Now that 2016 is in the books, Combat Press is taking a look back at the best that the sport of kickboxing had to offer. Over the next few weeks, Combat Press will announce its award winners in multiple categories, covering everything from the action in the ring to the biggest stories surrounding the sport.

Comeback of the Year –
Michael Duut vs. Danyo Ilunga (GLORY 36)

The year featured many thrilling comebacks in every major promotion from every corner of the globe. From the shocking spinning back-fist knockout victory by China’s Gong Yanli over top female kickboxer Jemyma Betrian, to the wild comeback from the world’s top pound-for-pound kickboxer, Sittichai Sitsongpeenong, who shook off a massive uppercut knockdown from top-10 lightweight Mohammed Mezouari in the first round and then went on to dominate the following three rounds. However, the fight that won the “Comeback of the Year” offered a few more twists and turns.

The best comeback of the year was a “Fight of the Year” candidate on the “Event of the Year.” GLORY: Collision featured a light heavyweight showdown between top-10 fighters Danyo Ilunga and Michael Duut.

Duut came out strong in the first round after making his return to kickboxing after nearly two years away. Ilunga was on a long losing streak inside of the promotion, but he recently picked up two wins in one night in South Africa. The two clashed immediately as the fight started. Duut showcased why the kickboxing world missed him in his absence. He dropped Ilunga to one knee with a huge right hand and followed up with a series of punches culminating in a massive left hook that scored the knockdown. Ilunga came back strong with heavy hooks of his own after shrugging off the knockdown. The fighters exchanged in the pocket for the majority of the round. Ilunga took back control of the fight in the second stanza. He scored with hard knees to the body and landed more straight punches as Duut began to tire.

Ilunga came out swinging in the third round looking to finally get a much-needed win in the GLORY ring. Ilunga dropped Duut with a right hand over the top. He was back in the driver’s seat. He scored another called knockdown with a knee to the body and a grazing punch. Ilunga was ahead on the scorecards with less than three minutes left to fight. That changed when Duut scored a knockdown of his own when his left hook clipped the chin and put Ilunga down for the second time in the fight. Duut came out strong following the knockdown. He pushed Ilunga against the ropes with heavy punches that would have crumbled any other fighter. Ilunga wasn’t going to go down without a fight, and Duut was certainly happy to oblige. They traded heavy blows to end the round in what would be one of the craziest fights of the year. The drama didn’t end with the final bell. When the judges’ scorecards were read, the fight was scored as a draw. The fighters geared up for another round of war.

They continued where they left off in the extra round. Ilunga pressed forward. Duut was happy to meet him with a huge right hand and left hook counters. Ilunga was diversifying his offense with knees to the body and an occasional kick, but this fight was destined to take place in the pocket. Ilunga continuously pressed forward with bad intentions, but Duut sealed the fight on a single shot in the waning seconds. The round was still up for grabs before Duut capped off his come-from-behind victory with a knockdown in the final five seconds of the overtime round. The fight started off in Duut’s favor, but it took him two knockdowns and a massive heart to pull out the gritty victory in this year’s “Comeback of the Year.”

Other finalists: Gong Yanli vs. Jemyma Betrian (Glory of Heroes 4), Hideaki Yamazaki vs. Yuta Kubo (K-1 World GP 65kg Japan Tournament), Joe Schilling vs. Jason Wilnis (GLORY 30), and Sittichai Sitsongpeenong vs. Mohammed Mezouari (Kunlun Fight 43)


Make sure you check out the rest of the Combat Press 2016 Kickboxing Award winners.