Rico Verhoeven (James Law/GLORY)

GLORY: Redemption Preview and Predictions

On Saturday, Dec. 9, GLORY Kickboxing will host its third-ever pay-per-view card, dubbed GLORY: Redemption, from the Ahoy Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

In the night’s main event, GLORY heavyweight champion Rico Verhoeven will rematch Jamal Ben Saddik. The pair met in 2011 under the It’s Showtime banner, with Ben Saddik stopping the future champion by second-round TKO.

Since the first meeting, Verhoeven has gone on to become one of the sport’s pound-for-pound elite. The Dutchman has won 13 straight fights inside the GLORY ring, including five title defenses.


Known as “Goliath,” Ben Saddik stands at 6-foot-9 and weighs in at nearly 300 pounds. The Moroccan-Belgian fighter has won four straight overall to earn his right to challenge for the belt.

The GLORY 49 SuperFight Series will feature a middleweight title clash between recently crowned champion Alex Pereira and tournament winner Yousri Belgaroui. Also on the card, former welterweight champ and pound-for-pound king Nieky Holzken returns to action against Alim Nabiyev.

The lightweight division will be the focus of the GLORY 49 portion of the event, as Christian Baya takes on Samo Petje and four fighters compete in a one-night, four-man lightweight contender tournament.

GLORY 49 kicks off at 11 a.m. ET with five bouts streaming live on ESPN3. The action moves to UFC Fight Pass at 1:30 p.m. ET for the five-fight SuperFight Series card. Finally, the four-fight GLORY: Redemption main card airs live at 4 p.m. ET.

Rico Verhoeven has a chance for redemption against one of only five men to defeat the heavyweight champion in the past eight years. Can Jamal Ben Saddik repeat history and defeat Verhoeven for a second time, or does Verhoeven get redemption?

The GLORY heavyweight champion has vanquished everyone put in front of him inside the GLORY ring since losing to one of the greatest heavyweights in the sport’s history, four-time K-1 world grand prix champion Semmy Schilt, on the New Year’s Eve show in 2012. Since that time, Verhoeven has reeled off wins over some of the best heavyweights in the sport this past decade. Sandwiched in between those impressive victories is a decision loss to Kunlun Fight 100+-kilogram champion Andrey Gerasimchuk at Kunlun Fight 15 in 2015. Despite the loss outside of the promotion, Verhoeven’s star power hasn’t slowed down inside the GLORY ring.

Verhoeven’s resume of late has been underwhelming, though. Not in terms of the final product, because Verhoeven usually delivers under the big lights, but his level of competition this year has left something to be desired. Verhoeven’s last outing was an absolute destruction of former UFC title challenger Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva. Verhoeven sent him down with a brutal head kick and finished the job a few punches and kicks later. At the time of the fight, the match-up was met with much controversy — the world’s best heavyweight kickboxer fought an MMA fighter making his kickboxing debut. Add in the fact that Silva had been knocked out in six of his past eight fights, and it was plain to see the fight didn’t make sense.

Verhoeven’s bout prior to the Silva massacre was a five-round decision win over popular Moroccan fighter Ismael Lazaar. Verhoeven showcased why he was the better fighter throughout the 15-minute affair. The heavyweight champ was barely touched and never in serious danger of losing the bout. It was a fight that made sense to sell to the fans in the Netherlands, where Lazaar won the Enfusion heavyweight title, but it didn’t make sense with other GLORY heavyweights waiting in the wings. The desire to sell Verhoeven in fights that bring in the most viewers as opposed to fights that adhere to the rankings has thrown the contender tournament system into a mess. Ismael Londt was in line for a shot at the title after winning a tourney at GLORY 29 and D’Angelo Marshall followed suit at GLORY 41. Neither man received their shot at the title, but the division has somewhat worked itself out since Verhoeven last fought the top contender.

One of the heavyweights that surfaced from the pack was Ben Saddik. The Belgian heavyweight took out the aforementioned Londt at GLORY: Collision last year while Londt was waiting for the outcome of the main event between Verhoeven and Badr Hari. Ben Saddik earned the illusive No.1 contender spot with a less-than-thrilling decision victory over Guto Inocente, who was riding a four-fight winning streak to begin his GLORY career. Ben Saddik’s win in his birth country opened the door for a rematch with Verhoeven. The match-up makes sense for Verhoeven, who needs both a name and a storyline to sell GLORY’s third attempt at a pay-per-view.

Ben Saddik now meets a far better Verhoeven more than six years later. Ben Saddik’s last performance was underwhelming, with Inocente slowing down in the later rounds. Ben Saddik didn’t throw with much volume and his output waned as his opponent didn’t challenge as often. That won’t be the case when he fights Verhoeven. The heavyweight king is able to push the pace for the five-round fight. He is able to adapt to what his opponent is doing and adjust his game plan to ensure his hand is raised when the judges’ cards are read.

Verhoeven is facing one of his stiffest tests since the big-time match-up against Hari. However, Verhoeven’s improvements over the past half-decade are going to push him to a victory over Ben Saddik.

With so many important match-ups on this card, what are the fights that stick out in terms of entertainment? What are the fights that have the biggest effect on the title picture in their respective divisions?

The middleweight title fight between current champion Alex Pereira and challenger Yousri Belgaroui is a rematch of their middleweight contender battle at GLORY 40. Belgaroui was crowned the winner that night, but Pereira was the one who would receive the chance to fight Simon Marcus for the world title. Pereira became the fourth man to hold the GLORY middleweight title with an excellent performance against Marcus at GLORY 46 in China. The Brazilian makes a quick turnaround to fend off the last man to beat him. In addition to his past win over Pereira, Belgaroui defeated Agron Preteni and then topped former titleholder Jason Wilnis at GLORY 45 to solidify his place as the next in line. The Dutch challenger presents some serious problems for the champion, so expect nothing less than a grueling back-and-forth affair.

Former GLORY welterweight champ Nieky Holzken makes his return to GLORY against one of the 10 best welterweights in the world, Alim Nabiyev. Holzken will be fighting in a non-title bout for the first time in over two years. The long-reigning welterweight king is hoping to spoil Nabiyev’s return to GLORY and earn a shot against the current champion, Murthel Groenhart, who Holzken has defeated three times. Azerbaijan’s Nabiyev has won four straight and 10 of his past 11 fights. The 23-year-old already holds wins over top-10 welterweight Yohan Lidon, GLORY vet Jimmy Vienot, Kunlun Fight 75-kilogram tournament runner-up Zhang Yang and former top-10 welterweight Vladimír Moravčík. The winner is likely to move up to the top of the queue in the crowded title picture in the welterweight division.

One of the most important bouts on the card in terms of divisional relevance is the fight between former title challenger Petchpanomrung Kiatmookao and former Shootboxing S-Cup champion Zakaria Zouggary. Petchpanomrung returned to the win column against Xie Lei at GLORY 46 following a contested split-decision loss against current featherweight king Robin van Roosmalen. Zouggary has won both of his GLORY fights against experienced veterans Massaro Glunder and Yetkin Ozkul. The winner will likely be in line for a shot at the winner of van Roosmalen and Kevin VanNostrand. If not, then they’ll be placed in the next featherweight contender tournament.

The lightweight division is on display with a four-man tournament and a pivotal bout in the title picture heading into 2018. Top-10 lightweight Christian Baya takes on two-division FFC champion Samo Petje in a fight that could determine the next challenger to current champion Sitthichai Sitsongpeenong. Baya defeated Josh Jauncey in his GLORY debut and won the lightweight contender tournament with victories over the aforementioned Glunder and Anatoly Moiseev at GLORY 42. Petje makes his GLORY debut on a five-fight winning streak inside the FFC ring.

As for the lightweight contender tournament, it should showcase the rising talents in the division, including Tyjani Beztati, Niclas Larsen and Maykol Yurk. Beztati is currently undefeated and has four wins in his GLORY career. He fights Larsen in what looks to be a chance for him to put his name on the map with the biggest win of his career. Yurk is an exciting fighter who is primed to put on a show against Bulgaria’s Stoyan Koprivlenski.

On the entertainment side of things, the fight card features a rematch of the 2016 Combat Press “Comeback of the Year” between Michael Duut and Danyo Ilunga. The rubber match between the former top-10 light heavyweights should be another fantastic battle. Former ranked fighters Anderson “Braddock” Silva and Brian Douwes clash in a fight that should produce a highlight-reel knockout. Welterweight contenders Eyevan Danenberg and Jamie Bates should deliver a scintillating battle. Danenberg is coming off a dominant win over Wellington Uega which featured four knockdowns during the fight. Bates won his GLORY debut against former GLORY contender tournament winner Richard Abraham.

Fight Picks

Fight Pick
GLORY: Redemption
HW Championship: Rico Verhoeven vs. Jamal Ben Saddik Verhoeven by decision
LHW: Michael Duut vs. Danyo Ilunga Duut by decision
FW: Petchpanomrung Kiatmookao vs. Zakaria Zouggary Petchpanomrung by decision
FW: Bailey Sugden vs. Chenglong Zhang Zhang by decision
GLORY 49: SuperFight Series
HW: Anderson Silva vs. Brian Douwes Silva by knockout
MW Championship: Alex Pereira vs. Yousri Belgaroui Pereira by decision
HW: Ismael Londt vs. D’Angelo Marshall Londt by decision
WW: Nieky Holzken vs. Alim Nabiyev Holzken by decision
WW: Eyevan Danenberg vs. Jamie Bates Danenberg by decision
Project LW Contender Tournament Final: Beztati vs. Yurk Beztati by decision
LW: Christian Baya vs. Samo Petje Baya by decision
WW: Omar Moreno vs. Anying Wang Wang by decision
LW Contender Tournament: Niclas Larsen vs. Tyjani Beztati Beztati by decision
LW Contender Tournament: Stoyan Koprivlenski vs. Maykol Yurk Yurk by knockout