This Saturday, Glory presents kickboxing action at Glory 14 Zagreb. Glory 14 airs on Spike TV at 9:00 p.m. ET, and Bloody Elbow will have Glory fight coverage all week. Here, enjoy our fight by fight preview of Glory 14.
ANDY RISTIE VS. DAVIT KIRIA (Lightweight World Title)
A big talking point for Glory this year will be their introduction of traditional titles. Kickboxing has long been averse to titles, but as Glory looks to expand the market (particularly in the US) they have wisely decided to embrace having a traditional champion in each division. By the end of 2014, Glory will have champions defending the belts consistently. That begins with Glory 14 and Ristie vs. Kiria.
In kickboxing, the Lightweight division is at an interesting crossroads. Much like Anderson Silva and Georges St. Pierre in the UFC, Giorgio Petrosyan has held the division on lockdown for years now. That changed in 2013 when Ristie knocked Petrosyan out at Glory 12 New York, opening the floodgates for new fights at the top of the division. What's particularly intriguing is the question of how long Ristie will keep that #1 spot. Petrosyan was a rare talent, and it's hard to envision Ristie having the same run of dominance, but if he keeps fighting like he did in New York, he will be very hard to beat indeed.
Ristie has an overall record of 41-3-1, and is undefeated in Glory, going 6-0. An explosive fighter, Ristie is known for his aggressive game and his willingness to use unconventional attacks - his knees are a particularly devastating weapon that he has used for a number of highlight reel KOs. Ristie has been a featured player in the European scene for some time, but it's been recent that he has fully developed his game into the #1 fighter we see today. As an example of that growth, it was just over a year ago that he last lost, dropping a decision to Andy Souwer. Were they to rematch today, Ristie would have to be the favorite. For a much more in-depth analysis of Ristie's style, and particularly how he toppled Petrosyan, check out this Judo Chop from Connor and myself.
Opponent Davit Kiria was the 4th man in the New York tournament, and the only tournament fighter Ristie did not defeat that night, as he was eliminated in the semifinals by Robin van Roosmalen. A Golden Glory training partner of Heavyweight great Semmy Schilt, Kiria is 21-9 overall, 4-3 in Glory. He's a relatively new addition to the highest levels of the division, breaking onto the scene in a big way at Glory 1 when he upset Muay Thai great Khem Sitsongpeenong. Since then, Kiria has only faced high level competition, which accounts for his less consistent winning record. When you consider that those losses come against men like Roosmalen, Petrosyan, and Nieky Holzken, the record is not bad at all.
Stylistically, Kiria is a go forward fighter who likes to push the action with his punches. Given the chance, he will walk an opponent down with his hands, throwing constant heavy punches and giving an opponent no room to breath. That constant pressure is a big plus, but it can also be a negative in two ways. First, he keeps that same level of pressure up even if an opponent is hurt, rarely swarming and going for the KO. Second, he can tire and fade as the fight goes on due to the heavy pace early in the fight.
For Ristie, the key to beating Kiria here is to disrupt his rhythm. If he lets Kiria set the pace and be the offensive fighter, Kiria will walk him down. But if Ristie responds with his own aggression, forcing Kiria into a more back-and-forth fight, I like Ristie's overall game more. I expect to see Kiria have some early success, but Ristie to begin coming back in the 2nd round. Kiria is an incredibly durable fighter, so while Ristie is a KO machine, I see this one going to the final bell in an excellent fight.
Prediction: Andy Ristie by decision