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The LiverKick.com GLORY 15 Preview and Predictions

GLORY 15

Tomorrow in Istanbul, Turkey, GLORY will present GLORY 15 Istanbul. GLORY 15 is slated to feature the GLORY Light Heavyweight Championship tournament, featuring Tyrone Spong, Saulo Cavalari, Gokhan Saki and Nathan Corbett. The winner will walk away as the first GLORY Light Heavyweight Champion, which is a huge, huge deal. So let’s run through the card.

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Sponsored: Right Guard For the Win

Right Guard

So let's get one thing straight here, we all use antiperspirant and deodorant (or at least I hope we all do. Seriously.) and know that it can sometimes be a pain. For most of us it is a bit of a strange ritual that we have to partake in to apply it without making a giant mess of our shirts. If you roll some on first, no matter how careful you think you are when you pull a shirt over your head, there is a good chance of some unsightly white marks appearing somewhere on it. Then there is the whole thing of if you do end up sweating even a little bit, your shirt will have white stains that you have to scrub out.

Antiperspirants and deodorants are a part of our everyday life, so why not have them not be a hassle, right? That is what Right Guard is going for with Right Guard Xtreme Care. Right Guard Xtreme Care promises the same level of wetness and odor protection without all of the white residues all over the place. That's Right Guard for the Win.

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Sponsored: Right Guard For the Win

Right Guard

So let's get one thing straight here, we all use antiperspirant and deodorant (or at least I hope we all do. Seriously.) and know that it can sometimes be a pain in the ass. For most of us it is a bit of a strange ritual that we have to partake in to apply it without making a giant mess of our shirts. If you roll some on first, no matter how careful you think you are when you pull a shirt over your head, there is a good chance of some unsightly white marks appearing somewhere on it. Then there is the whole thing of if you do end up sweating even a little bit, your shirt will have white stains that you have to scrub out.

Antiperspirants and deodorants are a part of our everyday life, so why not have them not be a hassle, right? That is what Right Guard is going for with Right Guard Xtreme Care. Right Guard Xtreme Care promises the same level of wetness and odor protection without all of the white residues all over the place. That's Right Guard for the Win.

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Steven Wright: I Know That Cyborg Lost, But Jorina Won!

Jorina

When I think about my prediction of Jorina (pronounced Yorina as the J's are pronounced like Y's in Holland) over Cyborg, I didn't even have to mull it over long. In truth, I don't even think I picked an upset. Jorina Baars is way better than Chris Cyborg in Muay Thai and kickboxing. Jorina Baars has beaten far better fighters than Cris Cyborg. Jorina throws solid combinations, lands flush low kicks, moves extremely well, has awesome timing on her teeps and step up knees, and most importantly for someone fighting Cyborg, Jorina is big for the weight class. She is 5'11 and has fought over 150 pounds before. So this means that a clinch and pressure game is tough to do on her, even though Jorina isn't particularly strong in the clinch for a tall fighter. The only thing Cyborg had going for her was aggression. Some thought power would be an obstacle, but Jorina has been hit harder by other fighters, including one that used to be a guy. Not to mention, the gauntlet of training in Holland. Cyborg's only chance was to make the fight ugly, throwing Jorina on the ground and landing wild shots. She was only able to do this in spots, and was beaten throughout the five round fight. Yet I couldn't help but be bothered by the fact that on the strength of her name and history in MMA, people thought that she would be able to just show up and dominate in Muay Thai. This is the lost narrative of a fight that people only see value in discussing the loser, not the winner.

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Cris Cyborg: Negative Narrative, Uplifting Performance

LF

 

There’s something awfully self-serving about wanting a fighter to lose. It reflects a deeper emotional connection to the fight that elevates it from a mere contest of skill and athleticism to a form of theater. The fighters are suddenly characters in a play with the fight and its outcome having a profound outcome on their narrative trajectories, and as viewers, we are emotionally engaged in that. Savvy promoters who appreciate this may find clever ways to engage our feelings, using various tools and devices to frame the story and its characters in a way that’s more gripping and engaging, where Fighter A becomes that person from Nowheresville who is looking for their big break while Fighter B is that person who’s been talking big and acting like they own the sport. Some readers might go further and call these characters Faces and Heels. That’s a line, however, that some fans don’t like to cross: scripted drama, they say, yet deliberate or not, the narrative process is exactly the same.

What then do we make of Cris Cyborg? The drama is well known and the key words require no elaboration: Steroids. Cheating. Ronda Rousey. Tito Ortiz. Dana White. Why do some fans (at least in the MMA world) choose to hate her? Because of her appearance combined with her accomplishments? Because they think all of her success is due to taking steroids despite only being busted once? Because she calls out Ronda Rousey? Does that make Rousey (ironically) the Face in all of this? Who’s writing the script now?

As powerful and *natural* as narrative is, sometimes it may blind us from appreciating something that’s far more important in this instance: that last night, Cris Cyborg and Jorina Baars put on one of the best fights of the year and possibly one of the all time best fights in women’s kickboxing. It was a battle that saw both fighters dig deep physically and technically, putting on a performance that was worthy of a stage far grander than the Hard Rock in Las Vegas. It was a spectacle that should rightly serve as a career highlight for both fighters, who each landed incredibly hard shots and rallied back from dangerous positions. This is a fight that we should be grateful for seeing with both fighters deserving our admiration and praise.

One of the best things about the K-1 promotional model was its tendency to highlight positive storylines and gloss over negative press. This could be frustrating at times when honesty was demanded, especially with regard to issues like Badr Hari’s behavior and fighter pay. Yet, the ability to sell these storylines allowed us to focus on the fights, not the mud and dirt of the fight business (which believe me, goes to far murkier depths than you or I will ever get to hear about). After all, does having a front row seat to situations that should play out behind closed doors really accomplish anything? Why are the petty squabbles between Dana White and Tito Ortiz every fan’s business? As fans, let’s focus on enjoying the fights and let the so-called “businesspeople” (such as they are) worry about the rest. Let’s enjoy the moment. If you’re new to kickboxing and watch MMA predominantly, I can say that last night, you got treated to a certain caliber of a fight (for free) and an experience that is rare, so rather than dwelling on what this means for Cyborg and the UFC, let’s take a moment to celebrate the incredible toughness of Cris Cyborg and the awesome talent of Jorina Baars.

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Kickboxing Needs to Bring Their Content to the Fans

Enfusion

Kickboxing is a frustrating sport sometimes. There, I said it.

Kickboxing has been struggling to find its identity over the past few years. That might seem like a bit of an ominous statement, but when you look at how many different organizations we’ve seen in different mediums, how many star Kickboxers we’ve seen retire or rise to prominence, or how many we’ve seen languish in smaller promotions you’ll see what I’m talking about. Right now is an interesting transition period for the sport of Kickboxing and a vital time for the sport where it could either grow to be huge or it could fail and return to obscurity. How that product gets to the fans is probably the most vital part of the sport right now, even more important than the quality of the fights themselves.

The landscape right now is like this; GLORY airs on Spike TV in the United States and then has various, smaller television deals throughout Europe and Asia. K-1 is currently attempting to negotiate television deals while providing free streams via their website. SuperKombat airs on EuroSport and a few smaller networks in different spots in the world. Enfusion is in a similar spot to SuperKombat. Then there are various, regional Kickboxing events that get solid coverage locally but not much anywhere else.

Like I’ve been saying, it’s a very strange and fragmented sport for the time being. There are talks of GLORY considering moving some select, bigger events to PPV here in the United States, starting with GLORY 17. It would probably be in the vein of the UFC model, where the prelims would be on Spike TV and the main card on PPV, which is fine, the only issue is that PPV as a medium is a dying one. The concept of Pay-Per-View in the United States began in the 50’s but came to prominence in the 70’s and 80’s when Boxing took a shine to the concept of selling live broadcasts of big fights through cable systems.

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Kickboxing's Role in a Time of Turmoil

Nabiev

I try to follow the elite fighters of the world on social media, Facebook, twitter, and on Instagram. Despite the language barrier, the fighters usually post things in English, or post a picture with a smily face or something, allowing me to keep up. So as I go down my Instagram wall, I notice that Russian based(Dagestani by birth) fighter Dhabar Askerov had been posting pictures of Russian president Vladimir Putin. Now again, I don't understand the words that accompany the picture, but I will say that Putin looks pretty damn cool in the pictures. Often wearing shades and seems to cool to be bothered by the events of the world. Adding to this, Artem Levin is another Russian fighter who has several pictures of himself and the National Muay Thai team with President Putin. In fact, international Russian fighter Artem Vahkitov is in one of the pictures with Putin, all of the men proud to be in the presence of one another. I also follow Ukrainian kickboxing star Artur Kyshenko. As I watched his recent post on Instagram I noticed that he has crossed himself out of the Legend poster, the Russian promotion that used him on their card last year. Adding to this, Kyshenko recently posted a pick of him in his Ukrainian youth, wearing his national colors at the podium of an amateur Muay Thai event. It most be noted that there is a chance this is complete coincidence, as the youth pick is a comparison pick and Kyshenko was injured after the first fight in the tournament, so he could have crossed himself out because of that. Also, I do not think that the fighters are in anyways enemies, but as one could imagine, there is no way that they couldn't be effected by the events between the Ukraine and Russia.

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Kickboxing Metagame: Are we in the post-Dutch era?

Kiria

If you’ve been a kickboxing fan long enough, you must know when a show has that “Dutch” feel to it. There’s pounding trance music, corners frantically yelling at the top of their lungs one second and chanting “Heyyy!!” (along with the crowd) the next, the VIP tables which the Dutch inexplicably prefer to stadium seating, Joop Ubeda snapping at everyone he possibly can, Mike Passenier drinking more of his fighters’ water than they actually do--the list goes on. One of my favorite conceits, however, has always been the advertised nationality of the fighters featured on these shows. At face value, the fighters on an It’s Showtime or old school Golden Glory card hailed from all over the world, from Suriname to Morocco, despite either being born in the Netherlands or having spent most of their life there (It’s Showtime took this conceit to more ludicrous extremes--playing NBC’s Olympic anthems throughout its fights and intermissions). These not-so-foreign fighters also competed with a similar fighting style, employing the Dutch systems practiced in powerhouse gyms like Chakuriki, Mike’s Gym, Golden Glory, Vos, and Meijiro and popularized by the late great Ramon Dekkers. This Dutch style would dominate kickboxing for nearly three decades, from its Muay Thai success in the 80s to its near ubiquity in the pantheon of K-1 champions.

But by 2011, things began to change. The fall of K-1 saw the kickboxing landscape largely shift to the Dutch scene with It’s Showtime and its roster of local prospects leading the way. The stylistic metagame subsequently coalesced around the same Dutch fighting system and the various particularities of its standout fight camps--devolving from an era of diversity which saw the likes of Andy Hug, Mike Bernardo, Glaube Feitosa, Ray Sefo, Masato, and Buakaw fight for the top position of their weight classes. The Chakuriki fighters liked to fight technical, the Mike’s Gym fighters liked to bash each others’ brains in, and everybody liked liver shots and some variation of punching combinations followed by low kicks. In short, the fights got boring, with fighters performing the same old moves on each other with little variation and more importantly, no innovation.

And then there was Giorgio Petrosyan. A petite Armenian with lots of decisions and few KOs to his name, Petrosyan unravelled the Dutch style of kickboxing. He read its tempo, he anticipated its combinations, he internalized its rhythm--and using his exquisite technique he defeated every major Dutch stylist in recent memory, from Albert Kraus to Andy Souwer to the Dutch system’s latest standout, Robin van Roosmalen. Petrosyan’s rising success was soon accompanied by increasing disarray in the Dutch ranks. There was anger, frustration, exasperated remarks of Petrosyan being overrated and boring--a point fighter rather than a fight finisher. And yet no one acknowledged the increasingly apparent reality: that Dutch Kickboxing was becoming increasingly predictable and exploitable.

Meanwhile, Andy Ristie ravaged It’s Showtime’s entry and mid-level ranks with his “unorthodox” fighting style that combines KO power and clever technique with his tall, lanky frame. While never flawless, Ristie’s style seemed to pose a darkhorse threat to the top, a threat which was finally realized when Ristie sent Petrosyan and van Roosmalen thundering to the canvas. In both fights, Ristie broke his opponents’ rhythm and form, slipping curving punches through the guard which found their mark. In one fell swoop, Andy Ristie turned the lightweight division upside down and singlehandedly breathed more life into kickboxing than it had since the Masato-Buakaw era.

The end result is a revitalized metagame that is being defined by innovation and the unravelling of kickboxing orthodoxy. The era of Ramon Dekkers is over. The future will see the arrival of more Petrosyans and Andy Risties--fighters whose diverse abilities take the game to new heights while upsetting the norm. It’s also not insignificant that both Cor Hemmers and Thom Harinck have retired at this time, opening the field for new coaching talent from around the world to make their names. Davit Kiria vs. Andy Ristie is only a taste of the type of fight to come: cerebral, intellectual, suspenseful, with glimmering strokes of artistry and sweet science rather than the concussive, brain rattling thunder of Meat Day. This is kickboxing at its best, and if you’re a fan, then you should welcome the evolution of the sport into the more fully realized competition of striking arts that it always promised to be.

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Remy Bonjasky Deserves Better

Bonjasky

Remy Bonjasky deserves better. He deserves better from the fans, he deserves better from his fellow fighters and he deserves better from GLORY.

Last night at GLORY 14 Zagreb we saw Remy Bonjasky’s career end in a fashion that would have made Harmonica from “Once Upon a Time in the West” feel uneasy. Remy Bonjasky’s career has cemented him as one of the all-time greats in Heavyweight Kickboxing, with three K-1 World Grand Prix victories under his belt. That puts him in the same category as fighters like Peter Aerts and Ernesto Hoost and Sem Schilt, as multi-time K-1 World Grand Prix champions who have nothing left to prove to the world. He belongs in the same breath as those fighters, yet it feels like he’s not taken as seriously by many.

Peter Aerts had a huge retirement ceremony at GLORY 13, with lots of fanfare and respect thrown his way, while Remy Bonjasky’s retirement was far more subdued, with Remy standing in the ring after his fight with Cro Cop being assailed by boos from the Zagreb crowd. There was no ceremony, no balloons, no post-fight interview on the broadcast, and there was no confetti, just a chorus of boos both in the arena and around the world from fans of Mirko Cro Cop who felt that Cro Cop was robbed. All of this while a three-time K-1 World Grand Prix Champion stood in the ring for the last time with tears in his eyes.

This wouldn’t be the first time in Remy Bonjasky’s career that things wouldn’t go his way, in fact, it would be one of many incidents where things went horribly wrong for the Flying Dutchman. This is the same Remy Bonjasky that Saduharu Tanikawa, Stefan Leko and Badr Hari had dubbed as an “actor” in the ring. In the fight with Leko in 2007 there were multiple low blows delivered to Remy Bonjasky, who then took time to recover, leading to Leko and Tanikawa believing that he was faking his injury in the ring and that he wasn’t good for K-1. Then came 2008 where Badr Hari became frustrated in the K-1 World Grand Prix Finals, pushed Bonjasky over and stomped him on the head, leading to a disqualification in the biggest fight of the year.

Bonjasky would never live that moment down, which sounds ridiculous, Bonjasky had done nothing wrong. He was an actor for taking that DQ win, he was a fraud and he was afraid of Badr Hari. His family received multiple death threats after the incident in K-1 from both fans and alleged friends of Badr Hari. After running into Semmy Schilt in the K-1 World Grand Prix 2009 Bonjasky was forced into retirement by a recurring eye injury, a detached retina, that left his vision in question. With limited peripheral vision it would be difficult for Bonjasky to be able to participate in such a tough sport as Kickboxing, making it hard to see strikes coming at him, but he still came back. He still fought with limited vision.

For years he had discussed wanting to have a retirement fight, one last fight to go out on, but with Kickboxing in the state that it was, no one was willing to give Bonjasky a big payday for his retirement, as they felt his retirement was simply not worth the attention or the budget, that fans wouldn’t care. Things started to turn around when GLORY started booking events and that they wanted the Flying Gentleman to help bolster their Heavyweight division, seeing the addition of Bonjasky as instant-credibility. Things were alright for Bonjasky in the beginning, but it was clear that things had changed in those years off.

After last night’s win over Mirko Cro Cop Remy Bonjasky will walk away from GLORY with a record of 3-3, his storied career ending with a whimper, not a bang. Regardless of who you thought won between Cro Cop and Bonjasky, isn’t it safe to say that it is unfair to Bonjasky to boo him out of the arena for his last fight? This was known to be Bonjasky’s retirement fight for a while, why was it kept under wraps like that? Where was the big ceremony for Bonjasky? Why did he have to fight Mirko in his last fight in Mirko’s home town?

Remy Bonjasky has worked hard to earn the respect of the Kickboxing world, but it seems like it never came, even in his last fight. I hope that the years remember Remy Bonjasky for what he was; a dynamic fighter with great defenses, better kicks and the ability to feel a fighter out and to catch them off guard with a flying knee or kick from out of nowhere. He was one of the few men who would not only win the K-1 World Grand Prix once, but to win it multiple times and he has wins over some of the toughest Heavyweight Kickboxers to ever walk this earth. Last night felt like the Cro Cop show when it didn’t need to be just about Cro Cop.

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Glory 14: Why We Need More Five-Round Fights

Ristie/Kiria

The conclusion of Glory 14 saw kickboxing legend Remy Bonjasky hang up his gloves after a hard-fought three round battle with Mirko Cro Cop that featured moments of vintage greatness from both fighters. Remy actively landed his signature kicks and knees while Cro Cop connected with thundering high kicks and powerful punches. Some fans may find fault with the decision, but I feel that it was rendered appropriately as Bonjasky landed more cleanly with his knees in the first two rounds, taking the fight two rounds to one. But did that mean that both fighters were done fighting? Hardly. Cro Cop turned up the pressure in Round 3, cornering Bonjasky and landing hard punches in the pocket. As controversial as fans may see the decision, there is no doubt that a fight of this magnitude should have been a five round fight.

The lack of five rounds is a curiosity in the sport of kickboxing. An ongoing staple of Muay Thai, the kickboxing world has largely spurned the concept, preferring a 3x3min structure originally set in place by K-1. This might be seen as a way to streamline the action, giving fighters a more limited time frame to make their case for the win and preventing fighters who are ahead on the scorecards from coasting through rounds. Indeed, “speeding up the action” is a reason that’s been frequently utilized to justify many of Kickboxing’s more unusual rules, particularly its controversial and often inconsistent clinch rules. While it’s unusual and remarkably savvy for promoters to tailor the rules of the sport to suit their product, the flipside in this particular case are lost opportunities to see great fights live up to their full potential.

Take Andy Ristie vs. Davit Kiria, for example. This was a fight that like Bonjasky vs. Cro Cop, could have ended after three rounds with a clear decision in favor of Ristie, yet like the Bonjasky fight, gave us a glimpse of what was possible in Rounds 4 and 5. Davit Kiria was still in the game after three rounds, turtling up Albert Kraus style and taking heavy punishment from Ristie while returning with counters that were increasingly finding their mark. The pendulum was beginning to swing, and there was a palpable sense that Kiria could gain control of the fight. Ending the fight after Round 3 would have deprived audiences of the best comeback of the year so far.

Kiria, like Remy Bonjasky and Buakaw in the past, is a slow starter whose essential style is not rewarded by current Kickboxing rules. These men typically open with careful, more conservative movements, studying their opponent in the early frames and then intensifying their offensive output in later rounds. This may not satisfy those who would prefer a consistently fast tempo for the fight, but I would argue that this cerebral style of fighting has an appropriate place in the sport, creating intrigue and suspense. A chess match is a great spectacle in and of itself, especially when it involves two elite competitors. Alternatively, a five round fight also allows us to see a knockdown, drag-out brawl like Chahid vs. Mike Zambidis or a tense affair like Artem Levin vs. Joe Schilling come to a more definitive conclusion. While Glory would undoubtedly have to adjust its pacing and structure its fight cards appropriately to accommodate a five round fight, Kiria vs. Ristie has clearly illustrated that the results can be magnificent, title or not.

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