KSW’s international experience continued as the promotion landed in Croatia for the first time and a packed crowd inside Arena Zagreb witnessed a great evening of action. When KSW have moved into different territories before, the Polish fighters were still the audience’s favourites. That was totally different in Croatia as the Balkan fans really did support their own and showed no love towards the likes of Mariusz Pudzianowski and Borys Mankowski.
The colossal-sized main event between five time World’s Strongest Man, Marius Pudzianowski, and social media star turned mixed martial artist, Erko Jun, didn’t disappoint. It was a story of each man’s strength being the other’s weakness but Pudzianowski was the one who managed to dictate where the fight took place. Jun had some success on the feet in the opening stages, even knocking out Pudzian’s mouthpiece at one point, but Pudzianowski landed a trip and got straight into mount. Pudzianowski managed to lace his ankles and hit Jun with some elbows who managed to survive until the horn sounded.
To open the second round, Pudzian secured another takedown but Jun managed to reverse straight into mount. He landed some solid shots but grabbed the cage to help himself stay in top position so the referee restarted the pair on the feet. From there, Jun continued to have more success on the feet and it looked to only be a matter of time before he landed the shot which took Pudzianowski out of there. However, Pudzian drove through Jun and landed a huge takedown before moving to mount once again. He rained down a number of punches and Jun didn’t intelligently defend himself so the referee ended the fight. It was another big win for Pudzianowski who will find himself in another main event soon whereas Jun will chalk this up as a learning experience and look to rebound next year.
In the co-main event, Borys Mankowski picked up a much needed victory to break his losing streak as he submitted Vaso Bakocevic in the first round. Both men are on their way down to the lightweight division so met at a catchweight of 161lbs. The former welterweight champion looked to initiate grappling exchanges early but Bakocevic popped right back up once he was taken down. Mankowski clinched up again shortly after and at first looked to be working for a guillotine choke but then switched to an anaconda choke which got the tap. He will aim for this result to be a turning point so he can start trying to put a winning run together again.
The very first KSW bantamweight champion was crowned as Antun Racic overcame UFC veteran, Damian Stasiak in a majority decision. The UFD Gym member had an early scare in the first round when Stasiak took his back with four minutes left. Racic managed to shrug him off and get back to his feet. Things slowly went downhill for Stasiak after that point as Racic was successful in throwing looping punches to crowd his opponent against the fence before shooting for the takedown. When on top of Stasiak, Racic was able to stay close to the Pole so there wasn’t any space to throw up the legs or to grab any limbs. The majority decision was a bit of a surprise after Stasiak got deducted a point for landing an illegal knee but the scorecards went the correct way. Racic still hasn’t been defeated in KSW and just eliminated the number one Polish bantamweight so it will be interesting to see what the promotion do to try and challenge him next.
The evening featured a middleweight clash which had potential title implications between Aleksandar ‘The Joker’ Ilic and Cezary Kesik. The pair were riding a wave of momentum going into the show as Ilic had a viral KO of Damian Janikowski in his last bout while Kesik was undefeated with a 90% finishing ratio in his nine career contests. Both men fired kicks at each other early before Kesik got the takedown. He was unable to advance position or get off much damage but he controlled ‘The Joker’ for the remainder of the round.
Early in the second frame, Ilic appeared to hurt his opponent with a kick to the body but Kesik was successful with a takedown only moments later. Many of the deficiencies Ilic showed against Janikowski could still be seen as he struggled to get out from the bottom and couldn’t force any kind of opening to work for separation. Kesik proceeded to land some heavy elbows from the top which exposed Ilic’s back shortly thereafter. The Pole sunk in the rear-naked choke which extended his record to 10-0 and consequently put him in the conversation for a shot at the belt.
Elsewhere on the card, Ivan Erslan made a great first impression in his KSW debut as he defeated Spain’s Darwin Rodriguez with a series of punches on the ground during the first round. Also, in his move up to lightweight, Roman Szymanski displayed outstanding striking and cruised to a unanimous decision against Milos Janicic. Daniel Torres defeated Croatian favourite, Filip Pejic, in a fast-paced bout which mostly took place on the feet and Ante Delija made the KSW heavyweight division stand up and take notice when he stopped Oli Thompson in a one-sided beatdown.
Full KSW 51 results:
Mariusz Pudzianowski defeated Erko Jun by TKO (punches) at 1:42 of round two.
Borys Mańkowski defeated Vaso Bakočević by submission (anaconda choke) at 1:42 of round one.
Antun Račić defeated Damian Stasiak by majority decision to become the first-ever KSW bantamweight champion (47-47, 48-47, 48-46).
Daniel Torres defeated Filip Pejic by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28).
Ante Delija defeated Oli Thompson by TKO (punches) at 1:50 of round two.
Cezary Kęsik defeated Aleksandar Ilic by submission (rear-naked choke) at 4:25 of round two.
Ivan Erslan defeated Darwin Rodriguez by TKO (punches) at 1:30 of round one.
Roman Szymański defeated Miloš Janičić by unanimous decision (29-27, 29-27, 29-27).
Krystian Kaszubowski defeated Ivica Truscek by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29).
Sebastian Przybysz defeated Lemmy Krušič by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-26).