GLORY Kickboxing returns to the Netherlands on Saturday, June 25, for GLORY 31: Amsterdam. The crowd at the Rai in Amsterdam will be treated to an incredible night of fights that could see multiple storylines play out. From the first prelim on UFC Fight Pass to the night’s main event, this is a can’t-miss event.
The headliner features two of the world’s best kickboxers meeting in a title clash for the second time. Robin van Roosmalen will attempt to defend his GLORY lightweight world title against Sittichai Sitsongpeenong, who is one of the best kickboxers in the world. In their first meeting, controversy struck when the judge’s scores were read. Just about everyone in the world who watched GLORY 25 scored the fight for Sittichai — some people may even remember the media outrage and the numerous “50-45” posts on Twitter. The fight wasn’t scored 50-45, though. Instead the ISKA-provided judges gave the champion a 48-47 scorecard on all three ballots.
The co-main event features top-10 heavyweights positioning for a shot at Rico Verhoeven’s title. Ismael Londt already earned his title shot by winning the GLORY heavyweight contender tournament at GLORY 29. He dispatched of former top-10 heavyweight Anderson “Braddock” Silva and current Kunlun Fight and Enfusion heavyweight champion Jahfarr Wilnis. Londt puts his potential shot at the title on the table when he meets Hesdy Gerges. Londt previously defeated Gerges in the quarterfinals of the 2012 K-1 World Grand Prix.
In the evening’s welterweight contender tournament, Murthel Groenhart and Yoann Kongolo have a chance to earn rematches with GLORY welterweight champ Nieky Holzken. Groenhart is set to face off with rising GLORY newcomer Karim Benmansour, one of the best welterweights outside of the promotion. Kongolo is vying for his spot in the finals against skilled veteran Harut Grigorian. The winners of these pairings will meet in the tournament finals.
The major storylines don’t stop on the main card. The GLORY 31 Super Fight Series is headlined by a light heavyweight showdown that will determine the next challenger for Artem Vakhitov. Mourad Bouzidi was scheduled to face the GLORY light heavyweight champion before the Russian Muay Thai specialist was forced out of the bout due to injury. Bouzidi now clashes with powerful puncher Zack “The Black Warrior” Mwekassa, who is a walking, talking story book. The most important storyline in the fight, however, is who can leave as the victor and the rightful challenger to Vakhitov when the champion returns.
In what may be the biggest storyline on the entire fight card, GLORY signed one of the greatest Muay Thai fighters in the sport’s history to make his debut in a surprise announcement earlier this year. The man known only as Saenchai is one of the most accomplished fighters in Muay Thai history with more world titles than could be counted on both hands. Saenchai is a master of the art of eight limbs, and now he will challenge himself yet again, this time under the GLORY banner. Saenchai makes his debut against 22-year-old Frenchman Eddy Naït-Slimani, a man who has garnered his own attention with the impressive record he has built since beginning his fighting career as a teenager.
To round out the Fight Pass portion of the card, top-10 lightweight Josh Jauncey fights rising Russian prospect Anatoly Moiseev. Jauncey is looking to build on his winning streak while Moiseev is returning to GLORY having lost his first professional bout. The GLORY women’s bantamweight grand prix continues with the second of four semifinal bouts when multiple combat-sport athlete Irina Mazepa steps in to face Kunlun Fight veteran Isis Verbeek. In the evening’s opening bout, welterweight slugger Máximo Suárez goes toe-to-toe with GLORY debutant Eyevan Danenberg.
The GLORY 31 main card airs live at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN 3 and EversportTV. The GLORY 31 Super Fight Series airs live at 1:30 p.m. ET on UFC Fight Pass. The main card will replay on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET on Sunday, June 26.
GLORY LW Championship: Robin van Roosmalen (35-6, 19 KO) vs. Sittichai Sitsongpeenong (108-29-5)
GLORY lightweight champion van Roosmalen laid his claim to being the top lightweight in the world with his win over Sittichai at GLORY 25. Roosmalen kept his belt in a closely contested fight rife with controversy. The Dutch-style kickboxer will look to put that controversy to bed with a dominant performance in his rematch against the young Thai fighter.
Roosmalen hasn’t competed under kickboxer rules since the championship fight in November, but he strapped on the four-ounce gloves for his MMA debut in February. Roosmalen showed great composure in the grappling exchanges and absolute dominance in the striking exchanges en route to a second-round TKO finish. The skilled kickboxer made his first drop to featherweight for the bout, which could potentially lead to a budding storyline of Roosmalen chasing a second GLORY world title in a new weight category. He will have to get by one of the best kickboxers in the world first, though.
Sittichai is just 24 years old, but he has already established himself as one of the best fighters in the world. He earned his place in this championship bout with another contender tournament win against two top-10 kickboxers, but his record outside the GLORY ring may be even more impressive. Since dropping the controversial decision to Roosmalen, Sittichai has won seven straight fights, with four of those wins coming against top-10 opponents. Sittichai’s resume was enough to overtake the stagnant Roosmalen in the Combat Press kickboxing rankings.
Sittichai has been next to unstoppable since 2011, winning 48 of his 51 fights. The resume of victories is unmatched by any other fighter. He holds wins over Murthel Groenhart, Josh Jauncey, Andy Souwer, Superbon Banchamek, Mohamed Khamal, Jonay Risco, Chingiz Allazov, Jordan Watson, Fabio Pinca, Yassin Baitar and many others. He has also avenged two of his losses with victories over Enriko Gogokhia and Dylan Salvador, and now he looks to avenge only his third loss in approximately five years.
Sittichai captured the 2015 Kunlun Fight middleweight tournament that featured more than 50 fighters vying for the promotion’s top spot. He beat six tournament opponents to become only the second 70-kilogram tournament winner. Sittichai is already in the final 16 of the 2016 Kunlun Fight tournament, with his most recent victories coming over Walid Hamid and Mohamed Mezouari.
Those wins weren’t without a moment of struggle for the world’s best kickboxer. Sittichai ran through his semifinal opponent, Hamid, in under two rounds. He was met with resistance in the finals, however, when Mezouari landed a perfectly timed left uppercut that sent Sittichai crashing to the floor. The beautiful strike came after Sittichai left himself open following his own offensive attack. Sittichai was able to survive the final minute of the round and compose himself as the final seconds ticked down in the first frame. Sittichai was at his most aggressive knowing he was likely down with a 10-8 score for Mezouari in the first round. Sittichai put on a chilling comeback performance when he absolutely battered Mezouari for all three minutes of the second round. Sittichai had Mezouari stumbling all over the ring. Even without a called knockdown, the round very much could have been scored 10-8 in favor of Sittichai, who continued forward in the third and fourth rounds to earn his place in the tournament’s final 16.
The story of the first fight between van Roosmalen and Sittichai was Sittichai’s excellent left kick against the high guard and punches of van Roosmalen. Sittichai battered the arms and shoulders of van Roosmalen throughout the fight, but the skilled champion was able to deflect most of the strikes away from his head and body. The question of what scores more will rise again in this fight, as the style clash between Sittichai, the southpaw, and van Roosmalen, the orthodox fighter, will make for an interesting chess match.
Their first fight wasn’t a barnburner, but Sittichai has been focusing on his hands since competing and winning in an amateur boxing tournament in Thailand. This new focus could make for an interesting outcome dependent on how Sittichai approaches the defensively sound counter puncher. Despite the appearance that van Roosmalen’s style may sway the judges more, Sittichai is the fighter that will have his hand raised following what should be a tit-for-tat battle.
Londt burst back on the kickboxing scene with his heavyweight contender tournament performance at GLORY 29. The Superkombat heavyweight champion signed with the promotion in a thrilling announcement earlier in the year before making his successful debut in April. The fight was Londt’s first since going to war with Badr Hari in 2015. The 30-year-old Dutch-Surinamese kickboxer earned his way into the Combat Press kickboxing rankings with decision victories over Anderson Silva and Jahfarr Wilnis in closely contested decisions.
Londt welcomes top-10 heavyweight Gerges back to the GLORY ring after Gerges finished as the Kunlun Fight super heavyweight tournament runner-up to the aforementioned Wilnis. The bout, which went to a deciding extension round, was the only blemish for Gerges since his last fight with the promotion at GLORY 18. Gerges defeated Igor Bugaenko and Konstantin Gluhov with leg kicks before earning his place in the finals with a closely contested decision victory over top-10 heavyweight Andrei Gerasimchuk.
Gerges had mixed success in his time with GLORY. He was finished in his debut with a strong right from top-10 heavyweight Errol Zimmerman, but he won his next two bouts against Brazilian kickboxers Ewerton Teixeira and Jhonata Diniz before dropping his most recent GLORY outing to former two-time heavyweight title challenger Benjamin Adegbuyi at GLORY 18. The former It’s Showtime heavyweight champ has a strong resume of his own with wins over top heavyweights Hari, Daniel Ghiţă, Pavel Zhuravlev and Jamal Ben Saddik.
Londt will have the upper hand heading into this rematch after defeating Gerges in their previous meeting. Londt is a heavy puncher with power in both fists. He likes to fight aggressively, which has brought him much success, but has been a factor in his undoing in his losses. Londt’s chin has been cracked before, but Gerges won’t need to head hunt to earn a victory in this bout. Gerges has a chopping low kick among many tools that could see him avenge his loss and earn his chance to face the champion. Gerges dropped his previous two meetings with Verhoeven, with the first bout ending in a split decision. He will have to avoid the power of Londt if he hopes to avenge his previous defeats, and that’s a task that will be difficult against a man who already holds an advantage over him.
Londt is risking his title shot to keep active in the GLORY heavyweight division, but this is a risk that could pay off big with an impressive performance. Londt will put on a strong showing and reiterate why he is next in line to face Verhoeven.
WW Tournament Semifinal: Yoann Kongolo (61-7, 45 KO) vs. Harut Grigorian (42-9, 31 KO)
Kongolo, 28, is a Swiss kickboxer looking for redemption after dropping a decision to GLORY welterweight champion Nieky Holzken. Kongolo followed a similar game plan to Murthel Groenhart when he pushed the champ in the early rounds of their GLORY 29 bout in April. Kongolo found success with his aggression in the early going, but the world’s top welterweight recovered nicely and took over the fight late, despite a strong showing from the challenger.
Kongolo earned his shot at the title without having to go through a welterweight contender tournament. He won’t be given the same opportunity on Saturday night when he has to get past two opponents to earn another crack at the title. Kongolo made his GLORY debut with a victory over top-10 welterweight Cedric Doumbe. The win likely earned Kongolo a place in the GLORY 25 welterweight contender tournament, where he put on a strong performance in a losing effort against newly crowned Bellator Kickboxing 165-pound champion Karim Ghajji. Kongolo defeated former top-10 welterweight Karapet Karapetyan at GLORY 26 before fighting for the title in his most recent outing.
Grigorian is a skilled kickboxer with experience fighting some of the best around the world. He made a big splash in his GLORY debut in a one-round slugfest with Spanish welterweight Máximo Suárez at GLORY 29. Grigorian took some shots, but ultimately landed more devastating strikes en route to a TKO stoppage with just five seconds left in the first frame. Grigorian has 31 knockout victories, and his resume is filled with strong wins over Tayfun Ozcan, Nordin Ben Moh, Marco Piqué and Chris Ngimbi.
Grigorian doesn’t have as many fights as Kongolo, but he has the experience to make this move up in competition. A victory for the Armenian-Belgian will certainly put his name in the discussion of top-10 welterweights. And two victories in one night, potentially against two of the world’s top welterweights, will certainly move Grigorian into the top 10. More importantly, two victories on Saturday will earn him a shot at Holzken’s title. However, Kongolo will stop those title aspirations in their tracks with sound defense and excellent counter punching. He will contend with Grigorian’s power and work his way to a closely contested decision nod.
Groenhart is a 29-year-old Dutch-Surinamese kickboxer who is one of the most active competitors inside and outside of the GLORY ring. Staying active has brought many positives to Groenhart’s move up to welterweight, but it has also brought out many of Groenhart’s past problems with inconsistency. The silver lining in Groenhart’s up-and-down fight record is that he has only lost to some of the very best fighters in the world.
Groenhart fell short of his dream of winning a GLORY title when he was seemingly robbed of a decision victory at GLORY 26. Groenhart, as well as many fans around the world, believed the challenger handed Nieky Holzken his first defeat since entering the GLORY ring in 2012. The judges wouldn’t hold the same opinion, though. They gave Holzken the split decision after his toughest test as champion.
Groenhart earned his shot at Holzken’s title with victories over Nicola Gallo and Karim Ghajji in the GLORY 25 welterweight contender tournament. He’s back in the hunt for the GLORY belt on Saturday despite dropping his last fight with the promotion at GLORY 28 in March. Since the loss, Groenhart has gone on to win the World Fight League 76-kilogram tournament with victories over Marco Pique and Sem Braan. Groenhart dropped his most recent fight in an extension round against No. 2-ranked Artur Kyshenko in a close back-and-forth fight at Kunlun Fight 43 in April.
Benmansour is making his GLORY debut after riding a six-year unbeaten streak. The 29-year-old French kickboxer built an impressive resume of victories fighting in his home country over the past decade. “The Feline” is a skilled fighter with a past victory over potential tournament opponent Kongolo in 2013. The multiple-time WKN European 76-kilogram champion is ready for the big time and a step up in competition following his most recent win over Darrel Shipman at Nuit des Champions.
Groenhart needs to fight off the inconsistencies that have plagued him in the past. He will likely use his aggression to get an early lead against the GLORY newcomer Benmansour, who has been waiting for the day to prove his skills on the world stage. Benmansour likes to attack at different angles with a diverse array of hand and kick combinations. He is always looking to read his opponents and adjust to any problem put in front of him.
Groenhart may be facing a fighter making his debut, but this won’t be an easy victory. He will have to show up ready to fight from the opening bell. Groenhart needs a performance like he had in his first welterweight contender tournament.
Projected WW Tournament Final: Kongolo vs. Groenhart
Kongolo and Groenhart will likely meet for the first time in the finals of the welterweight contender tournament. There will be but one thought in each man’s head: getting that second shot at the GLORY world title. Both men put together solid performances against the aforementioned Holzken, and both fighters believe they now know the blueprint to become champion. Kongolo and Groenhart have an immense array of offensive skills.
Groenhart is a long fighter who quickly targets every hittable part of his opponent’s body. He throws a sharp low kick in between his quick striking combinations. He will take risks in fights, which has delivered mixed results in his past outings.
Of the two fighters, Kongolo is slightly more defensively sound. He does a great job of staying just outside of his opponent’s strikes, while also staying close enough to attack with his own from either side of his body. Kongolo will switch his stances often during the fight to improve his angle of attack and switch up the looks he is giving his opponents. This is an area of the fight where Kongolo could take over if he can avoid the lengthy attacks of the Mike’s Gym fighter.
This contest should be nothing short of an entertaining back-and-forth affair. Both men will have a tough path to the tournament finals against opponents who haven’t tasted defeat in years. This fight very well could come down to which fighter comes out of the semifinals unscathed.
Groenhart has the offensive tools to get the victory, but Kongolo will quickly snatch away a title shot if Groenhart doesn’t bring the entirety of his game. Groenhart will showcase what made him a top-10 welterweight and capture his second opportunity to fight for the GLORY welterweight title.
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