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.
Here, a look at the night’s main event, as Errol Zimmerman challenges Rico Verhoeven for the Glory Heavyweight title.
HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE: RICO VERHOEVEN (C) (44-10 Overall, 7-1 Glory) vs. #4 ERROL ZIMMERMAN (103-11-1 Overall; 4-4 Glory)
January 28, 2012 – On an It’s Showtime show headlined by Badr Hari’s “retirement fight” against Gokhan Saki, Rico Verhoeven and Errol Zimmerman first entered the ring as opponents. The Verhoeven of 2012 was a rather hot and cold fighter. He was a young fighter who used the Dutch style well, but struggled to find consistency. Whenever he faced a step up in competition, he seemed to falter, though he was coming in off a surprise win over the highly regarded Hesdy Gerges – the best win of his career at that time. With Verhoeven, there was a distinct sense that he should be better than he was.
But Zimmerman was the epitome of hot and cold. Already a well traveled veteran, Zimmerman had made a name for himself in 2008 in K-1. He made a tremendous showing that year, using his fearsome KO power to make it to the semifinals of the K-1 GP. But he had followed that up with an awful 3-7 streak that saw many write him off. Starting in 2011 he had begun to turn things around, finding his rhythm again and scoring those big KOs. He stepped in to this fight on a 6 fight win streak, with 5 coming via KO.
This first encounter was brief, and violent, as Zimmerman landed a left hook in under a minute to KO Verhoeven and take the lead in their series, 1-0. If the Gerges fight gave us hope for Verhoeven, this brought those hopes back down with a not unexpected result.
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June 22, 2013 – At Glory 9, two years after that first encounter, these men meet again. Verhoeven has since that fight gone 4-2 and is 2-1 in Glory with that one loss coming to the great Semmy Schilt. The story with him remains largely unchanged – can he get over that hump and deliver on the promise we have at times seen? Zimmerman had followed up the win with another big KO over legend Jerome Le Banner, but then saw his 8 fight win streak snapped at the hands of Semmy Schilt. He was now on a 2 fight losing streak, with losses to Schilt and Jamal Ben Saddik both in Glory. For Zimmerman, this was a must win, as the memory of that losing streak loomed large.
Unfortunately for the Bonecrusher, it was not to be. Verhoeven controlled the pace, kept Zimmerman at bay, and showed off his superior technique to take the decision win. Given the previous two performances from Zimmerman, this was, again, not a shocking result.
What happened next? That’s where the surprise comes in.
November 7, 2014 – At Glory 18, the company announces the end of the trilogy – Rico Verhoeven vs. Errol Zimmerman III. Yet though it was just a year and a half since they last fought, this was a considerably different story.
While no one could have predicted it at the time, Verhoeven’s Glory 9 win over Zimmerman was the start of a campaign that would lead to him claiming fighter of the year honors in 2013. He followed the Zimmerman win up with a victory over Gokhan Saki – the biggest win of his career. He followed that up with a win over Daniel Ghita later that same night. Then Peter Aerts. Then, in 2014, Ghita again to become the Glory Heavyweight champion. Along the way, he showed an increased confidence and improved skill, definitively staking his claim as the top Heavyweight in the world. That promise we had seen years ago? It had finally come to pass – Rico Verhoeven had become the undisputed Heavyweight king.
For Zimmerman, there was a sense that the Verhoeven loss could have been the start of another decline. It most definitely was not. Zimmerman followed that up with a big KO win over Hesdy Gerges, dropped a fight to Daniel Ghita, and then stepped in to the ring at Glory 16 Denver in a Heavyweight contender tournament. With a focus and drive not consistently seen in years, Zimmerman plowed through the tournament that night, emotionally winning the tournament in the memory of the late Ramon Dekkers, and setting up this much anticipated fight.
February 6, 2015 – And then a funny thing happened. Originally scheduled for late 2014, Glory 19 was delayed until this weekend. Had the fight gone on when first scheduled, it would have been for the undisputed lineal Heavyweight crown, and, despite Zimmerman’s success in Denver, the result would not have been much in doubt – Verhoeven was just too red hot, Zimmerman too unpredictable. Verhoeven by decision, all day.
But in the downtime as we waited for Glory 19, Verhoeven took a simple stay busy fight in China, taking on the unheralded Andrei Herasimchuk in January. And he lost. Rico Verhoeven, Glory Heavyweight champion, worldwide Heavyweight king, lost to a man no one but the most hardcore of kickboxing fans had ever even heard of. Which brings us to Glory 19.
There’s no doubt the Herasimchuk fight changed the dynamic here. That Verhoeven by decision pick, while still smart, doesn’t feel as obvious. Where Verhoeven succeeds in fights is by using relatively basic technique, but executing it well, pressuring his opponent by pushing him back, and keeping that pressure on all fight. The tall Herasimchuk was able to change that, pushing Rico back and making himself the offensive fighter. And it worked. He got Verhoeven out of his game, dropped him twice in the 2nd round, and got the win. Errol Zimmerman has the skills to implement a similar strategy – use his aggression to push Rico back, get him out of his game, and drop him. But where Herasimchuk just got the knockdown, when Zimmerman drops you, he gets the knockout.
So now, this becomes a fight of questions. Is Errol Zimmerman focused and on point in his training, and can he use the path laid out by Herasimchuk to get the KO win, finally earning status as the sport’s best – a status that has eluded him for years? Is Verhoeven still the best Heavyweight in the world – a fighter who simply took a seemingly outmatched opponent too easily, and will once again be able to implement his game here, or is the inconsistent Rico from his past back?
We’ll know the answer Friday night, and likely within the first 3 minutes. If Errol is going to win this, it’s going to be the result of early pressure and a big, violent KO. Just as he did in 2012. If Rico wins, it’s by avoiding the Zimmerman power and fighting his fight, wearing Zimmerman down. Just as he did in 2013.
As I said, Verhoeven by decision has always been the smart pick, and I’ll stick with it. But I do so with considerably less confidence that I had a month ago. Let’s see how this epic trilogy concludes.
Prediction: Rico Verhoeven by decision
Watch Verhoeven vs. Zimmerman 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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