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.
MIRKO CRO COP VS. REMY BONJASKY
This battle of kickboxing legends would deserve the main event slot no matter where the show took place, but the fact that it is in Mirko's proud home of Croatia makes it a particularly deserving main event. Both Cro Cop and Bonjasky are highly decorated fighters who earn spots on the list of all-time greats. (For what it's worth, I would have Bonjasky at roughly #6 on the all-time Heavyweight list thanks to his 2 K-1 GP wins; Cro Cop at roughly #10-11.) Both are also in a late career return to the sport.
Bonjasky unofficially retired after the 2009 K-1 GP, then returned to the ring three years later. He's 2-3 since that return, having fought exclusively in Glory. At the Glory 14 press conference this week, Bonjasky confirmed what many had suspected - this will be his final fight as a kickboxer. The eye injury that forced his 2009 retirement (and has threatened to leave him permanently blind) has not been remedied, and the Flying Gentleman will be walking away from the sport for good this weekend.
I discussed Cro Cop's career in kickboxing in length earlier this week, but the short version is that Mirko Cro Cop made his own return to kickboxing in 2012 after a nine year absence to focus on MMA. He's 6-0 since that return, including a victory in the 2012 K-1 GP. Cro Cop is now an astounding 18 year veteran of the sport; it's hard to envision him going strong for too much longer, but kickboxing is a sport that is much more forgiving for older fighters than MMA.
One other fun side note about Cro Cop - if you are a fan of lineal titles (and I am), Cro Cop won the lineal kickboxing Heavyweight title from Mark Hunt in 2002. Setting aside his 9 year absence, he has not lost since, meaning the winner here will hold the lineal belt. These two did fight once before, with Cro Cop winning via KO, but that was before Bonjasky was truly in his prime.
Because each man is on a sort of second career in kickboxing, it's not much help to analyze the fighters they once were. In his prime, Cro Cop was a devastating KO striker, whose head kick is the stuff of legend. Meanwhile, Bonjasky once had arguably the best defense the sport has ever seen, and masterfully combined that with an aerial offense. But for both men, those days have passed, and we need to look at who they are as fighters today.
For Bonjasky, age has been a real factor in his return. A fighter who relied so much on technique, timing, and explosiveness, Bonjasky has not been able to adapt his style to the limitations of his slightly older body. In his return, we have seldom seen that air-tight defensive shell and rarely seen the Flying Gentleman fly. Instead, he's been a technically solid, but not spectacular, fighter.
Ironically, he showed signs of being the Bonjasky of old in his last fight - a December rematch with Anderson Braddock Silva. There, Bonjasky looked the best he has since his comeback, and yet Silva took home the highly debatable decision.
Cro Cop also has changed quite a bit, leaving behind that massive power he once possessed. It's notable that he only has 1 KO in his 6 fight return. But unlike Bonjasky, Cro Cop has replaced those skills with a new skill set. He's slower and more methodical, but he has veteran smarts and makes that work to his advantage. The 2014 Cro Cop knows how to pick and land his shots, and how to force opponents into his pace of a fight (boxing fans, think Bernard Hopkins but without the constant cheating).
Head to head, this is a very tough fight to call. The opponent that gave Mirko the most trouble in his return was Randy Blake, a younger, more technical fighter who kept the pace high. Bonjasky showed those skills in his last fight, and if he shows up at that same level here, he could use movement to make things tough for Cro Cop. But in the end, I like how Cro Cop has looked all week. He's bringing an intensity to this fight that we have not always seen from him in recent years. Look for Cro Cop to land the heavier shots and constantly wear down Bonjasky to end the Dutch great's career.
Prediction: Mirko Cro Cop by decision
Join us Saturday night for coverage of the Spike TV broadcast of Glory 14 right here.