This Saturday evening in San Jose the vacant GLORY Light Heavyweight Championship will be on the line in a rematch between two of GLORY's heaviest hitters in the Light Heavyweight division when Saulo Cavalari will look to make history repeat itself against Zack Mwekassa. The first fight happened at GLORY 18 last November and saw both men fight a hard-fought battle to contend for Gokhan Saki's Light Heavyweight Championship.
Mwekassa was controlling the fight for the most part, cutting off the ring and backing Cavalari up towards the corners while utilizing his superior jab and following it up with his crisp boxing combinations. The only problem was that Cavalari was chopping away at him with leg kicks. Cavalari was playing the long game while Mwekassa was looking to dominate in the moment and look for the knockout. What happened was that Mwekassa wasn't expecting the high kick after taking so many right low kicks from Cavalari, so when Cavalari threw yet another right low kick the left high kick was not what he expected early into round three.
When fighting you look for rhythms and patterns in your opponent's game. Cavalari throughout this first fight was reliant on his right leg for kicks. There were a few kicks with his left leg, but by and large kicks were coming from the right leg, usually in the form of single low kicks to help give Cavalari some distance to start working with his hands against the aggressive Mwekassa. What Mwekassa may have missed is that some of Cavalari's most effective work was coming from following up his right low kick with a left hook.
In those first moments of the third round Mwekassa ate yet another right low kick, Cavalari once again backing up to create some distance and Mwekassa was possibly expecting their game of cat-and-mouse to continue forward, giving him a decision victory in the tournament. He wasn't expecting the left kick, even worse, he wasn't expecting the left high kick.
The stakes are a lot different this time around. GLORY was unable to come to an agreement with Gokhan Saki to fight on Bellator MMA: Dynamite 1 and the title was stripped from Saki, leaving a rematch between Mwekassa and Cavalari for the vacant title. Mwekassa's boxing has been well-documented, but this time around he went to the Netherlands to train with Nick Hemmers to hopefully be prepared for the onslaught of leg kicks and to perhaps be a bit more comfortable kicking himself.
Cavalari knows that Mwekassa is the marketable man, the guy who's very existence is inspirational, but that doesn't deter him from doing what he does best, which is being careful when he needs to be and aggressive when there is the right opening. This is the biggest fight of both men's respective careers in front of possibly their biggest audience to date. While fans might be upset that there is no Saki, neither Cavalari or Mwekassa are a joke and this is indeed the kind of fight that we deserve to be getting from GLORY on a regular basis.
Most interesting here is that both men weren't big names in the world of kickboxing prior to their runs in GLORY. Cavalari had made a name for himself in Brazil under the WGP banner, but rarely did his name get passed around outside of those circles and Mwekassa had looked at kickboxing as something to keep him busy in between trying to hunt down boxing bouts. Mwekassa was dangerous and not many boxers were looking to take a fight from a relative unknown from South Africa who could embarrass them with a crushing knockout. In a way, Mwekassa vs. Cavalari is the genesis of the whole GLORY experiment and a bout between two homegrown stars on their biggest platform to date.
THAT is exciting.