GLORY 9 NEW YORK goes down on Saturday night at the Hammerstein Ballroom in downtown New York. The event marks the premier kickboxing organization's debut on US soil and promises to be a night of knockout action. Join Bloody Elbow for Glory 9 live stream, results, discussion, and coverage Saturday night.
Unsure if you like kickboxing? Think about this: the man who put this card together -- Cor Hemmers -- was Alistair Overeem's coach until he joined the UFC and moved to the US. The man knows a thing or two about elite kickboxers, and at this event, you can see the absolute best of the best facing off against each other.
GLORY fights go at a frantic pace and frequently end in stunning knockouts. This is especially the case with one-night elimination tournaments such as the eight-man light-heavyweight joust which forms the centerpiece of Saturday night's show.
The tournament features Tyrone Spong (86-5, 57 KOs), plus Remy Bonjasky student Danyo Ilunga (51-4-0, 40 KOs), UFC veteran Dustin Jacoby (3-1, 3 KOs in kickboxing), top prospect Filip Verlinden (40-9-1, 16 KOs) , US Muay Thai stylist Brian Collette (19-1-0, 17 KOs), accomplished former heavyweight Mourad Bouzidi (75-20-2, 34 KOs), Australian ‘Smashing Machine' Steve McKinnon (49-6, 37 KOs) and the hyper-aggressive young Dutch fighter Michael Duut (38-3, 17 KOs).
Commencing with the quarterfinals, four fights will determine who makes it to the semifinals. The winners will rest backstage while superfights take place, then fight the semifinal matches to determine the two finalists. They will contest the $200,000 grand prize in the evening's headline fight.
This is the kickboxing equivalent of a mega-stacked UFC card. GLORY uses the same weight classes as MMA to make it easy for fans to follow. And the best bit? You can watch it free on CBS Sports. The first installment airs 1:30am Sunday morning (so really Saturday night) with a re-run at 9pm on Sunday.
If you are a fight fan, it's an offer you can't refuse. Here's how the card breaks down:
Quarterfinal 1: Danyo Ilunga vs. Mourad Bouzidi
Danyo Ilunga is a student of the three-time K-1 Grand Prix winner Remy Bonjasky, and so it's natural they share a few similarities. The most obvious is the fondness for knee strikes. Remy was famous for his flying knee, and that also forms part of Ilunga's arsenal.
If you look at his stoppage of French #1 Stephane Susperregui at GLORY 5, you can see how effective he is with it. Susperregui's nose was snapped clean across his face in one of the most brutal finishes the GLORY ring has seen.
Ilunga is currently ranked #1 in the world, according to the official GLORY rankings. His fellow fighters don't necessarily dispute that, but they certainly think they can take the top spot from him. The veteran Bouzidi is one such member of that school of thought.
Bouzidi spent his career until now fighting at heavyweight but, like Pat Barry, was always at the shorter, stockier end of the division. GLORY has made light-heavyweight a flagship weight class now, and Bouzidi is dropping down to take a run at the top spot.
At age 28, Bouzidi has a ridiculous amount of experience. He has over 100 fights to his name and has faced absolutely everybody you can name and fifty more you've never heard of. There is nothing he hasn't seen. At heavyweight, his recent career has been of distinctly journeyman character, but he is a very capable fighter and is coming off a great performance at GLORY 6. This one will be interesting.
Quarterfinal 2: Dustin Jacoby vs. Brian Collette
Dustin Jacoby came into GLORY via the developmental ‘Road to Glory' series, designed to uncover new talent for the promotion. Entering the R2G show on 48 hours notice, the UFC veteran drove through the night across the US to get to the weigh-ins, then promptly smashed all three opponents inside the distance to win the thing outright.
Despite his MMA background, striking has always been Jacoby's chief love, and he was tremendously excited to make his official GLORY debut in March. He faced Michael Duut, who was taking the fight on late notice himself. Here's where the fairy tale ended for Jacoby, as he was knocked down three times in the first round to lose the fight by TKO.
Europe has traditionally been the home of the best kickboxers, and Holland is the regional powerhouse. The Duut/Jacoby fight highlighted the difference in caliber between US and European fighters. It's the reverse of MMA; the best fighters are to be found outside the US, and it is the Americans who have to struggle uphill to plant the Stars and Stripes.
Jacoby and Collette have clashed before - Collette was one of Jacoby's victims in the Road to Glory tournament. Each fight Jacoby won was an upset, but his stoppages of Randy Blake and Collette were the most remarkable, as they were the two tournament favorites and far more experienced. But anything can happen in a fight.
Since then, both these fighters have trained extensively in the Netherlands, and word is their games have come on considerably. The fact they got drawn against each other in the quarter-finals means at least one US fighter makes it to the semifinals, but either man could be the winner. This one is wide open and should be a pretty epic encounter.
Quarterfinal 3: Filip Verlinden vs. Steve McKinnon
At the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, the USA notoriously formed its basketball team from the top players in the NBA. The Olympics are supposedly an amateur competition but a rule change allowed countries to field professionals and the USA was best-placed to capitalize.
The ‘amateur' IFMA organization is exactly the same. Russian-based, it is supposedly amateur - its aim is to get Muay Thai into the Olympics - but the participants are the Muay Thai equivalent of A-Rod and LeBron James. Many of the Russian fighters are actually state-sponsored and train full time.
Filip Verlinden won the 2012 IFMA championship at heavyweight. He is very, very good. Sparring partners and past opponents both say he is the fastest fighter they have ever faced, and he possesses an intelligent style. His hands are particularly fluid, fitting since his idol is Manny Pacquiao.
He faces the multi-time Muay Thai champion McKinnon. At 38, McKinnon is winding down as a competitor, but he has mileage left in the tank and wants to go out with a bang. His kicking game is good and, as you'd expect from a Thai stylist, he is extremely tough.
On the downside, his punching has the stereotypical Thai stiffness to it and the three-second clinch rule limits that aspect of his game. He tends to be static and throw power shots rather than speed combinations, which Verlinden is very likely to be able to work around and take a win. McKinnon is hard to put away though, and Verlinden is likely going to take some damage in this one.
Quarterfinal 4: Tyrone Spong vs. Michael Duut
Tyrone ‘King of the Ring' Spong started fighting in his teens and has pretty much dominated every weight class he fought, from 77kg to heavyweight. He combines technical proficiency with huge power and a lot of experience for his age.
Spong is peaking athletically right now and has the support of the superteam The Blackzilians, where he trains with Rashad Evans, Alistair Overeem, and others.
Michael Duut comes from the iconic Meijiro Gym in Amsterdam. This gym is a kickboxing mecca. Its founding marked the birth of modern Dutch kickboxing, and an endless procession of greats have been produced by head trainer Andre Manaart, himself a former fighter for the team.
Duut has a ridiculously aggressive style and, at age 22, also has a lot of experience. He is not as technically smooth as some of his stablemates and is happy to take one to give one. A powerful scrapper, Duut has tons of heart and while he is the underdog, he won't take a backwards step. Spong must KO him cleanly and early if he wants to escape injury.
Superfight 1: Daniel Ghita vs. Brice Guidon
This time last year, people didn't even dare to say Ghita's name too loud. Everyone was scared of him thanks to his brutal assassinations of Euro circuit opponents. Ghita's kicking game has always been magnificent, his leg kicks and left leg to the body particularly so. Witness his ten-second liver-kick stoppage of the gigantic Jamal Ben Saddik in the GLORY Grand Slam on New Year's Eve.
Ghita (47-9, 36 KOs) made it to the final of the 16-man NYE tournament only to be stopped by Semmy Schilt. There was some controversy around the stoppage but had the referee allowed the fight to continue, I very much doubt Ghita could have avoided getting completely flatlined. Winning three fights before that is notable in itself, although he did struggle far too much with the young Jhonata Diniz in the opening stage.
Recently, Ghita's camp in the Netherlands - Kamakura Dojo - became the sometime home of expatriate Irish heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury. He and Ghita have trained together a lot and that has perhaps made Ghita start thinking too much of his hands. He paid dearly for that when he elected to play hands with Gokhan Saki at GLORY 6 and got taken out with a 12-hit combination.
As beautiful and aggressive as his kicking game is, Ghita's weakness is a tendency to shell up and go static when the heavy fire starts coming in. Questions have been asked about his chin of late but Semmy Schilt headkicks and Saki left hooks could stop rhinos. There isn't a lot we can learn from those knockouts except underlining why the likes of me and you aren't in there doing it. Far safer on the couch.
Guidon (28-8, 13 KOs) doesn't offer too much in the way of boxing threat - though he recently fought under pro-boxing rules and lost - and he isn't a noted power merchant. What he does have is versatility, speed and a fairly evasive style which can make him hard to hit cleanly. Guidon, a sparring partner of Jerome LeBanner in his native France, is a nice kickboxer and is strong in the same areas as Ghita.
That being the case, Ghita should win this one. If he doesn't, he is going to fall down the heavyweight ranks significantly, and he will exit the contender conversation for the foreseeable future. For Guidon, it's a chance to take a big scalp on a big stage.
Superfight 2: Rico Verhoeven vs. Errol Zimmerman
Rico Verhoeven (39-9, 10 KOs) is just enormous. He is absolutely massive. He downplays comparisons to Alistair Overeem but there is some validity to them. He isn't as overly muscular as the UFC heavyweight but his frame is similar.
However, in my opinion, Verhoeven is the better kickboxer and would give Overeem a bad time if they fought. Unlike most naturally big guys, Verhoeven has a solid technical game - from a young age he was made to train in his father's dojo every night and wasn't allowed to play out - and he has real kickboxing ability. His destruction of Jhonata Diniz at GLORY 7 was a masterpiece of varied lines of attack.
He faces ‘The Bonecrusher' Zimmerman (100-9-1, 41 KOs), who lives up to his nickname with a punishing overhand right which has ended many a fight inside the distance. Zimmerman is one of those natural-attribute fighters, possessed of huge power and a solid chin. Unfortunately, he has a tendency to rely on these to get him through fights and he is notorious for slacking off training because he's so confident in his one-shot power.
Zimmerman has proved frustrating for his coaches in the past. They say the sky would be the limit for him if he could only be brought to fully apply himself. Now aged 27, that window has probably passed but the story from those in the know is that he has been killing himself in the gym this past few months. Local nightclub takings are said to be significantly down.
"I'm a professional athlete, he is a pure party animal," says Verhoeven. That's confident talk considering Verhoeven was stopped by Zimmerman in one minute of their It's Showtime fight in January 2012. Verhoeven says that was an embarrassing fluke and things will be different this time.
We will see on Saturday night. The only thing certain is that this one is very unlikely to go the distance. Someone is surely going to sleep before the 3x3s are up.