Glory 18 was an intriguing experience. It didn’t generate as many highlight moments as previous Glory events, but it was nevertheless an event packed full of relentless action and remarkable performances from underdogs who proved that they could step up to the plate and handle a high level of competition. Glory 18 was also a significant chapter in the development of many fighters. We’ll examine this and other ongoing narratives below.
First, let’s talk about Zack Mwekassa. His incredible story of survival and endurance captured our interest, and his explosive KO of Pat Barry captured our attention. He is a figure seemingly poised to breakout as another star in Glory, combining explosive power with boxing technique that trumps that of many experienced kickfighters. He is a fighter with a lot of potential, and tonight, we saw flashes of what he could achieve with that potential, knocking American Muay Thai veteran Brian Collette out cold with a thundering hook. That said, he clearly has much to learn about the kickboxing game, and the challenge for Mwekassa will be to develop a kickboxing style that complements his physical gifts and athleticism and which allows him to make the most of his boxing prowess, perhaps in the vein of his legendary predecessor Mark Bernardo. Incorporating more low kicks would be a good start to counteracting fighters who will look to stay at range from his granite fists. With time, Mwekassa will wisen up to the classic kickboxing tactics, especially the low kick to high kick trap that countless kickboxers including Peter Aerts have used to devastating effect. As Mwekassa learns the kickboxing game, I anticipate that he will only become fiercer and more monstrous as a kickboxer. Until then, he will continue to capture our hearts with his eloquence and personality, both of which are key to establishing himself as a presence in the fight world.
Wayne Barrett similarly finds himself appreciating the depth of the kickboxing game. Coming off of an incredible Middleweight tournament run that saw Barrett KO Bogdan Stoica, Jason Wilnis seemed like a winnable fight for the American, but what we saw revealed a noticeable lack of comfort on Barrett’s part with initiating offense and dictating the pace of the fight. It seems like he expected Wilnis to come forward more aggressively like Robin van Roosmalen, Albert Kraus, and other Dutch combination punchers, but Wilnis turned the tables by letting Barrett initiate exchanges. While Barrett was less tentative offensively in this fight than he was against Joe Schilling, he will need to make more progress because like Jason Wilnis, future opponents will not let Barrett establish his excellent counterpunching game.
Both Jason Wilnis and Saulo Cavalari deserve credit for demonstrating what excellent gameplanning can accomplish in kickboxing. Wilnis shut Wayne Barrett down by allowing Barrett to initiate the offense while punishing him with punches and low kicks. It was a strategy that threw Barrett off of his game completely, demonstrating a brilliance and maturity on part of himself and his team. Similarly, Saulo Cavalari used two very different gameplans to great effect in the LHW contender tournament, smothering Danyo Illunga with offense at close range while using distance, speed, and low kicks against the powerful Mwekassa. Wilnis and Cavalari proved to great effect that playing against the strengths of their opponent can swing the momentum of a fight.
What is there to say about Robin van Roosmalen vs. Davit Kiria 3? The fight played out much the same as their previous bouts, but both fighters acquitted themselves well in the cardio department. Robin van Roosmalen competed in five rounds for the first time tonight, and he proved that he can hit just as hard in the fifth round as he does in the first. As a fighter who weathers the storm in order to find an opening, this was Kiria’s fight to lose as he simply couldn’t match Robin’s work rate. I suspect that Robin will likely draw Andy Ristie next; it will be interesting to see how he plans to avenge one of the most significant losses of his career.
Once again, the SuperFight Series fighters earned their share of the spotlight, which is why it is continually puzzling that Glory keeps some of its most anticipated fights off of Spike. Benny Adegbuyi vs. Hesdy Gerges was a heavyweight barn burner, but unfortunately for many fans who are restricted from accessing Glory’s online stream, this was a great fight that they just couldn’t see. Also worth watching is the development of Josh Jauncey, not only because he’s a friend of the site but also because he is putting a lot of potential on display. Jauncey divides his time between training with his family at Team WKX and Team Souwer in the Netherlands, where he’s impressed Andy Souwer himself. The future looks bright for the young British Canadian; it will be interesting to see how his career unfolds.
In closing, let’s talk about Glory itself. This is the first event promoted by the organization after a long period of reorganization that saw the appointment of a new CEO. Jon Franklin had promised changes on the production side, and it’s encouraging to see that the quality of the product remained high. Notable during this broadcast was more prominent sponsorship, from more logos in the ring to new TV commercials built specifically around the Glory product. Glory chose a small venue for this event, and while I doubt the gate was enough to break even, it’s encouraging that Glory can still produce a good night of fights in light of necessary cost cutting. That said, major questions remain: 1) What will happen to Gokhan Saki, Tyrone Spong, and Joe Schilling? All three fighters have revealed that their contracts with the organization have expired. It has long been rumored that Saki and Spong demand a high asking price for Glory, and based on previous comments by Franklin, it sounds like Glory may be willing to part ways with them. This would be a surprise considering that Saki is the Glory LHW champion--but at this point who knows. Schilling is by far the more shocking case as he is arguably Glory’s first breakout star. It doesn’t bode well for other fighters, especially for other breakouts like Wayne Barrett and Mwekassa, that Schilling and Glory can’t reach a deal. What the future holds in store for us is unclear, but at least for the time being, Glory is still capable of bringing an excellent night of action to you.
Finally, unless he’s involved in community theater or something, referee Al Wichgers really needs to decide on a hair color for himself and to stick to it. Personally, I think he looks perfectly fine with gray hair.