If you are a fan of high-level striking, or fighting in general, the tournament is something you will want to check out. The first bracket features Thai standout Sittichai Sitsongpeenong facing off with former GLORY lightweight champion Davit Kiria, while the second features current K-1 MAX champion facing off with rising Russian prospect Anatoly Moiseev.
Moiseev is a late switch. He was in the tournament reserve bout but was bumped up to the tournament proper yesterday when Djime Coulibaly, the local wild card entrant, injured his ankle in what was his final training session of the week. Moiseev’s presence makes the fight a tougher one for Grigorian and thus more interesting; expect fireworks.
Sittichai and Kiria met once before, in the semi-finals of the GLORY 22 FRANCE Lightweight Contender Tournament in June last year. Kiria will be hoping that whatever sense of deja vu accompanies this re-run is mere sensation rather than premonition. Their June fight ended with him downed and writhing in agony after Sittichai planted a knee through his torso and into his actual soul, becoming in the process the first fighter to stop Kiria under kickboxing rules.
It seems strange that Sittichai and Kiria were rematched in this tournament, until Kiria explains that he actively pitched for it. The loss at GLORY 22 hurt him more mentally than physically and he is burning for a chance to settle the score.
“I am confident and I want to thank my team for making my preparation so comfortable. I had great sparring, which is really important, and I am ready for the win. We focused mainly on fighting against the Thai style and then also some work on fighting a tournament, two times in one night. I brought in new coaches for physical condition and diet,” he says.
“There was no problem [in the first fight], only a mistake. Sometimes you can only make one mistake in a fight. I think I missed one kick and then it went wrong. I don’t like to talk about it but I can say that it was a big learning experience. But I have a second chance now to fight him and I want to thank my management for this.”
Sittichai isn’t convinced that Kiria has made the right decision.
“I was surprised that I was able to knock him out so easily, actually. I am confident I will win this rematch but I cannot guarantee another knockout, it depends on timing. But if I can find the opportunity then I will knock him out,” he says.
The young Thai holds wins over both Kiria and Grigorian, the latter by decision. “Marat is harder to fight because he is bigger, stronger and unorthodox. Kiria is smaller and less predictable, so he is easier to handle,” he explains.
Winning the tournament would book him a second shot at the lightweight title, currently held by Robin van Roosmalen. Their fight at GLORY 25 MILAN resulted in considerable controversy when judges returned a decision for the champion; Sittichai and many observers felt like he had won comfortably.
“I was really surprised, I felt like I won every round so I didn’t understand the decision. Well, I think you could give Robin the third round maybe, if you’re being really generous, or call it a draw, but honestly I though I won every round. It wasn’t even close… he didn’t hurt me with anything. I hardly got hit,” he says.
“The proper thing would be to have an immediate rematch with Roosmalen without having to go through another tournament. But it doesn’t matter to me. Whatever they want to do, I will fight. I am used to it. I fought in four tournaments last year. Actually now more than half of my kickboxing fights are tournaments. So it’s no big deal.
But his frustration is evident when he talks about moving from Muay Thai into kickboxing.
“The best thing about kickboxing is the money. The worst thing? The judging and refereeing. There is no consistency. It changes the whole outcome of a fight. But I don’t let it affect me. Against Roosmalen I fought to the best of my ability and I am satisfied in my performance. I don’t blame myself,” he says.
Talking about the Van Roosmalen fight animates Sittichai. He thinks for a moment when asked what he would do differently in a rematch.
“I wouldn’t be as defensive, I think. I gave him too much respect for his punching ability,” he says eventually. “I was overly cautious and I wouldn’t do that again because actually his hands were not as good as I was expecting.”
Over on the other side of the tournament bracket, the taciturn Grigorian is unmoved by his change of opponent, despite blaming a late switch for his own loss at GLORY 22 FRANCE last year; Serhiy Adamchuk came in on 24 hours notice and outfoxed him before going on to drop a weight class and win the featherweight championship.
“Moiseev is a good fighter but I don’t care,” he shrugs. “I don’t mind at all. When Adamchuk came in it was just too late, too short notice, it occupied my mind too much and I couldn’t get into the right focus for the fight, it threw me off. This time I have enough time to get my mind right,” he says.
Moiseev goes into this fight as both the underdog and the only undefeated entrant, at 16-0. His GLORY appearances – two thus far – have been characterized by concussive kicks and punches which have earned him a solid following already. On Saturday he is looking to translate that into a title shot.
“It’s good to get into the tournament,” he says. “I will take advantage of the opportunity. Actually I think that Sittichai has a better chance in the other semi-final, he can control the distance against Kiria and have the fight where he wants it. But I think Marat is the toughest guy in the tournament. He is experienced and unorthodox. But I am very confident. You will see.”
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