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.
The main attraction at this event is the Light Heavyweight tournament, with the winner claiming the inaugural Glory Light Heavyweight world title. This is a stacked tournament, so let's take a look at the two semi-finals, plus what you can expect in the finals.
Semi-Final: GOKHAN SAKI (79-16) VS. NATHAN CORBETT (57-4)
Saki will be the big star of the night as he will be fighting in front of a highly partisan crowd. A ferocious pitbull of a fighter, Saki is deadly with his power. He's only lost twice in Glory, to Semmy Schilt and Rico Verhoeven, and he holds wins over an incredible array of talent. The last time Saki fought in Istanbul, he knocked out Daniel Ghita in one of the most spectacular fight ending combos you are going to see - now he looks to again end the night with his hand raised. One important note about Saki here is that he is dropping down to Light Heavyweight. In the past, he's been an undersized Heavyweight; it will be interesting to see how the switch impacts him.
Nathan Corbett faced off with Tyrone Spong in Chicago last year, losing via 2nd round stoppage. Corbett is from the underrated Australian scene, where he fights primarily under full Muay Thai rules - fights under kickboxing rules are quite rare for Corbett. That Spong loss snapped a near 7 year undefeated streak, though again, all but a handful of those were Muay Thai fights, not kickboxing.
As great as Corbett is in Muay Thai (and make no mistake, he's very good), he has never quite reached his full potential in kickboxing, as his pair of fights with Spong show. A 2009 Spong vs. Corbett Muay Thai fight ended with Spong KO'd; last year's kickboxing fight ended just the opposite. Corbett is a master of elbows - a strike that suits him well in Muay Thai, but is illegal under Glory rules.
When you factor in the ruleset and the crowd, this is clearly Saki's fight to lose. I would expect to see a fired up Saki go for the kill early to get the crowd into it, and as good as Corbett can be, I don't think he'll be able to hold off a charging Saki. Unless the cut to Light Heavyweight was brutal, Saki has this one.
Prediction: Gokhan Saki by KO
Semi-Final: TYRONE SPONG (90-5) VS. SAULO CAVALARI (28-2)
If Saki is the #1 draw here for the local crowd, Spong is the one man who perhaps stands above him for the international market. The dynamic Spong has made a serious name for himself in recent years thanks to his work in kickboxing and MMA. He's a perfect 5-0 in Glory, including a win in last year's LHW tournament. He's currently on a 9 fight winning streak that dates back to a 2010 loss to Alistair Overeem. If you wanted to make a case that Tyrone Spong was the #1 pound for pound kickboxer on the planet right now, you certainly have plenty to back your point.
As his record indicates, opponent Saulo Cavalari is the far less experienced underdog here, a man who you could see as a stepping stone to the finals. But that would be a mistake. A native of the famed Curitiba, Brazil, Cavalari has scored some good wins over the likes of Jhonata Diniz and Filip Verlinden. But the moment that really turned heads on this fighter was his Glory 12 win over Mourad Bouzidi. In that fight, Cavalari landed a brutal lights out KO shot on Bouzidi. Bouzidi is a tough fighter who has been in there with the world's best and Cavalri cut through him with ease, instantly making his mark on the kickboxing stage.
All that said, stopping Mourad Bouzidi is still a far cry from stopping Tyrone Spong, and Cavalari has his work cut out for him here. He will need to fight the fight of his life to win this. The obvious choice here is to see Spong use range and his variety of attacks to beat up Cavalari, slowly increasing the pressure until Cavalari's body can no longer keep up. And in all honesty, that's probably what will happen. But the path to a Cavalari victory is there. If you look at Spong's recent wins, you see dominating KOs. But you also see a fighter who can get hit. Michael Duut dropped Spong at Glory 9 - if Cavalari can land a shot, he has the power to make it count and perhaps end the fight.
In the end, I don't think it will happen, but if I was going to pick a dark horse spoiler here, it would be Cavalari.
Prediction: Tyrone Spong by decision
Based on my semi-finals, I have this as Tyrone Spong vs. Gokhan Saki. That's the easy pick, and one most are expecting, but of course, most were expecting Daniel Ghita vs. Gokhan Saki in Chicago, and Rico Verhoeven put an end to that. Still, this seems like where we are headed. If we do get Saki vs. Spong, it has the potential to be yet another fight of the year candidate from Glory, as it's hard to envision these two not having an incredible fight.
Saki vs. Spong would be a rematch from 2009. At that time, Spong was new to the Heavyweight division, while Saki was at the absolute height of his skills. The two men had a very close fight, with Saki taking the win via KO in an extension round. Five years later, both men have been through much and changed as fighters, so don't count on things being exactly the same this time out.
It's incredibly hard to predict how this fight will go, which is what makes it so good. Both men are technically proficient fighters who know how to do everything right. Both can KO opponents with single shots or nasty combinations. Both have strong defense, both have powerful offense, both have good movement... this is a toss up.
In the end, you have to go with the intangibles, and for me, Saki has just a little more power, a little more viciousness. Look for him to open up, land the heavier blows, and finally put Spong down in a great fight.
Prediction: Gokhan Saki by decision