This Friday, February 6, Glory kicks off 2015 with Glory 19. This show features a stacked line-up including a huge Heavyweight title fight, and is live from Virginia. Glory 19 airs live on Spike TV this Friday, February 6 with a fight time of 9:00 p.m. ET. Bloody Elbow will have live fight night coverage, and to get ready for the show, we have you covered with our fight by fight previews.
We kick things off with a look at the traditional Glory four man tournament. Glory 19 features a one night, four man Welterweight tournament, with the winner earning a shot at the Glory Welterweight title and champion Joseph Valtellini.
WELTERWEIGHT TOURNAMENT SEMIFINAL: #1 Nieky Holzken (85-11 Overall; 6-0 Glory) vs. #4 Alexander Stetcurenko (51-10 Overall; 1-1 Glory)
In this field of four, one name stands out significantly from the rest: Nieky Holzken. The clear cut tournament favorite, Holzken is one of the sport’s top pound for pound fighters, and his inclusion here comes at the end of a rocky year-long absence. After winning the Glory 13 tournament to close out 2013 (defeating Valtellini in the finals in kickboxing’s fight of the year for 2013), Holzken has been dealing with injuries that have forced him to the sidelines. His comeback has been announced a few times, only to then be delayed. He came back to the ring in December, winning an easy rebound fight outside of Glory by KO in less than a minute. Now he’s back to remind everyone that he is the sport’s best Welterweight.
A 12 year veteran, Holzken has fought many of the sport’s greats. He competed at 70kg for some time, but once the 77kg division opened up, Holzken found his home, and has been on a hot streak ever since, with only one loss in his current Welterweight run. He has great combinations, fast hand speed, and an impressive aggressive streak. His body shots to the liver are deadly, and have dropped many opponents. In short, he’s a wrecking machine.
Opponent Alexander Stetcurenko doesn’t have the same strength of name as Holzken, but he does bring his own seriously impressive list of credentials. The Russian fighter has been competing for 10 years, and in that time has logged wins over Glory Middleweight champion Artem Levin and Light Heavyweight standout Artem Vakhitov. He’s 1-1 in Glory since making his debut at Glory 10, and comes in off a non-Glory loss to Karim Ghajji.
Interestingly, there are a number of similarities to see in these two men’s styles. Both like to walk their opponents down, both throw heavy punches, both like to work the body. It’s a fight between two aggressive fighters out to win the war of attrition and simply beat their opponent down, and that should make for an exciting clash.
The difference maker here is likely to be speed. Because while both men like to put their shots together in combinations (often mixing things up in a slightly unorthodox manner), Holzken does so with considerably greater speed than Stetcurenko, who is a bit more methodical. Another point against Stetcurenko is his willingness to get into a wild brawl. Holzken shares this trait, as he has shown many times, but what separates the two when things get loose and wild is that Stetcurenko begins to let his technique go when he really starts throwing, while Holzken maintains proper technique. That opens things up for a Holzken counter game in the midst of a heated exchange.
When you look at the technique and the speed and combine them with Holzken’s superior movement, this looks like a chance for the Glory 13 winner to impose his game, and either outpoint Stetcurenko to get the decision win, or make the Russian fighter pay for getting too sloppy. I doubt it will be easy, and Stetcurenko might make Holzken pay for it, but this should be The Natural’s fight.
Prediction: Nieky Holzken by decision
WELTERWEIGHT TOURNAMENT SEMIFINAL: #7 Raymond Daniels (21-1 Overall; 2-1 Glory) vs. #6 Jonatan Oliveira (20-3 Overall; 2-0 Glory)
While much of the focus is on Holzken, the other half of the tournament bracket features an interesting fight itself, as Raymond Daniels takes on Jonatan Oliveira. Daniels is a face that any kickboxing fan last year will know well. That’s because he comes into this fight off his incredible spin kick KO of the year (decade?) over Francois Ambang at Glory 16. Amazingly, prior to that fight he already had an all time Glory highlight reel KO in his debut for the company at Glory 11.
A veteran of Chuck Norris’s World Combat League and a karate stylist, Daniels presents probably the most unique style in Glory, as he uses his karate to jump in, blitz opponents, and get back out quickly. But at Glory 13, that style failed him when he faced Joseph Valtellini. Daniels had success in the first round of their fight, but in the 2nd, Valtellini found the cracks in the armor and put a beating on Daniels, slowing him down with leg kicks en route to a stoppage win. Against Ambang, Daniels showed hints of a newer, less karate-centric style, as he seemed to tone down his movement in order to learn from that loss (the first of his pro career) and make his style more compatible with Glory.
Opponent Jonatan Oliveira is a Brazilian fighter who has trained quite a bit in Europe under Nicky Hemmers, and his style reflects those two countries. In his Glory debut at Glory 5, he came out fast and furious, knocking his opponent down twice in the opening round and showing that aggressive, Chute Boxe style known to many Brazilian kickboxers. When he failed to close the show in that round, he badly gassed, and barely made it to the end and a close decision win. Last year, he returned a much more refined fighter. His second Glory fight saw Oliveira embracing his Dutch training and using a much higher level of skill and technique to score a decision win. Oliveira has a nice head kick, but generally favors the hands as his main weapon.
Head to head, this seems like a match up that favors Daniels. He is the more explosive fighter, and while he may have to deal with Oliveira’s aggression early, he should be able to control the fight. Oliveira will be tough to stop, so we may not get that trademark Daniels flashy KO, but he should win this. That said, Glory is the land of upsets, especially in tournaments, and Oliveira has that level of fundamentals that could make him a dark horse here in the same style as Glory 18’s Jason Wilnis vs. Wayne Barrett fight. But I’ll take the more experienced and motivated Daniels.
Prediction: Raymond Daniels by decision
WELTERWEIGHT TOURNAMENT FINAL
Based on my semifinals, this is Nieky Holzken vs. Raymond Daniels – a fight that we could have seen at Glory 13. Had it taken place there, I suspect Holzken would have ripped through him, capitalizing on those same defensive holes exposed by Valtellini, but doing so with even greater violence. Now, Daniels seems to have closed up some of those gaps, and when you consider Holzken’s year long absence and the possibility of some ring rust, plus a potentially grueling semifinal against Stetcurenko, the result is not as cut and dry. That said, Holzken remains one of the sport’s very elite fighters, and while Daniels’s stay may prove a bit tricky at first, I see Holzken figuring him out, working the body to slow him down, and ultimately walking away the tournament champion again to set up a much anticipated Holzken vs. Valtellini world title fight.
Prediction: Nieky Holzken by KO
Watch the Welterweight tournament and Glory 19, live on Spike TV this Friday, February 6 at 9:00 p.m. ET, and join us here at Bloody Elbow for live fight night coverage.
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