Glory 34: Enter 'The Style Bender'
On a weekend where not a lot was happening in the MMA world, Glory returned to put on a top-notch card with enough recognizable names and new talent to keep things interesting. Headlined by the rematch between welterweight champion, Nieky Holzken and his long-time foe, Murthel Groenhart, the event also boasted a four man middleweight contender tournament and a featherweight title fight between Gabriel Varga and Robin van Roosmalen.
One of the stand out performers of the night was the eventual winner of the contender tournament, Israel Adesanya. The New Zealander, nicknamed The Style Bender, showed off some of the most interesting switch hitting seen in the Glory ring for a some time. Moving fluidly between orthodox and southpaw stance, Adesanya was fairly minimalist in the techniques he actually used but his first opponent, Robert Thomas, was a stylistic dream. Thomas repeatedly advanced on Adesanya who would cross face with his left arm and look to skip out to his right side in order to throw his right hand.
An apparently simple technique but one which demands a good deal of nuance—Badr Hari landed a huge number of his best right hands off the cross face as his opponent attempted to tie him up. Floyd Mayweather used the exact same movement to score hard blows on Ricky Hatton and Shane Mosley as they looked for the clinch.
An interesting twist on this orthodox method was Adesanya's use of the same blow, starting in the southpaw stance. Throwing the left straight, cross facing with it and skipping out into an orthodox stance to get off the same right hand from the same angle. Very pretty stuff.
Other interesting quirks of Adesanya's performance were his intercepting knee off of the ropes which scored him a knockdown in the first round.
And his nice lead leg high kick straight from the floor.
Adesanya continued to win his second bout of the night—a considerably closer affair—against Yousri Belgaroui, presumably earning himself a shot at the middleweight title on a future card. While Adesanya has an extensive kickboxing record this was very much his coming out party in the big leagues of kickboxing and his switch hitting was among the most creative you will see on display in a kickboxing ring.
The weirdest moment of the night came in the bout between the ultra-experienced Thai, Thongchai and the overmatched Casey Greene. Greene took a hard shot on the chin along the ropes and did a remarkable dance in trying to keep his balance before falling to the mat.
The referee gave him the count, allowed Greene to stand, and then asked Greene to walk to him. Greene was stumbling all over the place and the referee let the bout continue.
Greene took some more hard shots and fell down but it was ruled a slip. Finally, as the doctor waved at the referee, desperately trying to stop the fight, the already smoked Greene took another unnecessary shot flush on the chin, which starched him. Truly abysmal officiating.
In the featured Fight Pass bout, Robin van Roosmalen made a move down to featherweight and challenged Gabriel Varga for the Glory title. Van Roosmalen's style is as attractive offensively as it is unattractive defensively. The extent of Van Roosmalen's defensive guile is putting on his earmuffs with the big gloves and walking in on his opponent, taking blows until he can open up with his own. Consequently Van Roosmalen's nose was opened early in the first by jabs up the center of his guard.
But Varga is not the disciplined ring general that Giorgio Petrosyan was. Petrosyan would strike and move constantly, cutting angles, smothering the shorter fighter in clinches, and pushing him away on other occasions. Varga didn't do much of any of these and as the rounds progressed the blows began to pile up. Early in the second round Varga was dropped with a quick barrage before he was able to even get out of his own corner, only to spit out a piece of tooth and apologize to the referee that he had forgotten to put his gumshield in. A very Canadian response to receiving fistic dentistry.
An interesting decision made by Varga was to repeatedly attack with the push kick to the face. Straight kicks to the face of a shorter, squared on fighter with his gloves up in the 'earmuffs' style guard are a perfect choice. But Van Roosmalen was seeing them coming. A snap kick might have been far more appropriate. The difference being that a push kick chambers high: the knee comes up and then the kick is driven out. A snap kick is coiled low and released as the swung up from the floor with a hip thrust, giving considerably less of a telegraph.
Van Roosmalen was able to put such a beating on Varga that the champion could not answer the bell for the final round. A great performance for Van Roosmalen, but more importantly a valuable learning experience for Gabriel Varga who hasn't had nearly the amount of experience against top notch competition as Van Roosmalen.
The main event saw Nieky Holzken take another victory over Murthel Groenhart, a considerably more convincing one than their last meeting. Learning from the mistakes of their last bout, Nieky Holzken came out kicking far more often than he usually does. Gone was the pressure fighting and body work in favor of kicking from the center of the ring. Landing dozens of low kicks over the first four rounds, Holzken didn't struggle nearly so much with Groenhart's movement and jab, but began to fade towards the fourth round.
One interesting note was Holzken's repeated dropping to the mat when Groenhart caught him on one leg. While some referees are extremely strict on leg catches in Glory, others seem lenient on catching a kick and returning with punches. Holzken, when caught out of position, repeatedly fell to the mat in a tactic recalling the 'dropping' of Daniel Mendoza's day. Going to the mat in a moment of disadvantage to avoid a particularly dangerous moment or gain a moment to recover. Though Holzken's right ankle was also taped up (in his trademark highlighter pen yellow), it is quite conceivable that Holzken was struggling with stability on it. Certainly training for such a kick heavy gameplan could have seen Holzken injure himself and then continue to aggravate it by kicking with that foot.
There wasn't a whole lot of action of real note in the bout, but Groenhart—always a fan of jumping techniques and running flurries—did manage to fly over the top rope at one point.
Certainly, Groenhart remains a fascinating stylistic foil to Holzken. Largely immune to Holzken's pressure, rangey enough to trouble him with the jab, disciplined enough to stay off the ropes, and with the cardio to stay into the fifth round. Groenhart might have dropped two to Holzken in Glory lately, but it might be unwise to write him off as a threat to that belt just yet.
A decent card of fights from the world's premier kickboxing organization. Now if we could just convince them to adopt five minute rounds instead of the unnecessarily brisk three minute rounds, there would be longer fights, more knockouts, and Glory could rake in the money hand over fist.
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