It's been tumultuous in the kickboxing world of late, with titles changing hands and new contenders emerging. The recent GLORY event in Amsterdam saw the lightweight championship relocate to Thailand with Sittichai and the interim light-heavyweight championship head to South Africa with Zack Mwekassa. Hard fights await both - Sittichai wants Petrosyan and Mwekassa will face Artem Vakhitov when he returns from injury layoff. Here to make sense of it all is our regular panel of top kickboxing journalists.
JJ: Sittichai Sitsongpeenong captured the GLORY lightweight title in Amsterdam last month, outpointing defending champion Robin van Roosmalen in the main event. It was their second fight and, like the first, it ended in controversy. At GLORY 25 MILAN last year Roosmalen retained the belt by way of a controversial decision which attracted much discussion. This time the discussion attaches to Sittichai's win; their Amsterdam fight is widely felt to be much closer than their Milan fight was.
Michael Stets, MMA Mania: It was another close one. Like their first encounter, I'm of the opinion Sittichai landed the more significant strikes throughout each round of the entire fight. Rubber match? I don't know if you can have them go another time. Plus I hear Roosmalen is heading to MMA full time now. That's what Henri Hooft told me when I spoke to him in St. Louis. I am down for Petrosyan vs. Sittichai though. That would be a killer match-up.
Rob Tatum, Combat Press: I think it was the right result, even if it was closer than the first fight. After the initial result, I was definitely concerned Sittichai would get screwed by the judges again, especially in Roosmalen's backyard. As Stets mentioned, all signs point to Roosmalen heading for MMA, where he has already competed as a featherweight. But if decides to keep fighting for GLORY, I wouldn't be opposed to Sittichai vs. Petrosyan and seeing Roosmalen drop down to challenge Adamchuk.
Dave Walsh, Liverkick: I'm not sure that there really is a right or wrong here. Sitthichai and Robin fighting is starting to remind me of Artem Levin and Simon Marcus fighting; they sort of do the same thing every time, it's really close and nobody really wins the fight. From a scoring perspective you can absolutely come to a conclusion as to who won (if you are a judge you have to, which is the worst. I'm glad I don't have to do that), but did they really win the fight? I don't know. I thought that from a standard fight-scoring metric that Sitthichai won the first fight. But Robin threw more punches and cut the ring off more, so there was that, I guess.
In this fight I had Sitthichai rounds 1 and 2, Robin rounds 4 and 5 and probably Sitthichai in round 3, but I don't know. Once again the live stats were showing an entirely different fight than what we were all watching, to the point where I've seen many suggest that this live stat-counting should be thrown out and not used as a metric to entice live viewers with. I don't disagree. It's times like this that I miss old K-1 and the fact that judges were told if it was close at all take it to an extra round. People would groan at K-1's extra rounds happening constantly, but now I yearn for them. What does that say?
The rumors going around are that Robin's contract is done and that he wants to pursue MMA full-time. The UFC has more or less told him to get four more fights under his belt and that there would be interest. Or so the story from his camp goes. Apparently he told people at GLORY this and there is now a conspiracy (there always is) about the decision of the fight. But then he contradicts that theory by posting a photo of Pierre [Andurand, GLORY Chairman] and [Jon] Franklin [CEO] looking amazed by the announced result. I think it twas a genuine surprise to everyone because it was in Holland, where Robin is from, with a sympathetic Robin crowd and that usually weighs heavily on these fights.
No rubber match please. I think that Robin is done with GLORY and that's whatever, it's not a huge loss for either side. Robin was always an x-factor in the division and if he can make more money elsewhere he should. If GLORY can lock down Petrosyan he needs to be back in this mix. Otherwise they have an entirely new division blossoming here and a lot of talented guys ready to challenge the new champion with some solid histories there: Sitthichai and Marat, Sitthichai and Jauncey after a few more wins, and so on.
JJ: Murthel Groenhart won the Welterweight Contender Tournament to secure a rematch with Nieky Holzken. Their last fight was close and some felt the decision should have gone Groenhart's way. What are you expecting for this one?
Stets: I thought Groenhart had won at G26, and it seems Holzken has declined slightly in his last few bouts. He's still winning, but Groenhart and Kongolo pushed him, so did Raymond Daniels. He's due to drop a fight at some point soon. Maybe it happens in the rematch with Groenhart.
Rob: Groenhart is one of the most talented yet confusing fighters to watch. One fight he pushes Holzken to the limit, then is sluggish against Cedric Doumbe in his next outing. He looked solid in both fights in Amsterdam, so if he shows up motivated and hungry, there's a decent chance he can take the belt from Holzken.
Dave: I don't know. Murthel is inconsistent, as we've seen, and while he earned his shot here, will we see that same Murthel we saw the first time against Nieky? He did everything right and the judges didn't give him his due, so he'll have to fight more aggressively and make mistakes, which helps Nieky out. Nieky is mortal but I'm not sure that it's his time yet.
JJ: Badr Hari was ringside at GLORY 31 in Amsterdam and there are strong rumors that a deal is near-done for a fight with heavyweight champion Rico Verhoeven towards the end of this year. Is that going to be a competitive fight in your eyes or do you see a clear winner?
Stets: I think Rico owns him, but I supposed you can't rule out a motivated Hari with several months to get in serious shape and fully prepare and game plan for the champion. I say more than likely it's Verhoeven by unanimous decision.
Rob: At this point, Hari might be the last big name left for Verhoeven. With his power, there's always the chance he scores the upset, but due to his relative inactivity, I'm inclined to agree with Stets that Verhoeven is going to simply outwork him for 25 minutes with a more technical game plan.
Dave: This whole thing is such a mess. Badr has to serve the remainder of his jail time before the year is up, but he wants to fight this year. There's a small window for a fight to actually happen and it probably won't be for the title anyway. Hard pass on this. Badr's star power is waning everywhere but perhaps the Netherlands right now. Two years ago a post about Badr Hari would pump LiverKick's traffic up for a month, now it's just a pop for a day, sometimes not even as much as a fight announcement from somewhere else.
Badr's last fight was against Londt and Londt caught him. I don't see sloppy Londt catching Rico, so if you do an opponent comparison I just don't see Badr/Rico being a great fight. Who knows, Badr has raw power and can do some damage. This fight is just awful with the timing and interest level.
JJ: Anything else which is catching your attention at the moment?
Stets: Zack Mwekassa mauling Mourad Bouzidi like he was standing still waiting to be sacrificed to the kickboxing gods. Think Mwekassa can get it down against Artem Vakhitov and unify the titles? I'm interested to see that one.
Rob: Mwekassa's performance in Amsterdam was one of the most impressive of the night. He was on a mission and wasn't going to let Bouzidi get comfortable. If he can get inside against Vakhitov and avoid getting picked apart at range, I can certainly see him standing on top of the division.
Dave: Good for Mwekassa, really. I'm not sure how the Vakhitov fight goes, but Mwekassa is the most money guy out there right now if he could just get consistent training and be more comfortable with his kicks. He's perhaps the best guy to be a champion for any organization just because he's so perfect to cart around to the media.
Can we talk about Jauncey/Moiseev? This was one of those fights that really got me super pumped up about kickboxing again. I'm not saying that kickboxing is in a dark place or anything, but on these big shows we should be seeing more fights like this between two sublimely-skilled competitors. You see this stuff on the K-1 Japan and Kunlun shows, but not in Bellator or GLORY. There's too much in the way of politics, "showcase fights" and whatever else. Cor is good at tossing prospects to the lions in one fight and then giving them a complete gimme the next because they are in a favorable market or whatever.
This wasn't a great matchup for Jauncey to accept considering where he's at right now, developmentally, and where he's at with his record. Jauncey still has an incredible career in front of him and tossing him to the wolves isn't going to help him move forward, it's going to make him damaged goods if it keeps happening. Seriously. Sitthichai, Petrosyan and now Moiseev: he's fought the champion, the GOAT and a future champion and lost to them. I get that he's a tough guy to book fights for because he's either crushing guys beneath his level or just narrowly outmatched against the top of the division, but surely there are other fights to make to help him get more ring time and prepare?
But yeah, as for the actual fight, my god was it beautiful. That is what two highly-skilled fighters in a chess match looks like. Everyone likes to sell kickboxing as "rock 'em sock 'em robots on crack" and "the best parts of MMA" or whatever, but they miss the point of what good kickboxing actually is. Jauncey/Moiseev was good kickboxing, more so than we see on most cards these days. These are the types of fights that the roster is actually there to create and instead we get guys like Marat Grigorian crushing Djime because.... I don't know?
Oh yeah, fire referee Stefano Valenti.
Rob: Stefano Valenti! Is there a more cringe worthy referee in combat sports? With the exception of the main event, he made himself a factor in every fight he officiated at GLORY 31. It's like he think the fight is about him, not the fighters. That double point deduction in the Ismael Londt-Hesdy Gerges fight is one of the most meaningless things I've ever seen. My blood boils whenever I see him step into the ring.
We spent plenty of time discussing Al Wichgers after Levin-Marcus III, but when is enough, enough for Valenti?