Rico Verhoeven (James Law/GLORY)

GLORY 28: Paris Preview and Predictions

GLORY returns to Paris on Saturday, March 12, for GLORY 28. The top kickboxing promotion in the world returns to Europe for the first time in 2016 with what might be the best card in the promotion’s history. From top to bottom, this lineup features many of the best fighters in the world in almost every weight category from heavyweight to featherweight. GLORY 28 is the first event to feature three title fights since the promotion’s inaugural pay-per-view venture, GLORY 17: Last Man Standing. While the pay-per-view success didn’t come to fruition, the championship fights and tournament bouts produced an incredible night of fights. The talent gathered on this event should produce the same results: pure unadulterated excitement.

Heavyweight champion Rico Verhoeven puts his title on the line for the fourth time since capturing the belt at the aforementioned GLORY 17 event. Verhoeven will face Croatian heavyweight contender Mladen “The Scorpion Sting” Brestovac. The champion flat-lined No. 1 contender Benjamin Adegbuyi in the first round of his most recent outing at GLORY 26. The hometown crowd won’t be behind Verhoeven in this bout. Instead, Brestovac will be afforded the opportunity to capture the title on neutral territory. Brestovac lost in his most recent bout to Adegbuyi in the semifinals of the GLORY heavyweight contender tournament at GLORY 24.

Top welterweight contenders Murthel Groenhart and Cédric Doumbé are set to battle in the co-headliner. Groenhart, the 2012 K-1 MAX champion, has found recent success in his move up in weight to 77 kilograms. He is coming off of two impressive performances in one night during the GLORY welterweight contender tournament at GLORY 25 and, most recently, a controversial decision loss in his title challenge for the GLORY welterweight championship at GLORY 26. Speaking of controversy, Doumbé is coming off a questionable decision loss to Chinese kickboxing star Fang Bian in January. This welterweight bout very well could determine the next challenge to the title held by Nieky Holzken, who will be defending his championship at GLORY 29: Copenhagen.


The GLORY lightweight contender tournament has produced incredible fights in the past, and this event will be no different. Champions from the top promotions in the world collide in another stellar tournament offering from GLORY. Former GLORY champ Davit Kiria will look for redemption against Kunlun Fight Middleweight MAX champion Sittichai Sitsongpeenong in a rematch of their GLORY 22 semifinal contest. The other semifinal features the K-1 World GP 70-kilogram champion Marat Grigorian returning to the GLORY ring against undefeated Russian kickboxer Anatoly Moiseev.

Two GLORY title bouts headline the GLORY 28 Super Fight Series on UFC Fight Pass. GLORY light heavyweight champ Saulo Cavalari was scheduled to face former GLORY champion Göhkan Saki in his long-awaited return to the ring. However, Saki was injured in the lead-up to the fight, giving way to a rising prospect getting his second crack at the Brazilian. The prospect is 24-year-old Russian Artem Vakhitov, who fought the newly crowned champion to a split decision at GLORY 20i. Vakhitov, a Master of Sport in Muay Thai, is hoping his recent success bleeds into this rematch of a fight that took place in early 2015. He added two of the biggest wins in his career in his past two outings at the end of 2015 when he defeated talented top-10 kickboxer Danyo Ilunga at GLORY 25 and borderline top-15 fighter Jorge Loren at Muay Thai Moscow in December. While Vakhitov’s only loss in the promotion is to Cavalari, Cavalari’s only loss in seven bouts with the promotion is to GLORY 95-kilogram Slam champion Tyrone Spong. The 26-year-old champion beat five current top-10 opponents in his six wins under the GLORY banner, including Vakhitov, on his way to the GLORY light heavyweight title. Cavalari won the belt in his most recent outing when he dropped Zack Mwekassa and took home a majority decision victory at the co-promoted Dynamite card this past September.

GLORY featherweight champion Serhiy Adamchuk burst onto the worldwide stage when he defeated top-10 70-kilogram fighter Grigorian on less than 48 hours’ notice at GLORY 22. The win earned the 26-year-old Ukrainian an opportunity in a title eliminator against Anvar Boynazarov at the aforementioned Dynamite card. Adamchuk took the decision and the chance to fight for the featherweight title. Adamchuk fought Gabriel Varga to a five-round decision that some scored in favor of the champion. Nonetheless, Adamchuk had his hand raised after the decision, crowning him as the second man to hold the featherweight strap. He will defend his title against heavy-hitting No. 1 contender Mosab “Jaguar” Amrani. Amrani, 28, earned his title shot with two dominant performances in one night at GLORY 26. The Moroccan-Dutch kickboxer stopped both of his contender tournament opponents in under two minutes of the first round, dropping South Korean Chi-Bin Lim with a left hook to the body and Brazilian Maykol Yurk in the finals with a kick to the midsection. Amrani fell short in his bid for the title against Varga at GLORY 20, and brought on more concerns when he was dropped and cut against Chinese prospect Qiu Jianliang in a loss in China. The featherweight will attempt to regain his place among the best 65-kilogram fighters in the world and capture the ever-elusive GLORY title.

The rest of the Super Fight Series card features top fighters looking for an extra push heading deep into 2016. In a heavyweight clash, hometown heavyweight star Freddy Kemayo takes on the Combat Press 2015 “Breakout Fighter of the Year” Xavier Vigney. Top-10 middleweight Jason Wilnis rebounded last month at Kunlun Fight 37 after dropping his bout against Joe Schilling due to injury at GLORY 24. Wilnis has been held just outside of the title picture, but he has an opportunity to throw his name in the mix when he welcomes back top-15 kickboxer Filip Verlinden. With Anatoly Moiseev moving into the GLORY contender tournament on short notice, his originally scheduled opponent, top-10 fighter Josh Jauncey, welcomes fellow heavy hitter Johan Tkac to GLORY. Hometown fighter Tkac is dropping weight to make his debut with the promotion on short notice following a first-round knockout win last weekend. Eddy Naït-Sliman, another Frenchman, makes his GLORY debut when he takes on Brazilian berserker Maykol Yurk. Naït-Slimani has just one loss in his 60-fight career, but it’s a loss he has already avenged.

The GLORY 28 Super Fight Series will air live on UFC Fight Pass at 1 p.m. ET on Saturday. The GLORY 28 main card will air live on ESPN3 at 4 p.m. ET and will replay on ESPN2 on Sunday.

HW Championship: Rico Verhoeven (47-10, 12 KO) vs. Mladen Brestovac (49-10-1, 32 KO)

The No. 1 heavyweight kickboxer in the world has stood atop his throne since capturing the GLORY heavyweight championship at GLORY 17. The 26-year-old Dutch superstar has reaped the benefits of his successes inside the GLORY ring, garnering more attention in the MMA world. In 11 bouts with the promotion, Verhoeven has 10 wins and only one defeat, which came at the hands of kickboxing legend Semmy Schilt in 2012. He is one of only two men to win the K-1 World GP title four times. Of Verhoeven’s wins with the promotion, seven came against top-10 opponents. He put on what may have been his best performance in his most recent outing at GLORY 26. Verhoeven floored Adegbuyi with a right hook in the first round to cap off one of the best events of 2015.

Kickboxing veteran Mladen Brestovac has fought the best fighters in the world over his nearly 14-year career. The 32-year-old heavyweight built his record by fighting through much of his early career in the Eastern and Central European kickboxing scene. The Croatian took a step up in competition when he entered the one-night, four-man 2011 Superkombat World Grand Prix. Brestovac lost in the finals to top heavyweight Ismael Londt, but the fight put the kickboxing veteran in the mix of top European heavyweights. The loss was a learning experience that helped Brestovac earn big fights with K-1 and capture the heavyweight title in top Croatian combat sports promotion Final Fight Championship. Brestovac’s winning streak landed him a chance inside the GLORY ring when the promotion made the trip to Zagreb for GLORY 14. Brestovac shocked even his hometown fans when he put away top-10 heavyweight Jahfarr Wilnis with a head kick in the first round. Brestovac returned to the European fight scene before getting an opportunity in the GLORY 24 heavyweight contender tournament in October. He fell short in his attempt for redemption against Adegbuyi, getting his legs chopped down over the course of three rounds.

The Croatian challenger will be fighting for the first time since his loss at GLORY 24, getting what seems like a nearly impossible task. Brestovac won’t need to fear the kicking of Verhoeven, but he will need to watch out for the Dutch heavyweight’s height and reach advantages. Verhoeven is a skilled technician with the speed and athleticism to land his superior punching combinations early and often. The GLORY champ is running with the momentum he has gained since making his MMA debut in 2015. The first-round knockout catapulted the heavyweight striker into the discussion of many top MMA media outlets, including UFC broadcasting partner Fox Sports. Verhoeven has spent the recent months training in the United States with UFC champions Daniel Cormier and Luke Rockhold at one of the sport’s best camps, the American Kickboxing Academy. One can only wonder if Verhoeven hasn’t tried to do too much in short order, not unlike former GLORY kickboxer Joe Schilling.

The distractions of crossover fights won’t keep Verhoeven from performing at his best inside the GLORY ring on Saturday. He sends Brestovac to the back of the heavyweight contender line. The real question is whether or not the heavyweight can get his second knockout win with the promotion. I believe he does just that, stopping Brestovac with his powerful right hand in the championship rounds.

WW: Murthel Groenhart (58-19-3, 33 KO) vs. Cédric Doumbé (55-4-1, 35 KO)

Murthel Groenhart should have the GLORY welterweight belt around his waist. The lanky and explosive striker got the better of GLORY champion Nieky Holzken in the first four rounds of their championship bout at GLORY 26. Groenhart used effective counter striking, a wide variety of low kicks and well-timed, explosive offensive attacks to edge out the champ during the first three rounds of the title bout. Holzken finally picked up his offense in the fourth round, but Groenhart remained calm and defended the strikes of the top pound-for-pound fighter. Holzken finished strong in the fifth round to take the judges’ scorecards, much to the surprise of Groenhart. Despite the poor judging in the bout, Groenhart finally proved to his doubters that he was indeed firmly entrenched at the top of the division.

Groenhart has battled with inconsistency for much of his career, winning big in moments and losing fights he wouldn’t otherwise lose. Groenhart won the 2012 K-1 MAX tournament, but lost in his next bout to Robin van Roosmalen in his return to GLORY. He lost to former GLORY champion Davit Kiria, but he knocked out top-10 lightweight Dzhabar Askerov in his next bout. The trend of winning a few and dropping a fight has been the most consistent part of Groenhart’s career. Groenhart had setbacks against top fighters Chad Sugden and Sittichai to begin 2015, but the Mike’s Gym kickboxer finally pulled it all together for the GLORY 25 welterweight contender tournament. Groenhart put together impressive performances over Nicola Gallo and top-10 kickboxer Karim Ghajji on his path to earning his title shot against Holzken.

Cédric Doumbé is a 23-year-old French kickboxer who burst onto the French kickboxing scene with incredible performances and an array of exciting knockout victories. Doumbé fell short in his debut at GLORY 22 against Yoann Kongolo, who is now fighting Holzken for the title at the next GLORY event in Denmark. The loss was only the third defeat of Doumbé’s career, but then he was handed his fourth career loss in his most recent outing against top-10 middleweight Fang Bian. The fight was a back-and-forth affair, but Doumbé should have been awarded the fight after three rounds. In what may be a case of a “hometown decision,” Doumbé put on another round-winning effort in the overtime frame only to have the fight awarded to his Chinese opponent.

This fight is an opportunity for Doumbé to put the controversy behind him and earn his place in the top 10. Groenhart won’t make that easy for him. This is such an incredible match-up for the fans. Expect this fight to get started quickly for the Frenchman. Groenhart has suffered defeat against fighters using heavy pressure, so that will be Doumbé’s likely game plan heading into the biggest fight of his career. Groenhart will show what many fans hope is a newfound consistency, fending off Doumbé and taking home the win after three very hard-fought rounds.

LW Tournament Semifinal: Marat Grigorian (44-8-2, 26 KO) vs. Anatoly Moiseev (16-0, 4 KO)

Marat Grigorian has been one of the top fighters at 70 kilograms for the past four years. Grigorian had early success with GLORY, but he lost a split decision to current champion van Roosmalen at GLORY 15 in his first opportunity to move further toward a shot at the title. The 24-year-old Armenian-Belgian kickboxer earned victories in a one-night, four-man tournament with Kunlun Fight before returning to GLORY in the aforementioned upset loss to Adamchuk. The loss didn’t deter Grigorian, who went on a tear during the K-1 World GP 70-kilogram championship tournament, stopping all three of his opponents within two rounds to earn the title all in one night. Grigorian most recently lost at the hands of fellow tournament participant Sittichai at Kunlun Fight 35 in the quarterfinals of the Kunlun Fight 64-man tournament.

Last-minute replacement Anatoly Moiseev enters the GLORY lightweight contender tournament as the least experienced fighter, but Grigorian can be taken by surprise, as another late-replacement opponent, Adamchuk, showed in Grigorian’s last GLORY fight. Moiseev has slowly built up his following fighting in GLORY, Kunlun Fight and in his home country of Russia. The 2015 Tatneft Cup 70-kilogram tournament champion earned key victories inside the GLORY ring when he beat German Max Baumert and Croatian kickboxer Teo Mikelic.

Grigorian is the heavy favorite heading into this contest, but Moiseev has yet to taste defeat in his young career. Grigorian, the K-1 champion, is coming off a loss, albeit to one of the very best fighters in the world. Grigorian will be the best fighter that Moiseev has ever faced, but the Russian prospect is coming off a win over top lightweight Jonay Risco in his last outing at Kunlun Fight 37. Grigorian will have the advantage in boxing range, and that is what is going to win him the fight. Grigorian will hand Moiseev the first loss of his career.

LW Tournament Semifinal: Sittichai Sitsongpeenong (102-28-5) vs. Davit Kiria (24-11, 13 KO)

The 2015 Combat Press “Kickboxer of the Year” has already begun his campaign to top his previous stellar year and to capture another world title. The 2015 Kunlun Fight Middleweight MAX champion won 10 fights last year, while truly dropping only one bout against French Muay Thai fighter Dylan Salvador. Sittichai’s other defeat came at the hands of current champion van Roosmalen at GLORY 25. The hotly contested championship fight was a matter of southpaw versus orthodox, kicking versus punching. Many believed Sittichai had done enough with his high volume of kicks to take the title from the 26-year-old Dutch kickboxer, but the ISKA-sanctioned judges gave the victory to the champion. The setback didn’t stop Sittichai from racking up the best resume in the sport of kickboxing in 2015, or starting off the new year hot for that matter. Sittichai knocked out Thai veteran “Superball” Banchamek and took a decision victory over Enriko Gogokhia in the finals of the Kunlun Fight 70-kilogram tournament in January. Sittichai heads into this tournament against Davit Kiria, a man who he has already beaten.

Kiria is a 28-year-old Georgian kickboxer who broke into the European kickboxing scene early in his professional career. Kiria entered the GLORY 70-kilogram Slam tournament as a dark horse, proving that statement when he defeated Muay Thai champion Kem Sitsongpeenong and Shemsi Beqiri on his way to the semifinals. Kiria fell short against all-time kickboxing great Giorgio Petrosyan, but he returned to the win column shortly after with victories over Groenhart and multiple-time Muay Thai champion Yuri Bessmertny. Kiria won the GLORY lightweight title when he knocked out Andy Ristie in the fifth round of their GLORY 14 championship bout. He fell short in his next bout to van Roosmalen, losing the title while suffering his second loss to the current champ. Kiria has since gone on to win fights with Kunlun Fight, but he was bounced out of the Kunlun Fight 70-kilogram tournament against Gogokhia in the quarterfinals.

This fight, much like their first, will be a tough style match-up for the karateka Kiria, who tends to throw his hands. The orthodox Georgian will have to navigate Sittichai’s southpaw stance, technically sound defense and, most importantly, the Thai’s top weapon, his left kick. Sittichai predicates much of his game off of his left kick, setting up his handy work behind a major weakness in Kiria’s defense. Sittichai will make it difficult for his opponent to close the distance and score. Kiria will have to get creative with his kicks, punches and aggression, three keys he needs to use consistently if he hopes to avenge his loss to Sittichai and work his way back to the GLORY title. Sittichai will stop Kiria’s hopes in their tracks.

Projected LW Tournament Final: Marat Grigorian vs. Sittichai Sitsongpeenong

The lightweight contender tournament final projects as a battle of two of the top fighters in the division. If not for Grigorian’s upset loss at the hands of Adamchuk, he would only have three defeats in the past four years. Grigorian fell short to only van Roosmalen, Muay Thai legend Yodsanklai Fairtex and his tournament opponent, Sittichai.

The first fight between the two was very close, but it was still a clear victory for Sittichai. The young Thai fighter has been the much busier of the two fighters, having fought eight times in the past six months, but the in-ring experience will only help Sittichai navigate Grigorian’s expert boxing the second time around. Don’t be shocked if Grigorian can find a way to surprise many and upset the pound-for-pound great, but this fight is all about Sittichai earning his own redemption against the GLORY lightweight champion.

GLORY 28 Super Fight Series Predictions
Fight Prediction
LHW Championship: Saulo Cavalari (32-2, 19 KO) vs. Artem Vakhitov (15-5, 6 KO) Cavalari by decision
HW: Freddy Kemayo (65-22-1, 45 KO) vs. Xavier Vigney (9-1, 8 KO) Kemayo by knockout
FW Championship: Serhiy Adamchuk (31-5, 14 KO) vs. Mosab Amrani (55-10-4, 18 KO) Amrani by decision
MW: Jason Wilnis (25-6-1, 13 KO)vs. Filip Verlinden (44-14-1, 16 KO) Wilnis by knockout
LW: Josh Jauncey (23-6, 12 KO) vs. Johan Tkac (27-5-1, 20 KO) Jauncey by knockout
FW: Maykol Yurk (8-4, 6 KO)vs. Eddy Naït-Slimani (59-1, 17 KO) Naït-Slimani by decision