GLORY 25's main event will go down in history as one of the most disputed decisions in GLORY history, without a doubt. What many saw in the main event was the younger Sitthichai Sitsongpeenong attacking van Roosmalen at will throughout the five rounds of the fight, with Robin relegated to throwing desperate combinations whenever the Thai would lock up with him near the ropes.
Yesterday after the fight we made use of Twitter's new poll system to see what fans watching at home thought. The answer was a staggering 78% saw Sitthichai winning.
But, as that poll shows, there is a minority of folks who felt that van Roosmalen picking up the win was justified, even if the live crowd, the announcers, fans and pundits alike saw the fight as a clean sweep for Sitthichai. Making use of WatchESPN's feature to rewatch past content I decided to sit down again with Sitthichai and Robin van Roosmalen in an attempt to see the fight again with fresh eyes, on the lookout for things that van Roosmalen was doing that could win him the fight.
The key argument that I've seen over the past day is that Sitthichai was kicking nothing but glove. The smoking gun, if you will, for those supporting van Roosmalen's claim to the title is that van Roosmalen was blocking just about every strike that came flying at him and that Sitthichai, under the rules, did not throw strikes that score. Through a second, careful viewing it is clear that throughout the later points in the fight van Roosmalen is bringing his left hand over his chest to his right side to help deflect these shots, at times that hand coming in before the kick and able to deflect the shot down or away.
Earlier on in the fight many of Robin's attempts to block these kicks were to bring both his hands up in a defensive position around his face, then to bend down so that his elbows were covering his midsection. Later on he began swatting at these strikes a bit more. Only a handful of times did van Roosmalen bring his knee up to defend the kick, which is seem as a common defense for body kicks throughout muay thai and kickboxing. This argument that van Roosmalen blocked all of Sitthichai's shots depends on the interpretation that because Sitthichai's strikes did not connect on either the midsection or the head and neck of van Roosmalen that they should not be scored as connecting shots. Looking at GLORY's own rules leaves the subject up to ambiguity here.
"Kicks – striking with the foot or lower leg to a legal target: i.e. front kicks, low kicks inside and outside the leg, middle kicks, high kicks, sidekicks, back kicks, ax kicks, spinning kicks, jumping kicks;"
So, according to GLORY's rules, any kick to a legal target is a scoring strike. If one were to argue that Sitthichai's target of choice was van Roosmalen's ribs or head then yes, Sitthichai did miss a lot of those shots. Why? Because he was clearly aiming for the shoulder and upper arm of van Roosmalen. When Sitthichai wanted to land a lower shot that connected with the midsection, he threw his kicks a lot lower. Believing that someone with the power and accuracy of Sitthichai, while throwing strikes from a safe, unopposed distance, was somehow mistiming and miscalculating all of his shots seems like a long shot.
Let's look at the official Strike Stats from after the fight.
By outward appearances, it seems that Robin's punch flurries from inside of the clinch left a bigger impression that Sitthichai's kicks did, with Sitthichai given credit for only 47% of his kicks.
The redness of van Roosmalen's right arm told the story of the fight; Sitthichai was taking care of one of van Roosmalen's strongest weapons by kicking at his power arm. What's funny is that it worked, with van Roosmalen not throwing any real power combinations from a distance throughout the fight. In fact, the only time that van Roosmalen was really scoring was when either man had his opponent pinned up towards the ropes, where van Roosmalen would let his fists fly with his accurate uppercuts and hooks. But most of the bigger shots were coming with his left hand, not his right.
These shots from van Roosmalen were landing, though. They appeared to be accurately scored by the on-screen statistics throughout the fight. Let's get something straight here; Robin's work when he did throw those combinations were incredible and he was landing clean with just about every shot. Even then, it is difficult to look at the above stats as well as the fight itself and come to the same conclusion that all three judges did.
From outward appearances it seems that the judges simply wrote off all of those kicks to a legal target. Returning to GLORY's rules on how this fight was scored, we see the breakdown and hierarchy of how judge's score the fight.
A. Number of knockdowns.
B. Damage inflicted on the opponent.
C. Number of clean strikes with spectacular techniques (flying and spinning techniques, etc.)
D. Number of clean strikes with normal techniques.
E. Degree of Aggressiveness or Ring Generalship (whichever has greater impact on the round)
It should be noted that in assessing the general impression, attack is valued higher than defense.
Neither man was able to score a knockdown and as for visible damage, neither man was cut or really damaged in the facial region. Van Roosmalen did show more signs of wear, with his midsection and right arm clearly taking a brunt of the attacks. When it comes to aggressiveness Sitthichai would have to be the winner here. You could make an argument for round five going to Robin, where he seemed to realize that his title reign was in danger and he turned up the heat, but outside of maybe round two it's difficult to assign another round to Robin.
Did van Roosmalen really win this fight? That is for you to decide, but what was clear to me in the case of this fight is that the biggest discrepancy was how to score Sitthichai's kicks to the arms. The outcome of the fight seems to hinge on whether you give credit to Sitthichai for carefully targeting Robin's arm, or if you credit Robin's arm for being in the way of those strikes.
Even the scorecards from the judges don't seem to line up, at all.
If you are willing to look at those score cards and tell me that those judges rendered the correct decision, I don't even know.