GLORY middleweights weigh in at 187lbs and that number is starting to look highly appropriate as the top four fighters in the division are all real killers.
The Artem Levin vs. Joe Schilling III match was discussed recently by a Bloody Elbow/Liverkick panel. We're expecting a definitive clash between the two at GLORY 24 DENVER in October, notwithstanding the fight taking place at altitude.
Schilling beat Levin in a close fight to win the GLORY 10 LOS ANGELES middleweight tournament. He then had the favor returned in one-sided fashion in the final of the LAST MAN STANDING eight-man tournament at GLORY 17 LOS ANGELES, although to be fair had an absolute war with Simon Marcus in the quarter-finals and that pretty much burned him out.
Marcus has been the world's #1 middleweight under Muay Thai rules for some time but relies heavily on his clinch. Moving into kickboxing took the clinch away from him and required him to change his style. After the loss to Schilling he came back at GLORY 20 DUBAI to beat Wayne Barrett and Jason Wilnis, winning the Middleweight Contender Tournament and earning a title shot.
That shot was taken at GLORY 21 SAN DIEGO - a very quick turnaround for Marcus - and it was an extremely close fight. Marcus pushed the action and was frustrated by Levin spoiling maneuvers. Levin's tactic is often to score points, then end the exchange by clinching until the referee orders the two fighters to break. This shuts his opponent's counter-attack down.
The fight went five rounds and was scored a draw. Levin was deducted a point in the middle of the fight for excessive clinching and was lucky not to be docked a second time. Had that happened the fight would have been a win for Marcus and he would now be champion.
As it was, the draw meant Levin kept the belt. Marcus was furious. "This is BULLSHIT!" was the entire extent of his post-fight speech before he stormed out of the ring. He refused to attend the post-fight press conference or speak to media.
The dynamic between Levin, Schilling and Marcus is interesting. They have very different styles of fighting yet things feel finely balanced, as if any one of them can beat the other two on any given day. Levin's defensive mastery and ability to dictate how a fight plays out makes him the slight favorite, but Marcus' ferocity and Schilling's power can shatter Levin's plans and put him on the back foot.
Jason Wilnis sits just below these three in the rankings. Sometimes it feels as if he is overshadowed by the three bigger names, but his recent performances indicate that he is emerging as a force to be reckoned with. He beat Alex Pereira in the semi-finals of the GLORY 20 tournament and gave Marcus a hard fight in the final. Prior to the tournament, he did a demolition job on Wayne Barrett at GLORY 18 OKLAHOMA.
- Pereira, Wilnis, Marcus and Barrett lined up for the GLORY 20 DUBAI Middleweight Contender Tournament
Wilnis lost to Levin in the GLORY 10 tournament semi-finals in a fight which he never really got into. It looked like he was outclassed but his team have talked about psychological elements being at play and say that Wilnis went into that match fighting the myth rather than the man himself, destroying his confidence.
That issue seems to have been fixed, going by his latest performances, and he is certainly "in the mix" as a future contender. Rematches with Levin and Marcus are no doubt in the pipeline but the fight of most interest in terms of the contender picture is a clash with Schilling, who has not yet faced. Their forward-pressure styles would make for an explosive encounter which would surely end inside the distance.
Wayne Barrett's GLORY run started strongly but has hit bumps of late. He is currently riding a three-fight losing streak - though he did carry a bad injury into the GLORY 18 fight with Wilnis - and needs to rediscover his form and confidence.
An interesting fight for Barrett next might be Ariel Sepulveda, who debuted in the GLORY 23 Middleweight Qualification Tournament and was stopped by Dustin Jacoby.
Both are from New York - Barrett from Queens and Sepulveda from the Bronx - and both are coming off losses. It would be a balanced piece of matchmaking which would also allow the winner to take ‘King of New York' bragging rights.
- The was an All-American line-up for the GLORY 23 LAS VEGAS Middleweight Qualification Tournament
Dustin Jacoby is another fighter who had a strong start before hitting some bumps. He stopped three opponents in one night at a tournament to earn a GLORY contract, then was promptly thrown in at the deep end with highly experienced European opponents who made mincemeat of him.
Coming from MMA - the quarter-final of that one-night tournament was his first-ever kickboxing fight - UFC veteran Jacoby has been on about as steep a learning curve as it is possible to go on in this sport. His willingness to fight anyone at any time also contributed to his facing a murderer's row of opposition, to the detriment of his record.
At GLORY 23 he stopped Sepulveda and then Casey Greene to win the competition and get back in the W column. Fights and wins against mid-table opposition are exactly what Jacoby needs right now. His kickboxing technicality improves from fight to fight and his do-or-die style makes him a crowd-pleaser.
Jacoby has stepped up repeatedly for GLORY in the past and it is fair that they give him more evenly-matched fights. He is still in the process of finding his level; his continual improvement and his raw stopping power mean that there is no reason we won't see him back in there with some of the top names next year.
Casey Greene also impressed in his GLORY 23 outing and is another fighter who looks to be on the right track in terms of progressing himself. An interesting match for him might be Canada's Robert Thomas, another promising young fighter who has suffered the perils of the deep end. His debut GLORY bout was against Artem Levin (!) and his most recent was Schilling. He lost both but took a win over Mike Lemaire in between.
If not Greene, then Thomas could also be matched with GLORY 23 tournament losers Sepulveda or Quinton O'Brien. Or if GLORY has any middleweight debutants waiting in the wings, Thomas deserves one. He has surely earned the right to be the favorite for once.
Aside from all the above names we are still waiting on the return of Melvin Manhoef, Alex Pereira, Sahak Parparyan and Bogdan Stoica to the mix. Filip Verlinden was in a strong position to enter contendership at one point but has suffered back-to-back losses recently and is another fighter who needs to find his form again. He has previously called out Schilling and still wants that fight, but might need to secure another win first before he can get a contender-level bout.