On Friday night, join Bloody Elbow for kickboxing action as Glory returns with Glory 23. Glory 23 Las Vegas airs live on Spike TV this Friday, August 7 with a fight time of 11:00 p.m. ET.
Be sure to check out our previews for the pre-Spike Superfight Series and the Glory 23 main card, but here, it’s all about the title, as we break down the big world title fight main event.
Welterweight Title: #1 Nieky Holzken (86-11; 8-0 Glory) vs. #3 Raymond Daniels (27-2; 4-2 Glory)
There’s a lot of story to unpack heading into this fight. And that story really starts with Nieky Holzken.
A 10+ year veteran of the sport with somewhere in the ballpark of 100 pro fights to his name (his actual record is not entirely clear), Holzken has been fighting at a high level in the sport for some time. Back in the K-1 days, he was a 70 kg fighter, and at that weight he was certainly a notable fighter, but not a major stand out. When It’s Showtime started adding more weight classes, Holzken settled in at 77 kg (or thereabouts) and has been an absolute beast ever since. Since making that move, only two men have ever defeated him – L’houcine Ouzgni and Artur Kyshenko. He’s universally seen as the world’s #1 Welterweight, and I would argue that at this moment, he’s the #1 kickboxer on the planet today, period.
And yet, for all of that, he’s never been a major champion. He’s never even had a title shot. Never.
In K-1, it was understandable – he was not fighting at his optimal weight, and he fell to greats like Buakaw and Andy Souwer. But in It’s Showtime, at 77 kg, it felt like a title run would happen. Instead, Holzken ran into Ouzgni, a fighter who seems likely to ultimately be forgotten to time, but was a devastating, underrated talent. Holzken and Ouzgni first fought in 2010 in It’s Showtime, with Ouzgni scoring a 53 second flying knee KO, knocking Holzken out of title contention. Lest there be any doubt about the win, they rematched two years later, with Ouzgni taking a decision win.
Holzken has been a staple of Glory since the very beginning, competing, and winning, at Glory 1. He’s undefeated in the organization, with 7 wins, only 2 going the distance. He’s beaten every man they have put in front of him, including the now former champion Joseph Valtellini, who’s forfeit of the title has led to this fight. He’s used his superb technical striking and a terrifying liver punch to win and win and win.
And yet, for all of that, he’s never been Glory champion. Never even had a title shot.
He should have been champion. At Glory 13, Holzken won the Welterweight tournament. He was given a belt and recognized as the company’s best. But in the aftermath, the company restructured their title and tournament scene, creating new champions separate from the tournaments. Holzken was a no-brainer for the inaugural title fight, and was scheduled to face Marc de Bonte for the belt at Glory 14 and then later at Glory 16. However, the fight never happened, as a Holzken shoulder injury kept him out of the ring for virtually all of 2014. Instead, Karapet Karapetyan stepped in, de Bonte defeated him, and Marc de Bonte was your Glory Welterweight champion. When he needed a challenger, Holzken was still injured, so Valtellini stepped in and won the title, injuring himself in the fight and being forced out of action ever since.
But with Valtellini vacating the title, now at last we arrive at a long awaited moment. Nieky Holzken, fighting for a major world title. The storyline seems pretty simple and straightforward – after all this time, the uncrowned king finally becomes the champion. Holzken is the favorite – after all, he’s #1 in the division, he’s arguably #1 in the world, and in his last fight, he KO’d the very man he is facing tonight. So it makes sense to view this fight as the ascension of Holzken.
The only trouble is, Raymond Daniels doesn’t see it that way. Daniels is supremely talented and supremely confident. This is a fighter who has the word GOAT – Greatest of All Time – emblazoned on his tights and in his Twitter handle. He comes to Glory after a massively successful career as a karate fighter, where he was a multi-time champion and a standout in the World Combat League. Inside the Glory ring, he’s scored multiple KO’s that rank among the greatest in company history, and his only losses come to Holzken and Valtellini.
But more than his accolades, what Daniels brings to the ring is his confidence. This is a man who believes in himself and wants that world title. He feels that in the first fight he made mistakes – some of them due to being in a tournament final for the first time in kickboxing – mistakes he will not make again. There’s no doubt of his intentions tonight – Raymond Daniels is coming to spoil the party.
So which will it be? The final rise of The Natural, or Daniels stealing his thunder just as Ouzgni did 5 years ago? We find out, tonight.
Join us here at Bloody Elbow Friday night for live coverage of Glory 23.
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