Saturday April 12, Bloody Elbow presents fight coverage of Glory 15 Istanbul. Glory 15 airs on Spike TV, Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. ET, and can be seen in a live stream outside of the US during the day Saturday, right here. Here, we break down the Glory 15 card in our fight by fight preview.
DANYO ILUNGA (54-5) VS. ANDREI STOICA (32-5)
This Light Heavyweight fight could very easily be in the Glory 15 title tournament. Glory's own rankings have Ilunga at #3 in the division, and Stoica at #5, which tells you that this is a seriously close, exciting fight.
The big story here is the debut of Stoica. At 26 years old, this Romanian fighter has made quite a name for himself in recent years. He's been fighting primarily in the Eastern European area, largely in Romania for the SuperKombat organization, which is one of the world's best companies and regions for kickboxing. His dynamic, KO-heavy style has earned him quite a following and reputation - this is his chance to prove that he is legit.
But he's drawn an extremely tough opponent for his first time in Glory. A Remy Bonjasky trainee, Ilunga has world class experience. He's a former It's Showtime world champion, and is 5-1 in Glory. That one loss came against Tyrone Spong last year in a tournament final in New York (prior to the Spike deal), and was a highly questionable early stoppage. Prior to losing to Spong, Ilunga had been undefeated since 2010 with wins over some serious talents.
From this fight, you can expect to see the flashy power of Stoica against the technical work of Ilunga. Stoica will likely look to end this early, throwing maximum power into every shot he fires off. Stoica likes to wait on the outside, then strike with a heavy shot and move inside for the barrage if the opening is there. More often than not, that inside barrage results in a knockdown. If he gets inside and gets Ilunga hurt, he will go all in for the finish, and chances are good that he will get it.
For his part, Ilunga will try to stay at range and pick Stoica apart from the outside using his excellent kicks. Ilunga is a master at outpointing and frustrating his opponents, but also at finding the opening to land that one clean shot that ends things quickly. Unlike Stoica, Ilunga's KO's come not from power and volume, but from precision and perfection. For Ilunga, a points victory is the easier pick, with him controlling the pace and distance and using sheer volume of strikes to outwork Stoica.
Ilunga is the easy pick here - he has the edge in experience, he's from the stronger camp, and he has the overall better technique. What is a concern is his recent tendency to let his opponents get ahead in fights. Ilunga has shown this in a few of his more recent outings, as opponents have been able to get him off his game before Ilunga fires back (this is what happened in the loss to Spong, however the referee stopped things before Ilunga could indeed come back). In particular, Ilunga has found himself outgunned when opponents have focused on their hands. Duut caught him with a number of punches in his last fight before Ilunga stopped him. Stoica is a powerful boxer, and if he focuses on the hands and lands as many shots as Duut did, he will put Ilunga on the mat.
I've been going back and forth on this one for awhile, and while Ilunga is the smart pick, here I think his tendency to get outboxed does him in. Look for Ilunga to win the battle on the outside, but eventually Stoica will get in there and land the heavy bombs to put Ilunga down and out in an upset.
Prediction: Andrei Stoica by KO