Tonight, the long-awaited clash between heavyweight kickboxers Rico Verhoeven and Badr Hari goes down in the main event of Glory: Collision. Verhoeven is the Glory heavyweight champion, Hari the former K-1 heavyweight champion and, to his fans, still the real number one heavyweight kickboxer. Today they will settle the question.
The two central characters in this fight are so dynamically opposed they could have been created by scriptwriters. Verhoeven is a clean-cut family man whose chief pleasure in life is to spend time with his two young daughters. Hari is a figure as infamous as he is famous, as often to be found in the newspapers gossip pages as their sports pages.
Hari is a dark, brooding figure who carries an air of menace. For many years he freely associated with one of the Dutch underworld’s top criminal figures, their association only coming to an end when the said person was shot to death in a hail of bullets. Hari himself gives the impression that the only thing which prevented his becoming a full-fledged gangster himself was his success in the ring.
Verhoeven could not be a starker contrast. Born and raised in a small town far from Amsterdam, the closest he has come to criminal infamy is a parking ticket. If the gossip columnists wanted to catch him they would have to be lying in wait at 5am, not to catch him falling out of a nightclub but rather to see him warming up for his morning run.
Both are technically proficient but deploy their skills in different ways. Hari is a risk-taker and will go all-out for a finish when he sense the possibility. Verhoeven is a strategist and very restrained; he does not believe in rolling the dice, preferring instead to take opponents apart methodically. If they go down in the process, all the better.
It’s being billed as the biggest fight in kickboxing history. Normally this would be hyperbole from promoters but in this instance it very much stands up to scrutiny. Back when Japan was the world’s leading market there were certainly larger events in terms of attendance, but it’s difficult to think of a kickboxing fight which rivals this one in import. It brings together two top-tier names for a fight which is attracting a global audience.
For proof of interest, just look at some of the numbers the promotional videos have done. The video of the staredown between Verhoeven and Hari has, at time of writing, garnered not far short of 2.5 million views on the GLORY Facebook page. And that’s in less than 24 hours. The fact that this is the first non-UFC pay-per-view event ever to garner the UFC’s support – the digital version of the pay-per-view is being provided via UFC.tv – should also not be overlooked. Endorsement doesn’t come much stronger than that in the fight game.
If this is the first kickboxing card which has come onto your radar, it’s a good one to make your debut with. The main event is loaded with import and storyline but, more importantly, it is guaranteed to be a tremendous fight. Both participants are elite and have a lot invested in the outcome. There is a very good chance that the fight ends in a knockout – Verhoeven has ten career losses, three by KO, while eight of Hari’s twelve losses have been by stoppage.
That last fact may be worth considering more fully. In the build-up a lot of the focus has been on Hari’s enormous physique and his huge number of knockout wins versus Verhoeven predominantly winning by decision. But Hari’s susceptibility to a stoppage is being overlooked. He and Verhoeven have a similar number of career losses but 75% of his are inside the distance, compared to 30% of Verhoeven’s.
At the same time, Hari has also won most of his fights by stoppage. When he connects, there is a good chance the opponent is going to go down and stay down. His knockout rate contrasts starkly with Verhoeven’s, who overwhelmingly tends to win by decisions, and is why this fight is considered a pretty even match despite Hari’s relative inactivity this past two years.
Don’t be fooled by Verhoeven’s amount of decision wins though. He may not be finishing the opponents but he is utterly dominating them. He very likely could own more stoppage wins if he had been willing to open up and take more risks but that is something he is loathe to do. As he puts it, taking unnecessary risks “makes it a 50-50 fight” – why would he bother, when he wins so comfortably and completely?
In 2015, Hari fought just once, a third-round stoppage of Ismael Londt in a fight in Chechyna. He did not look as sharp as explosive as he had in his peak competition years, but by all accounts he was not especially motivated by the fight and didn’t train very hard for it. From the start of 2015 until now Verhoeven has gone 5-1, the decision loss being a rare wobble of form in China in January last year.
Hari is in superb physical condition for this fight with Verhoeven and has extensively documented several intense months of preparation. But Verhoeven’s fitness is a whole different level; he is a lifelong athlete and extremely self-disciplined. He has talked about how training for him begins every morning when he is putting his breakfast together: the battle s tarts right there with what he is putting into his body.
So while Hari and Verhoeven are now looking roughly equal in size and shape, the muscle that Hari is carrying is still relatively new on him. There’s a cardio demand to carrying muscle; the bigger you are, the more gas you need in the tank. So it will be interesting to see what happens the longer the fight goes on. Verhoeven has a diesel engine and can increase his output as a fight goes on. Will Hari be able to do the same, or even match his pace?
All told, it’s a fascinating piece of matchmaking and has legitimate claim to being the biggest fight in the sport’s history. The supporting fights are also stellar. Verhoeven and Hari headline a four-fight pay-per-view card which also features world welterweight champion Nieky ‘The Natural’ Holzken making his fourth defense of the title, Ismael Londt and Jamal Ben Saddik in a clash of heavyweight giants and the finale of the Women’s Super-Bantamweight Grand Prix.
The two women finalists will be determined by a pair of semi-final matches taking place earlier in the evening on the Glory 36 prelims, usually known as the Superfight Series card but rebranded for this event because they are airing on UFC Fight Pass in an unlocked broadcast free to the public.
The event opens with a five-fight card – Glory 36 Germany – which airs live on ESPN 3 in the US and features world lightweight champion Sittichai Sitsongpeenong defending the belt against Marat Grigorian plus a four-man Lightweight Contender Tournament. This card also re-airs on ESPN 2 on Sunday evening.
Catching all three cards requires a little channel-hopping but it’s worth it for what is the most stacked kickboxing card of the year.
GLORY 36 GERMANY – Live on ESPN3 in the US, various networks worldwide
Commences 11am ET / 17:00 CET
Replays: ESPN2 on Sunday, December 11th at 11pm Eastern / 8 pm California
ESPN Deportes on Tuesday, December 20th at 9pm Eastern / 6 pm California
GLORY 36 PRELIMS / SUPERFIGHT SERIES
live and free to the public on UFC FIGHT PASS
Commences 13.30 ET / 19:30 CET
Glory: Collision Pay-Per-View
on InDEMAND for cable viewers in the USA and via UFC.tv for international and US viewers, priced at $29.95
Commences 16.00 ET / 22:00 CET
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