Sitthichai Sitsonpeenong (Dave Mandel/Combat Press)

GLORY 53: Lille Preview and Predictions

GLORY Kickboxing travels to the Zénith de Lille in Lille, France, on Saturday, May 12, for GLORY 53: Lille.

The event is headlined by the GLORY lightweight championship bout, which features the best pound-for-pound kickboxer in the world, Sitthichai Sitsongpeenong, and his challenger, 20-year-old Moroccan prospect Tyjani Beztati.

The co-headliner puts a spotlight on the best female kickboxer on the planet, Anissa Meksen, who makes the first defense of her GLORY super bantamweight title against Amel Dehby, the runner-up during the GLORY women’s super bantamweight tournament.


To round out the main-card action, former Enfusion champion Jahfarr Wilnis takes on former GLORY title challenger Jamal Ben Saddik, top-10 light heavyweight Zinedine Hameur-Lain battles former ranked opponent Michael Duut, and GLORY four-man tournament winners Petchpanomrung Kiatmookao and Abdellah Ezbiri collide in a pivotal featherweight title eliminator.

In the night’s SuperFight Series headliner, the four-man super fight tournament winner will be crowned. In the semifinal bouts, former GLORY featherweight champ Serhiy Adamchuk takes on France’s Azize Hlali and GLORY veteran Victor “Leo” Pinto meets Turkey’s Buray Bozaryilmaz.

Former GLORY welterweight king Cédric Doumbé fights Thongchai Sitsongpeenong in additional action in France.

The preliminary card opens at 8:30 a.m. ET on Pluto TV and Youtube. The GLORY 53 SuperFight Series continues at 1 p.m. ET on UFC Fight Pass. The main card airs live at 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPNEWS (United States), ESPN3, SFR Sport 5, Fox Sports (Latin America and Africa), Fight Network (Canada), Combate (Brazil), DigiSport (Romania), Fight Sports (Europe), Sky Sports (New Zealand), Ziggo Sport (The Netherlands), DAZN (Japan), Star Times (Africa), Fight Channel (Bosnia & Herzegovina, Slovenia), QQ (China), Sina (China), Sohu (China), and GLORY pay-per-view (International).

Tyjani Beztati makes the biggest step up in talent in his young career against current GLORY lightweight world champion Sitthichai. Can the younger fighter pull off the massive upset, or is Sitthichai destined to dominate the kickboxing world for years to come?

Sitthichai is without a doubt the best kickboxer on the planet today. His resume lines up with many of the greatest kickboxers today and then some. The current GLORY lightweight champ, Kunlun Fight 70-kilogram tournament winner, and 2015 Combat Press Kickboxing “Fighter of the Year” has racked up an incredible 119 victories in his illustrious career that spans back to 2002. At just 26, the “Killer Kid” has beaten a list of champions, contenders and top-10 opponents too long to list. Sitthichai has won 56 of his 60 fights dating back to 2011. He has avenged all four of those losses as well. Sitthichai is currently riding a seven-fight winning streak into his fourth lightweight title defense.

Beztati, 20, burst onto the scene with an impressive run in 2017. The talented Moroccan has won five of his six bouts. The Colosseum Gym product has defeated the likes of Yodkhunpon Sitmonchai, Andrej Bruhl and Niclas Larsen in his GLORY tenure. He took out the talented Larsen during the GLORY 49 four-man tournament, but fell short in the finals against Stoyan Koprivienski. Koprivienski dropped Beztati in the first round with a spinning back fist to the temple and continued to frustrate him with boxing combinations and kicks to the body. Beztati made a successful return to the win column with a massive head-kick knockout against Anil Cabri at GLORY 51.

Beztati, who stands 6-foot-3, has size over most lightweights. However, he doesn’t always use that size effectively and can oftentimes leave himself vulnerable to head shots. Koprivienski forced Beztati to exchange in closer range, which in turn opened up the boxing combinations and made Beztati even more aggressive than he already is. Beztati can be effective from the outside with his jab and low-kick game, but he is often more than willing to rush in to throw a big hook or jumping switch knee. His wild attacks might work against lower-level competition, but they will only open up the door to counters against the best in the division. Beztati does a good job of slipping his opponent’s attacks to the right and coming back with his own right cross or hook after stepping to his right or turning his opponent. That sequence won’t work in this open-stance battle. In fact, it could set up the fight-ending blow for Sitthichai.

Sitthichai’s left kick might be the most effective weapon in all of kickboxing. He has a way of dismantling his opponents with repeated, battering shots to the shoulders, arms, body, legs and chest. Sitthichai throws the kick with speed, authority and the intent to damage. Even if he can’t always find the clean shot to the body or the legs, his ability to not only switch the angle of attack and target of his kicks combines with the destructive force to wear on his opponents as the fight unfolds. The kick is truly a masterpiece of kickboxing perfection. However, it’s not the reason why he’s the best fighter in the world.

Over the past few years, Sitthichai’s emphasis on working his boxing as he has transitioned from Muay Thai to kickboxing rules has transformed him into a complete fighter. It’s not just his pristine jab, sharp left straight to the body or gut-wrenching step knees — it’s his ability to choose the most effective shot for the occasion. You will rarely see Sitthichai stick to a certain rhythm or combination of attacks. He masks his effectiveness behind his left kick. With each passing fight, he continues to grow in other areas of the game.

When Sitthichai fights, kickboxing fans are witnessing greatness. Unfortunately, someone needs to be on the other end of it. Beztati will learn quickly what the top level of kickboxing looks like, and it will only motivate him to push further as he grows in the future. For now, Sitthichai has the tools and match-up in front of him to score another impressive victory. He ends this fight before the final bell, likely with one of those ever-effective left kicks.

Anissa Meksen won the Combat Press Kickboxing “Fighter of the Year” award in 2017 with eight wins in the calendar year. She looks to continue her lengthy winning streak, this time in a defense of her title against fellow French fighter Amel Dehby. Can Dehby hand Meksen only her third career loss and steal the title? If not, what sets Meksen apart from the rest of her competitors?

Dehby garnered a strong resume leading into the GLORY women’s super bantamweight tournament. She entered the tourney as a undefeated fighter and dispatched of South Korea’s Jiwaen Lee and the Netherland’s Isis Verbeek to make her way into the inaugural title bout against Tiffany van Soest. Despite falling short against one of the 10 best female kickboxers in the world, Dehby showed her worth as a future contender at only 26 years old. Since the loss to van Soest, Dehby has picked up three wins outside of the promotion over Cathy Mcaleer, Lizzie Largilliere and Ilona Wijmans.

Dehby is a solid overall kickboxer with a good grasp of distance management, effective defense and a strong counter game. She is very good at getting out of the way of her opponent’s attacks, especially if they’re throwing at her in straight lines. Dehby is very effective by moving back, avoiding the initial attack and coming back hard with her own attack. She’s very good at firing back with her most effective punch, the right cross. Dehby is at her best on the counter, but she won’t back away from stepping inside and throwing hands. She doesn’t deliver a high volume of kicks, but when she switches up her target of attack she can be very effective with her inside low kick, lead leg teep kick and body kicks. Unfortunately for Dehby, she is fighting the best female fighter in the world.

Meksen makes it look easy against top-level competition. The 30-year-old has won 95 of her 98 fights. She’s scored 30 knockout victories along the way. Meksen has lost just one time since 2013, and it came in the finals of a four-women, one-night tournament against former top-10 pound-for-pound talent E. Meidie. Meksen didn’t make it easy for Meidie either, pushing the Chinese fighter to a second extension round on foreign soil. Meksen’s resume is a who’s who of women’s kickboxing. She holds victories over the aforementioned van Soest, Iman Barlow, Ashley Nichols, Eva Naranjo, Gloria Peritore, Therese Gunnarsson, Meryem Uslu and Fatima Pinto.

Meksen’s success can be attributed to her technical brilliance, ability to throw a high volume of offense, and effectiveness in keeping her opponents from landing big shots. She has a very active style. She moves around the ring on her toes and controls the range. Meksen uses slick movement to avoid her opponent’s strikes and effectively land counter shots while finding her own escape routes following the exchanges. She often puts on clinical performances with her stellar kicking game and ability to follow up those shots from either stance. She can effectively fight, move, slip and escape in either stance, which opens up the full range of attacks in her arsenal. Meksen is truly an elite technician.

So, does Dehby have the style to take down Meksen? The aforementioned Nichols found moments when she could smother Meksen against the ropes in the latter rounds. By that point, though, Meksen had already thrown and landed twice as many strikes as Nichols. Dehby’s counter game could play a factor if Meksen slows later in the five-round contest. However, Dehby needs to not only survive, but land her own offense. Over the course of five rounds, that seems less likely unless Meksen completely runs out of gas. The French contingent might be split, but Meksen will be the fighter with her hand raised when the final bell rings. Just like Sitthichai, Meksen might hold onto the top spot for a long time to come.

Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?

GLORY 53 features a deep roster of talent. The number of high-level fighters from top to bottom is what makes this offering so appealing, despite an injury to former GLORY middleweight champion Jason Wilnis. The fight that stands out the most in terms of skill level and divisional importance is the assumed featherweight title eliminator between France’s Adbellah Ezbiri and Thailand’s Petchpanomrung Kiatmookao.

Ezbiri, 31, took down two featherweights in one night to be crowned the GLORY 47 contender-tournament winner in the promotion’s last trip to his home country. He added a phenomenal upset win over current K-1 titleholder Masaaki Noiri in November. Ezbiri has won 11 of his past 12 fights. His only loss in this stretch came in the finals of the 2016 Kunlun Fight 66-kilogram tournament, where he had to face three opponents in one night. The Frenchman uses his punch-to-kick and kick-to-punch combinations to open up his offensive attack. He slides just outside of his opponent’s range and utilizes a lead-leg high kick to set up his boxing combinations and vice versa. He will throw a lead-leg teep kick to create the space he needs to throw his right cross and follow-up kicks or punches. He used this technique to great effect in his five-round, title-winning victory over Noiri.

Petchpanomrung will look to counter Ezbiri’s boxing combinations with his well-known, high-volume attack of leg kicks. He used those kicks to capture his own four-man, one-night GLORY contender tournament victory with a win over former GLORY champ Serhiy Adamchuk. The Thai fighter is coming off back-to-back wins over China’s Xie Lie and high-flying former Shoot boxing champ Zakari Zouggary. Petchpanomrung stopped Zouggary in the third round of their competitive contest with a destructive, walk-away left high kick. The Thai fighter came up short in his first bid for the GLORY title in a hotly contested decision loss to Robin van Roosmalen. Petchpanomrung showcased how effective a strong low kick game can be against one of the best fighters in the world.

The winner of this contest will likely be the next man in line to face two-division GLORY champ and current featherweight titleholder van Roosmalen. Ezbiri needs to make Petchpanomrung miss with his kicks and then counter back should he hope to avoid taking heavy damage in a short, three-round fight. Ezbiri will be able to open up Petchpanomrung’s game if he sticks to the plan and works the body with his punches before following up with an effective kicking game. Expect Ezbiri to fight at distance and work inside when he sees an opening to attack without taking damage from a heavy low kick.

Ultimately, this fight comes down to damage. Should the judges find Ezbiri’s boxing game more effective, don’t be surprised if he takes the fight. That said, Petchpanomrung’s low kicks are a fight-changer by themselves. If he can throw with his typical volume, he’s going to take the decision and fight van Roosmalen for the title later this year.

Fight Picks

Fight Pick
GLORY 53 Main Card
LW Championship: Sitthichai Sitsongpeenong vs. Tyjani Beztati Sitthichai by knockout
HW: Jamal Ben Saddik vs. Jahfarr Wilnis Ben Saddik by knockout
Women’s Super BW Championship: Anissa Meksen vs. Amel Dehby Meksen by decision
LHW: Zinedine Hameur-Lain vs. Michael Duut Hameur-Lain by knockout
FW: Petchpanomrung Kiatmookao vs. Abdellah Ezbiri Petchpanomrung by decision
GLORY 53: SuperFight Series
Projected FW Tournament Final: Adamchuk vs. Bozaryilmaz Adamchuk by decision
WW: Cédric Doumbé vs. Thongchai Sitsongpeenong Doumbé by decision
MW: Yousri Belgaroui vs. Dawid Kasperski Belgaroui by knockout
WW: Alan Scheinson vs. Anghel Cardos Scheinson by knockout
FW Tournament Semifinal: Serhiy Adamchuk vs. Azize Hlali Adamchuk by decision
FW Tournament Semifinal: Buray Bozaryilmaz vs. Victor Pinto Bozaryilmaz by decision