We’re just one day away from Bellator MMA and GLORY joining forces to create a unique and unforgettable experience for North American combat sports fans. The SAP Center plays host to Bellator: Dynamite 1, which features a mixture of Bellator MMA fights as well as GLORY kickboxing bouts. In this preview, we highlight the top 3 GLORY matches on the card, including a matchup between two Bellator veterans, as well as a rematch for the light heavyweight title.
Saulo Cavalari (31-2, 19 KO’s) vs. Zack Mwekassa (13-2, 12 KO’s) – GLORY Light Heavyweight Championship
This fight is the jewel in the crown of Dynamite’s kickboxing portion and should more than live up to the event’s title. Both participants are proven demolition men who try – and generally succeed – to end their opponent’s night in spectacular fashion.
Mwekassa has an incredible 92% finish rate in his professional victories but Cavalari’s 62% is also not to be sneezed at, and is even more impressive when one considers that he has nearly three times as many fights as Mwekassa.
This fight is set for five rounds, being a title fight, but statistics and past form tell us that we are very unlikely to need all five frames. Indeed their first encounter, in the final of the GLORY 18 OKLAHOMA Light-Heavyweight Contender Tournament, ended in the third by way of a Cavalari head kick.
Mwekassa had starched Brian Collette in the semi-finals with his trademark left hook while Cavalari had outworked and overcome the former world #1 Danyo Ilunga, an impressive victory in its own right. He spent much more energy getting to the final but at least had been in tournaments before; it was Mwekassa’s first.
In the final Cavalari eschewed his usual forward-pressure style in favor of playing a distance game and hammering away at Mwekassa’s legs. Being a professional boxer by trade, Mwekassa’s kick defense was not as sharp as the average kickboxer and Cavalari sought to exploit that, along with his reach advantage.
It was a new and unexpected tactic from the Brazilian and showed us that he is a fighter capable of changing gameplans and playing different styles of attack depending on the kind of opponent he is faced with. That is the kind of thing which marks a fighter out from the rank and file of his peers.
Mwekassa may have been #2 in the kicking stakes but he was the clear #1 when it came to punching. His hands have the skill and sharpness of the professional boxer, matched with the boxer’s use of angles, setups and head movement. Combine all that with Mwkeassa’s unreal physical power and you have a very dangerous package.
Cavalari’s gameplan frustrated Mwekassa but he was still able to land his hammer-drill of a jab repeatedly. That jab was the tool which set up his finish of Collette in the previous round but he couldn’t find the follow-up against Cavalari. Instead he found himself being kept at bay by leg- and body-kicks.
The start of the third round saw a frustrated Mwekassa press forwards and look to trap Cavalari in a corner. Instead he got hit with a right low/left high kick combination, the second part of which dropped him like a stone. He was quick to regain his feet but the referee had seen enough to call the fight, waving it off and handing Cavalari the win by knockout.
Mwekassa has since disparaged both Cavalari’s tactics (“he was running the whole time!”) and the finish (“I was not knocked out the way that I knock people out!”) but Cavalari has not deigned to respond. On Saturday night they will debate their issues in the GLORY ring, live on Spike TV.
This time Mwekassa has the benefit of an extended training camp in the Netherlands. The camp was focused on filling in his holes when it comes to the kicking game; if that aim has been successful then it will make Mwekassa a much more dangerous package, particularly on the counter-attack.
Cavalari doesn’t have a huge incentive to change his basic strategy of kicking bits off of Mwekassa; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The question is whether Mwekassa has been able to plug the holes Cavalari exploited last time and, if so, what Cavalari will do in terms of adjusting his approach.
Also, lest we misrepresent Cavalari as “a kicker”, it should be pointed out that his finish of Mourad Bouzidi at GLORY 12 came by way of overhand-right and was one of the scariest KO’s in GLORY history. This both is and isn’t a kicker vs. puncher fighter. Cavalari can do both whereas Mwekassa is primarily a puncher. But he is so good at punching that you cannot say Cavalari’s hands are on the same level. Certainly the Brazilian would not be wise to stand in the pocket for exchanges with ‘The Black Warrior’.
And so to predictions. Generally a rematch favors the winner of the first fight but Mwekassa’s improvement from fight to fight means it is likely we see an improved version on Saturday. If he can close Cavalari’s kicking game down he has a huge advantage. If he cannot, the advantage remains with ‘Cassius Clay’ and he will tread a familiar path to victory.
For me this fight is a pick ‘em; I can’t pick a definitive winner either way. What I can confidently predict is that this fight will be an absolute banger and that the finish will almost certainly be by way of a big and definitive knockout. But will it be a left hook or a head kick? That we will have to wait and see.
Serhiy Adamchuk (29-5, 14 KO’s) vs. Anvar Boynazarov (79-20-2, 45 KO’s)
Adamchuk was originally set to challenge Canadian champion Gabriel Varga for his World Featherweight Championship here but the Vancouver man suffered a back injury in camp and was forced to pull out.
His place has been taken by Boynazarov, originally from Uzbekistan but now resident in Stockton, California after a long period of living in Thailand. Boynazarov debuted at GLORY 23 LAS VEGAS with a decision win over much-hyped Giga Chikadze, stealing the Georgian’s shine and taking a jump up the rankings.
Adamchuk’s debut was at GLORY 22 FRANCE in June. He came in on 24 hours’ notice to face lightweight contender Marat Grigorian and put on a career-best performance to outfox and outwork him and win a unanimous decision. Grigorian went on to win the K-1 MAX eight-man tournament a few weeks later, which goes to show the scale of Adamchuk’s win.
Originally from Ukraine but now living in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Adamchuk has trained from a young age in Muay Thai, kickboxing and Russia’s native mixed style, Sambo. He has competed in MMA as well as kickboxing but has concentrated his efforts on the latter. He trains at Mike’s Gym, a facility which has housed such greats as Badr Hari and Melvin Manhoef in the past.
Adamchuk’s game is comprised of a fairly basic repertoire but executed to a high standard. From his southpaw stance – tricky in its own right for most orthodox fighters – he has a sharp, prolific jab which he uses to measure distance, commence combinations and disrupt the opponent’s offense as needed.
The 1-2 is his bread and butter combination. After landing the jab either offensively or as a counter he will often transition into a left cross, but with his head off the line or dipping low to take him out of the path of any incoming blow from the opponent. Adamchuk’s head movement in general is a strength and so are his sharp reflexes.
Another money shot is his low kick. His timing is excellent and he throws it with real venom. For me the epitome of beautiful kickboxing is being able to finish an opponent with low kicks; it takes skill and cunning to be able to repeatedly make an opponent take the same blow in the same place. Adamchuk has several such finishes on his record.
Chikadze made a huge impact when he debuted at GLORY 21 SAN DIEGO and so Boynazarov stole considerable shine by beating him in Las Vegas last month. He endured a hard first round as Chikadze went to town with his mad arsenal of kicks but stayed in the fight to take control in the second and third rounds.
Boynazarov comes from a Muay Thai background. There is nothing spectacularly unique about his game but he is rather relentless in terms of mechanical combinations and output; he gives you a grinder of a fight and has plenty of gas in the tank. When Chikadze tired from throwing Streetfighter II kicks, Boynazarov was right there ready to step the pace up and throw volume.
He will have home field advantage as he is only traveling from Stockton to San Jose for this fight, so that gas tank won’t be affected by jet lag. Adamchuk is actually making his GLORY featherweight debut here, having fought as a lightweight on his last-minute debut in France, so that may factor into his cardio.
Assuming Adamchuk’s gas tank is unaffected, he has the edge in this fight due to his speed and sharpness. His southpaw stance is also probably going to give Boynazarov some issues and ‘The Uzbek’ has proven hittable, albeit durable. But if Adamchuk flags, Boynazarov will be all over him ready to capitalize with volume punching and heavy pressure.
Paul ‘Semtex’ Daley (37-13 MMA) (20-3, 17 KO’s KB) vs. Fernando Gonzalez (24-13 MMA) (1-2 KB)
This match is taking place under GLORY rules but was actually put together by Bellator’s matchmaking team and I suspect it may be the first of a two-part installment which will see them rematch in Bellator under MMA rules.
No prizes for guessing who the favorite is in this one. Daley has a background in kickboxing/Muay Thai and is one of the most well know strikers in Mixed Martial Arts. He has been trying to get a GLORY fight for a while and has also recently competed under the K-1 banner.
Last year he demolished highly-ranked Alexander Stetsurenko in Dublin, Ireland. More recently Stetsurenko went the distance with Nieky Holzken at GLORY 19 (albeit with Holzken taking things very slowly because it was a semi-final tournament fight and he had his eye on his gas tank for the finale.)
Daley’s trademark shot is his left hook. It is one of the most destructive things in fight sports and if it lands clean there’s a good chance that is the end of the fight. People talk about Daley as if his attacking game starts and ends with that hook but he is a versatile striker with a varied game; he’s even stopped people with flying knees.
The advantage lies with Daley but he isn’t one to take chances. He has trained hard for this fight, traveling to Bucharest in Romania to work with Respect Gym. They are a rising force in European kickboxing right now and are particularly notable for the work they have done in transforming Benjamin Adegbuyi from newcomer to contender in just a few years.
Gonzalez is a Bellator and WEC veteran with a good record in MMA and a good number of finishes in his fights. In kickboxing he is 1-2 but was robbed in one of those losses, fighting a Chinese opponent in China.
His very first kickboxing fight was against a WBO champion and he held his own, so he is by no means new to this, but Daley is still a very tall order as an opponent for what is only your fourth fight under kickboxing rules. Gonzalez has been calling him out in Bellator though so I guess here he gets to test how their striking matches up.
“I feel like if this was an MMA fight, I would stop Paul Daley early. But because this is a kickboxing match, they’re kind of giving him an unfair advantage. But I wasn’t planning on taking him down in an MMA fight anyway,” is his take on it.
“I feel like if I beat him in this fight, at his own game, I want a title shot in Bellator. I think I would be him nine times out of ten in MMA fight. But after I beat him at his own game, I want a title shot.”
Personally I am not convinced. I expect Daley to put him away at Dynamite. That will then set up a rematch under Bellator rules and at 4-0 in the organization Gonzalez’s predictions of victory at least have some argument behind them.
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