On Friday, July 14, GLORY Kickboxing returns to North America for GLORY 43: New York, which takes place from the The Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

The night’s main card features a heavyweight clash between two of the division’s best. Romanian Benjamin Adegbuyi locks horns with Brazilian Guto Inocente. Adegbuyi is currently listed as the promotion’s No. 1 contender and rides a three-fight winning streak. Inocente had his lengthy winning streak snapped in March when he fell by decision to Jamal Ben Saddik.

Also slated for the main card is a one-night, four-man featherweight tournament. In one half of the bracket, knockout artist Giga Chikadze takes on Russia’s Aleksei Ulianov. The other pairing pits American Kevin Vannostrand against Road to GLORY winner Mo Abdurahman.

The night’s SuperFight Series features an interim light heavyweight title affair between former champion Saulo Cavalari and Ukrainian Pavel Zhuravlev.

The women’s No. 1-ranked pound-for-pound fighter, Anissa Meksen, makes her promotional debut on the card against Brazilian Jady Menezes.

The action kicks off at 7:30 p.m. ET with the SuperFight Series streaming live on UFC Fight Pass. The main card moves to ESPN3 at 10 p.m. ET.

Top heavyweights clash when No. 2 ranked Benjamin Adegbuyi meets Guto Inocente, who currently resides near the bottom of the top 10. Can Inocente score the biggest victory of his career, or is Adegbuyi destined for a third showdown with current champion Rico Verhoeven?

Adegbuyi has made it clear he is the world’s second best heavyweight over the past four years. Since the start of 2013, he has victories in 18 of 20 outings. His losses came against the same man, Verhoeven. His resume beyond those losses is truly incredible. He holds victories over Ismael londt, Mladen Brestovac, Jahfarr Wilnis, Hesdy Gerges, Pavel Zhuravlev and many more. Adegbuyi has lost just four times in his career. He has already avenged his previous losses to Zhuravlev and Jairzinho Rozenstruik. Now, the only thing left for him to do to take over the No. 1 position at heavyweight is to beat Verhoeven.

Inocente hopes to be the man to stop Adegbuyi’s inevitable run to the top. The Brazilian has made a splash since making the full-time switch from mixed martial arts to kickboxing. The former UFC fighter went on a six-fight winning streak following the move. He won the WGP Kickboxing light heavyweight title and then exhilarated the audience in Chicago with a crushing spinning-wheel-kick knockout of Demoero Dennis at GLORY 27. Inocente picked up big wins over Brian Douwes, Gerges and D’Angelo Marshall. He tasted defeat in his most recent outing against Jamal Ben Saddik at GLORY 39 in a bout that left something to be desired from both fighters.

Adegbuyi usually carries a large skill and technique advantage into his fights. He will again hold those advantages in this contest. Inocente likes to attack with kicks and power strikes from the outside. He typically looks to land one big shot while conserving his energy until that right opportunity to strike arrives. His downfall, which was on full display in his last fight, is his relative inactivity and lack of volume. Adegbuyi is a strong combination striker who has displayed the killer instinct to put away lesser fighters. He will have trouble getting Inocente out of the contest early, but as the Brazilian gets worn down and tires, the opportunity for a late finish could arise for Adegbuyi. The top heavyweight will continue his impressive run and give GLORY no choice but to eventually give him another shot at Verhoeven.

The interim GLORY light heavyweight world title is up for grabs when former champion Saulo Cavalari takes on fellow top-five light heavyweight Pavel Zhuravlev. Was there a need to make this fight? Who takes the contest?

Let’s get the first question out of the way. No, this should not be for an interim title. However, the promotion’s motives are understandable. After featuring the heavyweight champion Rico Verhoeven on the Super Fight Series for GLORY 41, the organization wanted another big fight to headline one of the weaker SFS shows. The card doesn’t feature a star-studded lineup like GLORY 42, which was headlined by top-10 welterweight talents Yohann Lidon and Yoann Kongolo. Just like that contest which could have potentially established the No. 1 contender, this light heavyweight bout didn’t need an interim tag with the champion Artem Vakhitov fighting less than five months ago. Vakhitov does have a history of injuries, but he’s made it to the ring at least twice in the past four years. So again, where’s the need? Here we are, though, with a title on the line.

Cavalari gets his opportunity to become a champion again and then move on to a chance to even the series with Vakhitov, who has defeated the Brazilian in their past two meetings. Cavalari gets this title fight after losing two of his past three, albeit both defeats came against the current light heavyweight king.

Zhuravlev has yet to fight for GLORY gold. The Ukrainian was upset in his debut against the relatively unknown Ariel Machado during the light heavyweight contender tournament at GLORY 32. Zhuravlev returned to the win column over the eventual GLORY 32 tournament winner, Zinedine Hameur Lain, at GLORY 35.

Zhuravlev is a strong boxer with heavy hands. The slick combination puncher has stopped 26 of his 70 career victories, and he has wins in eight of his past nine contests. The Ukrainian holds a win over Cavalari during the K-1 World GP in 2012. Zhuravlev bested the Brazilian by unanimous decision in the round of 16.

Cavalari has established himself over the years. Zhuravlev has continued to beat top competition in the wake of his win. This fight comes down to Cavalari’s kicks and work to the body against the right hand and left hook of Zhuravlev. The match-up features two of the very best in the division and is sure to deliver excitement if the fight goes the five-round distance. However, don’t rule out an explosive, unexpected stoppage along the way.

The featherweight contender tournament features a mix of American and international talent. What can be made of the new format for the four-man tournaments, and what changes could still be implemented?

The tournament does feature some talented U.S.-based fighters in Giga Chikadze and Kevin Vannostrand. Add in the return of Russian Aleksei Ulianov and the debut of the United Kingdom’s Mo Abdurahman, and the tournament has some legs in this market. These are the types of match-ups that bring fans out to see their local fighters. However, should this format be expanded to eight fighters? Should the winner get a bigger prize following a grueling tournament venture?

The promotion recently announced that the tournament winner will no longer get an immediate shot at the title. The format first came into question when fighters like Ismael Londt and Zinedine Hameur-Lain won their respective brackets in 2016, only to falter in non-title bouts while they were passed over in favor of fighters like Saulo Cavalari and Anderson “Braddock” Silva. After failed promises of title shots and fighters with only one win in a row getting shots over the established tournament winners, GLORY had to make a change. The change didn’t help to clarify what the contender tournaments are exactly. Now, the winner of the tournament could be matched in a No. 1 contender fight, or they could just be thrown into another fight that may or may not get them closer to a shot at the title.

The promotion can sell the contender tournaments as a place to build established, local and up-and-coming talent in the quickest way possible. The eight-man tournament has an aura in the world of kickboxing dating back to the glorious days of K-1 in the 1990s and 2000s. The tournament features an expanded format that could be tailored to the market GLORY is attempting to break into.

If the promotion is looking to find the next challenger to the lightweight champion’s belt, GLORY should not only put together an eight-man tournament, but put the lightweight title fight on the top of the fight card. For example, the promotion could put someone like Sitthichai Sitsongpeenong on a card in Europe or in one of its future ventures to China, where the champ is an established star. This gives the promotion options on the eight tournament participants. Top fighters inside the promotion, like Marat Grigorian, Josh Jauncey and Christian Baya, have all competed in China before. Throw in some prospects and local talent, and the format could flush out a true contender rather quickly. There are drawbacks to this format — injuries are inevitable — but this is what fans would like to see.

As for this tournament, the winner will come out of the Ulianov and Chikadze semifinal showdown. Chikadze’s aggressive style will clash often with Ulianov’s excellent Muay Thai skills. The fight will provide back-and-forth excitement from the opening bell. Ultimately, Chikadze’s recent wins over Serhiy Adamchuk and Victor Pinto make him the favorite to take home the tournament crown. If Chikadze does get it done, a rematch with Adamchuk could provide the promotion with the No.1 contender fight it has been looking to book.

Anissa Meksen, the world’s consensus top female kickboxer, makes her much-anticipated GLORY debut at this event. Does she win her debut, and where does the promotion go with her from here?

Of course she wins her debut. Who is asking these questions?

Meksen currently sits atop the Combat Press women’s pound-for-pound rankings, and for good reason. She has been a champion since she was 14 years old. The French Muay Thai specialist has not lost in 13 fights and holds victories over former Bellator champion Gloria Peritore, Fadma Basrir, and multiple wins over Maria Lobo. If we step back a little further, Meksen has lost just once since the beginning of 2014, a run that features 29 wins to only one defeat and includes huge victories over established talents Iman Barlow, Ashley Nichols, Eva Naranjo and Isis Verbeek.

Meksen will be the heavy favorite heading into her GLORY debut against Brazilian Jady Menezes. With a win, Meksen could be in line to fight the only current women’s champion on the roster, Tiffany van Soest. However, the promotion might be keen on building the two stars separately. GLORY has a special talent in the 29-year-old Meksen.

Fight Picks

Fight Pick
GLORY 42 Main Card (ESPN3, 10 p.m. ET)
HW: Benjamin Adegbuyi vs. Guto Inocente Adegbuyi by knockout
Projected FW Contender Tournament Final: Vannostrand vs. Chikadze Chikadze by decision
LW: Josh Jauncey vs. Elvis Gashi Jauncey by knockout
FW Tournament Semifinal: Mo Abdurahman vs. Kevin Vannostrand Vannostrand by decision
FW Tournament Semifinal: Giga Chikadze vs. Aleksei Ulianov Chikadze by decision
GLORY 42: SuperFight Series (UFC Fight Pass, 7:30 p.m. ET)
Interim Light Heavyweight Title: Pavel Zhuravlev vs. Saulo Cavalari Cavalari by decision
FW: Arthur Sorsor vs. Bailey Sugden Sugden by decision
MW: Ariel Sepulveda vs. Joe Taylor Sepulveda by decision
BW: Anissa Meksen vs. Jady Menezes Meksen by knockout
LW: Itay Gershon vs. Rafal Dudek Gershon by knockout
FW: Justin Houghton vs. Chenchen Li Li by decision
  • Ruslan Navshyrvanov

    Cavalari and Zhuravlev will fight 3 rounds