Irina Mazepa in the first round of the tournament, but she’s going to struggle with the vastly more experienced Dehby. Dehby looked very comfortable in her opening match-up with Korean Jiwaen Lee, and she has the skills to outlast a very talented Verbeek. This will set up a clash between van Soest and Dehby in the finals. I expect the fresher van Soest to hand Dehby her first loss and take home the tournament on the scorecards.
GLORY’s last attempt at a pay-per-view event, 2014’s Last Man Standing, performed poorly in the North American market. Will this time be different? With the event taking place on the same day as a UFC pay-per-view, will fight fans be willing to spend money on both shows in one day?
Tatum: I was fortunate enough to be ringside for Last Man Standing in Los Angeles, so I didn’t spend money on the pay-per-view. However, the event was exciting and action-packed. When the reports of less than 10,000 buys came out, it was disappointing for the entire sport, not just GLORY. As for the reasons behind the poor performance, I’d point to the fact that the promotion was only on its 17th event at the time and the North American audience may not have been familiar with the sport’s biggest names. Combine that with the hefty $45 price tag for the high-definition broadcast, and the figures start to make sense.
This time around, things could be different. The event is priced more reasonably at $29.95. It’s receiving a promotional push from the world’s top MMA promotion, the UFC, which normally broadcasts the GLORY SuperFight Series on its digital streaming service, UFC Fight Pass. Add in the fact that the prelims, known as the SuperFight Series, will be streaming live and free before the main card, and there’s a better chance to entice viewers to buy the card.
There’s also more name value on this card. Last Man Standing featured Rico Verhoeven, but he was largely unknown at the time to casual fight fans. Now he’s headlined cards on Spike TV and ESPN2 and beaten everyone put in front of him in the GLORY ring since winning the belt. Plus, Badr Hari is a name that most combat-sports fans recognize, for both good and bad reasons. That sets up much more intrigue for those that might not follow the sport religiously.
However, the proverbial elephant in the room for this event lies in the scheduling. Undoubtedly, this card will do huge numbers in Europe and likely on a global level. But in North America, it will start at 4 p.m. ET on the same day that the aforementioned UFC is holding its own pay-per-view card. I’m not convinced that casual fans are going to give up their Saturday afternoons and then fork over another $60 for the UFC event. If anything, this event is an experiment in just how big the crossover is between the kickboxing and MMA audiences. As someone who has covered both sports for a long time, the thought of watching 12 straight hours of fights sounds both exciting and exhausting. My fear is that North American fight fans are going to only pick one event, and it’ll probably be the one that takes place at the usual time on Saturday night. For the sake of kickboxing’s growth, I hope I’m wrong.
Aittama: I want to preface my answer with my hopes that this pay-per-view does well in North America and around the world. The event does have more name value for the international audience and features some of the promotion’s biggest stars, but I still question whether or not fans are willing to shell out $29.95 on the same day as an action-packed UFC 206 fight card. The UFC event in Toronto certainly took a hit when Daniel Cormier was forced out of his scheduled bout with Anthony “Rumble” Johnson due to an injury. However, the promotion might have actually garnered some hype in stripping Conor McGregor of his featherweight title in favor of an interim championship bout to headline UFC 206 on short notice. The event features a former UFC champion, Anthony Pettis, against Hawaiian fan-favorite Max Holloway. As Holloway said on Ariel Helwani’s podcast this week, this fight is going to produce “some ninja shit.” Will the premise of action-packed fights be enough to draw the viewers to UFC 206, or can GLORY pick up some of those would-be pay-per-view buyers for half the price?
When put in those terms, the GLORY: Collision card is the better deal, but there are only four fights on pay-per-view. Are the fans willing to sacrifice their usual Saturday night UFC for a lesser-known product with lesser-known fighters? This may not be the case for most fans who reside in North America, but kickboxing has a strong following in Europe and Asia. Verhoeven and Hari are two of the sport’s biggest stars in what is being billed as the best heavyweight fight in a very long time. There will be a strong demand to watch this fight, but are the fans willing to dish out the money? It’s a question that will only be answered following the event on Saturday night.
I really hope the fans make the decision to order this tremendous pay-per-view, or this may be the last time we see a card this stacked.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
Aittama: There are so many great fights on this card. It was tough to narrow the choice down to one fight, but I wanted to talk about one contest that is flying under the radar. The fight that could surprise fans and produce the most fireworks of the weekend is the battle between hometown favorite Danijel Solaja and Harut Grigorian.
Solaja is a former multiple-time Wu Lin Feng champion training out of Amrani Palace in Oberhausen, Germany. The 23-year-old is an exciting fighter with 61 wins and 23 knockouts in 71 professional fights. The “Fresh Prince” picked up a big win against China’s Hu Yafei at Glory of Heroes 1 before getting the opportunity to fight for top-10 welterweight Yohan Lidon’s WKN world title at Fight Night Saint Tropez IV in his most recent outing. Solaja was able to take one of the world’s best welterweights the five-round distance, but he was on the losing end of the judge’s decision.
Top welterweight contender Grigorian will happily welcome Solaja to the GLORY ring. The Armenian-Belgian kickboxer was riding a long winning streak before falling short against Yoann Kongolo by split decision during the GLORY welterweight contender tournament at GLORY 31. Grigorian picked up a big win in a back-and-forth brawl against Máximo Suárez in his debut at GLORY 29. He has put together an impressive resume with wins over Enfusion 72.5-kilogram champion Tayfun Ozcan, Nordin Ben Moh and Marco Piqué in the past two years. The Team Hemmers gym product has a tremendous 51 wins and 21 knockouts in his stellar, nearly nine-year career.
This fight is a testament to the depth of this fight card. Grigorian was on the main card last time out, and Solaja has continued to make a name for himself in Europe and China. Don’t blink when these heavy-hitting welterweights collide on the GLORY Super Fight Series undercard.
Tatum: With so many big names on this card, it’s easy to overlook a lot of great fights. My colleague’s pick of Grigorian and Solaja is definitely an under-the-radar barn-burner, but my pick is the featherweight pairing of Mosab Amrani and Fabio Pinca.
The pair met previously, in 2011, with Pinca leaving with a decision victory. Since then, however, Amrani has received the most attention in the GLORY ring. The Moroccan-Dutch fighter has frequently been in the featherweight title picture. He fell short against then-champion Gabriel Varga at GLORY 20, but rebounded by dominating the contender tournament at GLORY 26 with a pair of first-round knockouts. He challenged Serhiy Adamchuk at GLORY 28, but he was thoroughly dominated by the Ukrainian. Amrani’s biggest weapon tends to be his biggest weakness as well: he’s very aggressive with his attack, which often leads to him fading as a fight progresses.
Pinca has not stepped into the GLORY ring since the promotion’s third event.The French-Italian fighter has frequently bounced between the featherweight and lightweight divisions, but he has struggled in the heavier of the two weight classes. His resume includes multiple losses to current champion Sittichai Sitsongpeenong and former pound-for-pound No. 1 fighter Giorgio Petrosyan. His recent success has come while competing for Lion Fight and Kunlun Fight, where he has been able to use his patient and technical attack to earn victories.
The pair’s first fight was entertaining, and I expect nothing less in the rematch. Amrani will come out firing with jumping and spinning attacks, but Pinca will establish his range and tire our Amrani with his kicking game. Pinca will capture a lopsided decision win.
Pair this card with…
Tatum: A good night’s sleep (on Friday). If you’re a combat-sports fan — or, in our case, writer — then the month of December is one of the busiest in recent memory. Nearly every weekend is packed with MMA, kickboxing, boxing and a submission-grappling event. And with GLORY: Collision leading into the UFC 206 pay-per-view card in Toronto, Saturday is going to be the equivalent of a marathon for viewers. Rest up, sit back and enjoy all of the action.
Aittama: More kickboxing. Just because GLORY put together this great fight card for all of the combat-sports fans, that doesn’t mean this should be the last time you watch kickboxing. There are stellar shows all over the world with many of the world’s top promotions pushing for big moves in 2017. Whether this is your first kickboxing show or you just enjoy kickboxing but don’t know where to start, this event is just the beginning of big changes coming in the kickboxing landscape. GLORY, Kunlun Fight, K-1, Enfusion, Glory of Heroes and Wu Lin Feng are going all-in for kickboxing, and so should you.
|Fight||Aittama’s Pick||Tatum’s Pick|
|GLORY Collision (Pay-Per-View, 4 p.m. ET)|
|HW: Rico Verhoeven (49-10) vs. Badr Hari (106-12)||Verhoeven by decision||Verhoeven by decision|
|WW Title: Nieky Holzken (90-11) vs. Cedric Doumbé (56-4-1)||Holzken by decision||Holzken by decision|
|HW: Ismael Londt (38-6-1)vs. Jamal Ben Saddik (27-4)||Londt by decision||Londt by decision|
|Women’s Super Bantamweight Grand Prix Final (Predicted)||Dehby by decision||van Soest by decision|
|GLORY 36 SuperFight Series (UFC Fight Pass, 1:30 p.m. ET)|
|LHW: Danyo Ilunga (57-10) vs. Michael Duut (39-6)||Ilunga by knockout||Ilunga by decision|
|WW: Harut Grigorian (42-10) vs. Danijel Solaja (61-9-1)||Grigorian by decision||Grigorian by knockout|
|Women’s Super BW GP Semifinal: Tiffany van Soest (15-2-1) vs. Jessica Gladstone (6-6)||van Soest by decision||van Soest by knockout|
|Women’s Super BW GP Semifinal: Isis Verbeek (9-3) vs. Amel Dehby (28-0)||Dehby by decision||Dehby by decision|
|LW: Andrej Bruhl (42-5) vs. Tyjani Beztati (58-2-1)||Beztati by knockout||Beztati by knockout|
|GLORY 36 (ESPN3, 11 a.m. ET)|
|LW Title: Sittichai Sitsongpeenong (112-29-5) vs. Marat Grigorian (48-9-2)||Sittichai by decision||Sittichai by decision|
|Lightweight Tournament Final (Predicted)||Salvador by decision||Moiseev by decision|
|FW: Mosab Amrani (55-11-4) vs. Fabio Pinca (99-25-1)||Amrani by knockout||Pinca by decision|
|LW Tournament Semifinal:Yodkhunpon Sitmonchai (83-22-1) vs. Hysni Beqiri (48-2)||Yodkhunpon by decision||Yodkhunpon by knockout|
|LW Tournament Semifinal: Dylan Salvador (45-11-1) vs. Anatoly Moiseev (16-1)||Salvador by decision||Moiseev by decision|