This Friday, Glory wraps up 2015 with Glory 26 Amsterdam. Glory 26 airs live on ESPN3 this Friday, December 4 with a fight time of 4:00 p.m. ET / 1:00 p.m. PT. The main card will be available live on ESPN3 (visit watchESPN.com for details), with the Glory Superfight Series available in a live stream here at Bloody Elbow starting at 1:30 p.m. ET.
We’ve already previewed the action on the Superfights, now let’s turn our attention to the main card at Glory 26.
Before we look at each fight, it’s worth noting the location of this show. Amsterdam is the European mecca of kickboxing, with many of the sport’s all time best fighters and gyms having a base here. Unfortunately, recent years have not been kind to the sport, as accusations of corruption and mob connections led government officials to push the sport out of the city. Now, Glory has jumped through considerable legal hoops to return kickboxing to its proper home in Amsterdam, staging their first ever event here, and the first major international kickboxing event since It’s Showtime was there way back in 2011. Reports from Amsterdam indicate that there is an understandable buzz around this event – even more of a reason to look forward to this big show.
Nieky Holzken (c) (87-11; 9-0 Glory) vs. #1 Murthel Groenhart (58-18-3; 4-3 Glory) – Welterweight Title
The main event on the night is an all-Netherlands battle in front of what is sure to be a hot crowd. Welterweight champion Nieky Holzken defends his title for the first time here as he rematches his countryman Groenhart.
If you wanted to make an argument that Holzken is the #1 pound for pound kickboxer on the planet today, I’m not sure I would argue with you. The Natural is an incredible talent, with perfect technique, nasty strikes (particularly his killer body shots) and tremendous experience. It’s been over three years since his last defeat and he is undefeated in Glory. A Golden Glory fighter, Holzken has been around this sport for a long time, and has always been a very popular fighter in Amsterdam – expect him to get a hero’s welcome here.
Challenger Groenhart is another long-standing veteran who has seen success in It’s Showtime, K-1 MAX, and now Glory. Groenhart spent most of his career training with Mike Passenier at Mike’s Gym here in Amsterdam, and has also worked with the Blackzilians in Florida. He comes in off a Glory 25 tournament win. Groenhart is an interesting fighter to watch as he has great explosive power in his hands and knees, but he can get flumoxed when the fight does not go his way. When he’s on, he’s great – but he’s not always on, as his disapointing loss at Glory 23 demonstrated. Adding another layer of intrigue to this fight is that it’s a rematch – these two met in 2010 in Amsterdam, with Holzken taking a hard fought decision win. Since then, Holzken is 16-2, Groenhart 14-6. Both men are overall better fighters than they were in 2010, but the improvements to Holzken are massive.
Prediction: Nieky Holzken, KO
Rico Verhoeven (c) (46-10; 9-1 Glory) vs. #1 Benjamin Adegbuyi (22-3; 5-1 Glory) – Heavyweight Title
Rico Verhoeven is an interesting case. Ever since his huge win back at Glory 11, he’s been the company’s clear #1 Heavyweight. He’s the only man to ever hold that title, and he looks to make his 3rd defense of the belt here. He’s undefeated in Glory since a 2012 loss to Semmy Schilt, though he does have one loss outside of the company in that time. He’s also recently ventured into MMA (successfully) and has improved his boxing game by working with new Heavyweight king Tyson Fury. And yet for all that, he doesn’t always get a lot of love. Maybe it’s his more decision-oriented style, maybe it’s the inconsistency he showed earlier in his career, or maybe it’s just comparing him to former Heavyweight greats like Aerts and Hoost – whatever the reason, there’s certainly a contingent out there who look down on Rico as champion. And that’s a shame, because he’s developed into the best Heavyweight in the sport today, using his size and cardio to outwork opponents and break them down.
Here, he takes on a man he defeated in June. Adeugbuyi went the distance at Glory 22, but aside from a good start, he was mostly worked over by the champion. Since then, he’s 3-0, including winning the Glory 24 tournament in a fight of the year contender against Jahfarr Wilnis. That was a close fight that many gave to Wilnis, but Adegbuyi got the split decision nod. Adegbuyi is a strong fighter with big power, and that makes him a threat to the champion for sure. But the last time they met, we saw that Adegbuyi simply could not stay tight with Rico over the course of 5 championship rounds. While I still see him as an interesting challenger and a legitimate threat to the title, I also don’t see anything that changes the verdict this time around.
Prediction: Rico Verhoeven, decision
#1 Mosab Amrani (53-10-4; 3-2 Glory) vs. #4 Chi Bin Lim (69-17; 0-1 Glory) – Featherweight Tournament Semifinal
Glory has pretty clearly seen Mosab Amrani as the face of the Featherweight division for quite some time – it just hasn’t quite worked out that way yet. At their first ever Featherweight tournament at Glory 8, Amrani was the favorite, but lost to the superb Masaaki Noiri. He bounced back with a huge win over Yuta Kubo, and when Glory was set to crown their first Featherweight champion, Amrani got the call, only to lose to Gabriel Varga. He gets his third shot at, well, glory right here. The Dutch-Moroccan fights out of Amsterdam and while he is a great fighter, his record in the past 5 years is pretty 50/50 – it’s possible that the time for him to be the face of the division has already passed.
Chi Bin Lim was, for years, the top dog for the Korean kickboxing scene in K-1 MAX. He fought for that organization many times, and found success, though typically coming up short when he went up against the K-1 MAX elite. Biggest win of his career was, interestingly, Mosab Amrani. The two fought for It’s Showtime back in 2011 with Lim taking a decision win. In 2014, they met again with Amrani evening the series via brutal body shot KO.
I would like to say Lim provides an interesting challenge for Amrani here, but the reality is that this is Amrani’s fight to lose. Lim has been semi-retired in recent years, and has not fought since that KO loss 16 months ago. At 36 years old, his best days are past him, and this one time contender is now likely just cannon fodder for the Jaguar, sorry to say.
Prediction: Mosab Amrani, KO
#2 Shane Oblonsky (10-4; 2-1 Glory) vs. #5 Maykol Yurk (7-3; Glory Debut) – Featherweight Tournament Semifinal
American Oblonsky is a highly entertaining fighter, whose pair of fights at Glory 17 nearly stole the show. He’s a talented fighter with good Muay Thai experience, including a win over the veteran Malaipet. Oblonsky has a very good kicking game, and a good ability to push the pace in his fights. He does not have a huge amount of experience, but he’s been in there against a high level of opposition, and more often than not, he’s come out on top. Here, he faces Brazil’s Maykol Yurk, who makes his Glory debut here. This is Yurk’s first fight at this level of competition, and really his debut on the big international scene. Like Oblonsky, he brings in a solid Muay Thai base. The trouble is, that probably works to his disadvantage here, as both men will come in with a Muay Thai background, but Oblonsky will bring the stronger experience and overall skillset. This should be an action-packed fight, but stylistically, it favors the experience of the American.
Prediction: Shane Oblonsky, decision
Featherweight Tournament Finals
I have this as Amrani vs. Oblonsky, which is a tough fight to call. The easy answer is Amrani, but I can’t shake the feeling that he is prone to underperforming, while Oblonsky is the exact opposite. Still, I like the overall game of Amrani to take this one, but I’m far from confident in the pick.
Prediction: Mosab Amrani, decision
Join us here at Bloody Elbow this Friday for live coverage of Glory 26, live on ESPN3.
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