One week ago, Mirko Cro Cop reached an amazing pinacle - he became the K-1 World Grand Prix champion. It was a great moment in the veteran's career, giving him the kickboxing title that had long eluded him. And yet when watching Cro Cop's win, it was hard not to hear one word loudly repeated in the back of your head.
K-1 may still be crowning GP champions, but it is their rival Glory who clearly leads the pack in kickboxing organizations in 2013. One year into their existence, the company has put together a stacked roster that mixes veterans with a newer crop of talent. This Saturday, they bring that roster to the UK for Glory 5 London. And as excited as I was for the K-1 GP, this main event is even bigger.
On one side you have Bonjasky, the 3 time K-1 Grand Prix champion. Bonjasky has received a bit of flak over the years for his defensive style, but for my money that is largely unwarranted. Yes, he uses defense, but that's a fault? He has an amazing ability to keep himself safe from an opponent's attacks, then strike back at the opportune moment. And when he does strike back, it's a thing of beauty, with flying kicks and knees that would impress any MMA fan. Bonjasky retired from kickboxing in 2010, but made his return last year. He's 2-1 since and coming off an upset loss to Jama Ben Saddik in December.
Although both men have roughly the same years of experience in pro kickboxing, Bonjasky steps into this fight as a representative of the old guard. He's an icon of the mid-2000's in K-1. But he's also a man with a lot riding on this fight. That loss to Saddik was huge - Bonjasky simply has not lost to an opponent at that level in years. It's clear that he is yet to get back to his former heights. The question now becomes, will he ever? And if he decides the answer is no, how much longer will he stick around? With a gym to run and various other side projects, Bonjasky doesn't need to fight. A loss here - particularly a stoppage loss - could easily spell the end of the line for the Flying Gentleman once again.
And the scary thing is, Tyrone Spong is just the man to give him that loss. The 27 year old is an incredible 10 year pro, and yet he still fights like a young lion out to prove himself. Spong is a vicious fighter, with brutal Muay Thai. Over the years, he's won numerous titles across weight classes. In 2009 he made the full time move up to Heavyweight, working with the great Ernesto Hoost to make the transition. After a bumpy start at Heavyweight, Spong has found his groove. He's 5-1 in his last 6, with the lone loss coming against Alistair Overeem, and his last fight a win over Peter Aerts.
The big question for Spong is just what his future holds. As of late, he's been spending a lot of time in the US working with the Blackzilians. There, he's added to the striking game of fighters like Rashad Evans, while also beginning his own MMA career (currently 1-0). He's following the path of his friend and teammate Overeem, splitting his time between MMA and kickboxing in order to increase his exposure. And from a marketing perspective, that has definitely worked - American fans now know the name Tyrone Spong. As far as his kickboxing skills go, is it a success? That's a big question, and one we don't know the answer to. But Remy Bonjasky will find out.
If both men come into this fight at 100%, it will be a technical war, with Spong looking to slice through Bonjasky's defenses, while Remy looks for those moments to fire back. It's a great stylistic match-up. When you add in the extra intrigue - What if Remy loses? How focused is Spong? - suddenly you have the makings of a real classic on your hands.
Will they deliver that classic? Join us on Saturday to find out.
Glory 5 London airs this Saturday, March 23 at 2 p.m. ET / 11 a.m. PT. Bloody Elbow will have live fight coverage, including results and discussion. Glory 5 London is available as a live stream online.