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Yokkao Opening Biggest Training Center in Bangkok

On June 27th Yokkao informed us all via Twitter that they will be opening the biggest Muay Thai and MMA gym in Bangkok. 

The partnership contract has been signed by Richard Cohen founder and CEO of "The Lab" gym in Bangkok with this new agreement "Fight Lab Yokkao Training Center" will open in August. "The Lab" is located on the first and second floor of the RSU Tower in Sukhumvit Soi 31, Bangkok and the new gym will be taking over the third floor, this location is only a short walk from the Phrom Phong Skytrain Station. "Fight Lab Yokkao Training Center" will have over 400 sq meters of space consisting of a cage, ring, matted area and all of Yokkao's highest quality equipment for training. A juice bar, massage area, and Yokkao shop where you can relax and buy any Yokkao equipment you might like will also be included.

We wish both Yokkao and "The Lab" the best of luck and success with the new project, and I hope to visit soon.

(below: left: Richard Cohen (“The Lab” founder and CEO) right: Mark Simmerman (manager Fight Lab Yokkao Training Center)

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Glory 17 Spike TV Ratings and Highlight Video

Glory 17 scored an average of of 487,000 viewers and a peak of 862,000. The average number is slightly below Glory 16 and became the fourth highest rated show out of Glory Sports International's seven on Spike TV.

Here are the Glory ratings on Spike TV:

  1. Glory 11: 381,000 viewers
  2. Glory 12: 476,000 viewers
  3. Glory 13: 659,000 viewers
  4. Glory 14: 495,000 viewers
  5. Glory 15: 354,000 viewers
  6. Glory 16: 498,000 viewers
  7. Glory 17: 487,000 viewers

We do not have the PPV numbers yet so we are patiently waiting to find out how Glory 17: Last man standing really did, but in the meantime here is a really amazing highlight video of Glory 17 that captures the feeling and intensity of the fighters behind the scenes perfectly.

 

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Weaknesses Opponents Can Exploit Against Artem Levin

Frequently Saturday night, at Glory Last Man Standing, Artem Levin resembled an untouchable task for whoever he met in the 8-Man Middleweight tournament that centered the PPV. His high-wire hands down stance, out of which he toggled between thundering left hook body and head shots, quick jabs, and jumping knees, governed by his speed, accuracy, and great head movement.  

I personally had the opportunity to watch Levin fight last month, in Denver, at Glory 16, and I quickly gained a greater appreciation for his work. From my floor seat it was easier to catch his movement, the shifting of stances and various feints that precipitated and flowed into every move.  

Since 2009 Levin has lost to two opponents, Joe Schilling, who he beat in their rematch Saturday night, and Simon Marcus at Lions Fight 9. He is now the Glory Middleweight Champion, the best kickboxing organization in the world. Noted MMA writer, Jack Slack, pondered the possibility that Levin was the best fighter on the planet Monday in his breakdown of Glory Last Man Standing. 

But Levin has shown weaknesses that opponents have and could exploit better to now wrest the Glory Middleweight Championship from him:  

I. Can Start Slow and Sloppy 

The earlier rounds provide the best opportunities for opponents to hit Artem Levin, because he is feeling them out and has not yet committed to his hand-checking that enables him to punch and knee inside so well.  

Many of his Glory fights have followed a simple narrative: they either begin even or in favor of his opponent, then he picks it up in the second, and finally pours it on in the third. His match against Sahak Parparyan at Glory 7 Milan aptly encapsulates this gradual escalation of dominance.  

In the beginning of the fight, Levin left his head center and unguarded when he threw one of his favorite punches - the left hook to the body - and Parparyan would throttle him with a right cross. After taking a few more, he started checking Parparyan’s right hand but Parparyan then switched to his left, which while having to come farther to find Levin’s chin still landed.  

By taking advantage of Levin’s down hands, throwing him off when he tried to clinch, punching in combinations and sneaking in leg kicks in front or behind them, he won the round. Levin followed it nicely, though, taking the second on most judge’s cards and dominating the third and especially fourth.  

The biggest mistake Parparyan made was not carrying it into the subsequent rounds. This is a terrible error against Levin who is going to get better the longer the fight continues and who is capable of switching into a higher performance level if he feels he has to do more to win the fight.   

Robert Thomas also found early success against Levin at Glory 16. Stepping into a throw a lead left jab, Levin stood completely sideways, right hand down. Thomas capitalized and struck with a left hook. Then Levin crushed him the remainder of the contest, blasting him with a couple powerful left hooks of his own.  

Achieving first round does not presage success in the second or third against Levin (in these two cases, it obviously didn't), but it is opportunity to steal a round when he isn't jumping between front kicks, head punches, body punches, spinning back fists, etc. tearing you apart and clearly winning the fight.  

  II. Varied Attack 

Falling into a pattern against Artem Levin seldom churns positive results. Once he discerns a trend he exploits it. The first Joe Schilling fight concluded in a loss for Levin, the fourth of his professional career, but also showcased some of his particular brilliance. Using the superman punch, for instance, Schilling was able to get closer to his chin, since many of his punches were ducked or quickly countered.  

The second superman punch Schilling executed is indelible, the high water mark of one of Glory’s seminal events, yet it was the change in defense Levin made from the first superman punch that created the knockdown in the second round (and maybe Schilling’s leg). While Levin often counters his opponents’ punches, especially with a left hook, sometimes he does not make that his immediate priority. On these occasions he employs his size, speed, and athleticism rather than craft and angles. When Schilling first attempted a superman punch, Levin bent backwards, perhaps not expecting Schilling to be able to reach him.  

At 6’4’’ Levin can anticipate succeeding in analogous situations. The technique allows him to evade the strike and also gain position as his opponent’s momentum still carries him forward. If Levin continued using this technique, Schilling might have missed the second superman punch, but it also might have spared the viewer a special example of his in-ring intelligence.  

Following the knockdown, every time Schilling lifted his leg seemingly either to check a kick or set into motion another superman punch Levin lifted his leg, too, and turned into his body with a right hook. If he missed the right hook he would capitalize on the momentum and his opponent’s inability to see his back hand and flow into a spinning back fist. He also brilliantly once stepped outside of Schilling’s raised right leg and shot through a clean left straight.  

Part of Levin’s wider success, including this, was the limited versatility of Schilling’s attack. He could figure it out and quickly assume an appropriate response. Many of Levin’s opponents have shared this characteristic. Simon Marcus was one of the exceptions, which, along with his terrifying clinch game, caused Levin trouble in their Lion Fight 9 contest.  

It was also an example of how a varied attack can make his ability to implement his offense and start taking you apart difficult.

III. Hands Down

Levin’s penchant for keeping his hands low should theoretically tempt more head kicks. Against Schilling and Marcus, Levin took a solid kick to the jaw. Marcus’ was right up the middle, knocking Levin’s mouth guard out, and giving Marcus an opening to jump on him; whereas, Schilling’s caught him stepping back, his chin up and hands down, moments before the end of the round. 

That he hasn't incurred greater damage regularly, kicks or otherwise, further inculcates the deft of his footwork and defense. When he does get hit it is primarily due to his predilection for keeping his head in the same place. Levin was able to move inside well against Parparyan but he wouldn't always dip into his left body hook that he leads precariously with, and Parparyan would register a breaking right hand on his chin. 

Schilling didn't always make Levin pay for this in their first or second fight. To slow Levin down coming in, Schilling used his teep that did give him a chance to launch a 1-2 and maybe side step out, but Levin routinely came over top of it with a left hook. By keeping his hands low, Levin gives opponents the opportunity to hit him; however, they have to hit him, and predominantly they don’t.

IV. Himself

Levin can be a dominant fighter, as his Glory Last Man Standing PPV performances showed, but he has also been detrimental to himself. Against Parparyan in the first round, he repeatedly came forward and pressed his head through his guard. Despite the referee warning him to stop head-butting, he continued to do it, and had a point taken away from him. If he had recused himself from that, or matured to pulling his guard up earlier in the fight, he might have been able to win the fight in the third rather than the extra fourth round. 

Equally problematic is his habit to hug his opponent after he lands his strikes to stifle their offense and get out their range with the break. This is a different calculation in Glory than Lion Fight or another organization fought under Muay Thai rules, where the time allotted for clinches is more liberal. In Glory Levin doesn't have to worry about being held there if he facing a stronger opponent, and he can fit in his occasional knees to the body if he feels before and during the referee’s attempt to separate them.  

Conversely, outside of Glory, and particularly against Simon Marcus, it was not nearly as beneficial. Marcus was undefeated prior to Saturday night in large part due to his masterful clinch work. In the first round of their fight, Levin was able to pivot away and throw Marcus into the ropes. As the fight went on, though, Marcus was wearing on him with knees to the side body that he was trying to escape with and crossing and uppercut elbows.  

He suffers physically and on the scorecards in these instances, while he only suffers on the judge’s scorecards fighting in Glory when he might actually be dominating the bout. This is the problem, for he could theoretically lose a fight he was winning because he refused to sever himself from needless practices. Yet they are not needless to his strategy.  

They are his strategy. The objective of every fight is to win. Levin wins.  

The danger, though, these, along with the other weaknesses addressed in this article, pose cannot be ignored. They certainly are not by him and that is one of the reasons he has been successful and won the Glory Middleweight Championship last weekend.  

Maybe these are not weaknesses. Maybe they are his strengths, and that they occasionally falter is a mathematical normality. They could be the key to defeating him or the key to him defeating you. 

 

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Glory 17 and Last Man Standing: A Night to Remember (Part 2)

The Last Man Standing PPV event started with the first tournament quarter final Artem Levin Vs. Alex Pereira. Let me just say how amazing it was to be able to watch a good kickboxing event in full HD on my TV without any hassle of hooking up my laptop, considering The Fight Network and Spike TV still don't have HD channels where I am. Levin basically had Pereira outclassed, he was doing whatever he liked, slipping and countering the very nervous looking Brazilian. When Pereira actually threw his punches like we've seen him do before he would either land or come very close, but he appeared to be to tentative and Levin's liver punches weren't helping. The Russian used his slick defense, counters and experience to coast to a (30-27 on all scorecards) Unanimous decision and moved onto the semi-finals with very little damage to his body.

The second tournament quarter final featured the always entertaining fan favourite Melvin Manhoef Vs. Filip "The Belgian Bull" Verlinden. As much as everyone I spoke to wanted Manhoef to get back to his violent ways and showcase one of his signature explosive knockouts, realistically we all knew it would not be easy. Manhoef was at a substantial height disadvantage, and Verlinden is a very technical fighter who really doesn't get hit very often. We were all on the edge of our seats because we know what Melvin is capable of, and he was stalking Filip and keeping him on the ropes waiting to pounce the entire fight. In the first round Melvin came in with a big overhand right and Verlinden moved left to avoid it and threw an absolutely beautifully timed head kick which caught Manhoef on the forehead and dropped him. Melvin seemed fine when he stood up, but hes lucky that kick didn't hit his chin, or else that fight would have been over. For the rest of the fight it was more of the same, Melvin stalking Verlinden as the Belgian moved, blocked and just won by having a much higher output and of course the knockdown in the first. One of the judges gave the fight 28-28 and the other two gave it 30-27 to Verlinden. Maybe that one judge was checking his text messages during the fight, because I don't personally see how he could have scored this fight a draw.

Joe Schilling Vs. Simon Marcus was the third quarter final match-up and the most exciting fight of the night. Most Joe Schilling fights have some sort of dramatic event and this time was no different. During the first round I felt Schilling was taking control of the fight but the referee was definitely giving Marcus an advantage by allowing him to clinch for longer than I thought was allowed. Nonetheless, the first round was for Schilling, the second round was more of the same, Schilling's hands are just much better than Simon's and he was putting them to use nicely, but what made this fight so exciting is that I wouldn't consider either man to possess the greatest defense. Simon finally pinned Joe in a corner and threw 4 straight punches as hard as he could and from what I could see his eyes appeared closed considering he is not used to throwing combos like this, the last straight right landed and dropped Schilling causing Marcus to win that round by two points. Schilling recovered well and won the third round the same way as the first and now of course they had to go to an extra round. As the extra round was starting Schilling looked the more fatigued of the two fighters, but about a minute into the round Marcus started dropping his mouth guard. This tactic is often used by a tired fighter to get a break or the mouth guard just doesn't fit well; however, it should be noted that this wasn't happening very often in the first few rounds. It seemed with every drop of the mouth piece Marcus looked more and more tired and Schilling seemed to just be maintaining his energy level. At this point Big John McCarthy had enough of the stalling and he took a point from Simon for dropping his mouth guard too many times. Therefore, Marcus now needed a knockout to win considering the extra round is judged as one single round and this is where Simon gained respect from a lot of people. He just went after Joe as hard as he could, Simon had 40 seconds to get a knockout and he was going to do everything in his power to do it but with only 20 seconds left he tried to repeat what he did to drop Joe in the second round but this time he got caught with a big right hook with his eyes closed and mouth open. The punch sent his mouth piece flying and  Marcus crashing to the mat stiff as a board. Joe Schilling moved on to the semi's avenging his 2 previous losses by knockout with 20 seconds left in the extra round and once again in dramatic fashion which had me jumping out of my seat, only thing was this was a war and there is a possibility of two more fights.

Fourth quarter final was American Wayne Barrett Vs. Bogdan Stoica from Romania. Barrett was keeping Stoica guessing with his foot work, boxing, and sometimes even randomly jumping straight into the air. Stoica, known for his flying knees, seemed to look a little more nervous than usual, this was his Glory debut after all. Not much was happening during the first two rounds, Stoica really couldn't get anything off because Barrett's footwork was too good. Early in the third round Stoica went for his signature flying knee but Barrett had already anticipated it and moved back the just the right amount while landing a perfect left hook counter on the chin of the airborne Stoica and crumbling him to the canvas. Barett moved on to the semis by 3rd round knockout and didn't take too much damage apart from a headbutt which gave him a nasty Rahman Vs. Holyfield like bump on his forehead.

While the tournament semi-finalists were resting Glory gave us two world title fights. They started with the welterweight title fight between current champion Marc De Bonte and Canadian "Bazooka" Joe Valtellini, this was a very close second place for fight of the night. Bazooka Joe started off controlling the pace and the ring by moving forward and throwing his usual combinations. De Bonte was covering up well, blocking most strikes and throwing counters which were landing, the first round was close but in my opinion De Bonte got it just for the cleaner strikes landed. Second round was all Bazooka Joe, he was throwing great combos, pushing the champion around and avoiding the few counters De Bonte threw this round. Third round Valtellini kept his momentum going with a beautiful hand combination consisting of both head and body punches which he followed by a quick head kick dropping De bonte flat on his back. De Bonte being the experienced fighter he is stayed down for the full eight count then stood up and amazingly seemed to have recovered to make it to the fourth round. Fourth round was big for the champion, it seemed like this was exactly what De Bonte had been waiting for the entire fight, he landed a perfect jumping switch left knee right on Valtellinis chin, he went down hard. Bazooka Joe doesn't have the experience De Bonte has so he tries to stand right away instead of taking his time and is still very wobbly on his feet while the ref gives him the eight count. De Bonte continued the onslaught and battered Valtellini around the ring for the rest of the round and the fifth and final round aswell, Valtellini stayed on his feet during the last round but he had zero offence as he was just barely surviving the whole round. If Glory judges were allowed give 10-8 rounds without a knockdown the fifth would have been one, but i do not think they are. Overall a very close fight, one knockdown and one dominant round for each fighter it all really depended on how the judges scored round 1 and all three judges saw it the same way 47-46 for the new welterweight champion "Bazooka" Joe Valltelini. Joe definitely has some serious work to do to keep the belt away from the man that knocked him out at Glory 13 in Tokyo, Nieky Holzken.

The Semi-finals of the tournament were much slower paced than the quarter finals, probably due to people being pretty beat up. Levin once again used his defense and slick style to not allow Verlinden to land anything while picking him off and winning a unanimous decision 30-27 on all cards. Joe Schilling met Wayne Barrett for a rematch and both fighters were a lot more cautious than they were in their first encounter. The fight was actually quite uneventful and close Joe Schilling won a split decision judges scores were 28-29 Schilling, 28-29 Barrett, and 30-27 Schilling, the last judge was out to lunch.

The heavyweight world title fight between Rico Verhoeven and Daniel Ghita was far from exciting. It was much like their first encounter but with much less output from both fighters. To be honest I can barely remember anything significant from the fight, all that stuck in my mind was Ghita's Trainer Erik Van Warmerdam telling Daniel between rounds to keep waiting, or telling him that Rico was behind. It was very strange advice, something that I personally have never heard from a corner man. When the fight ended none of us watching could choose a winner, I would have hated to be a judge. Ghita did more visible damage with his body kicks, Rico's body looked all beat up and one of his ribs looked to be protruding, but Rico was busier and had much more output and looked to be controlling the pace for all five rounds. In the end the volume of strikes and ring generalship was more important to the judges and Rico Verhoeven kept his belt by unanimous decision, judges scores were 49-46, 49-46, 48-47.

The tournament final, another rematch for Joe schilling, he had already avenged his losses to Marcus and Barrett and now he had to beat Artem Levin to prove the first time wasn't luck. Schilling had been in two hard fights already and Levin was virtually untouched so this would not be an easy task. First round, once again Levin is controlling the fight by making Schilling miss, countering or smothering. Half way through the round Levin missed a right hook and came around with a perfect spinning back fist and dropped Schilling for a 10-8 round. The rest of the fight was just the Russian knowing he is the fresher fighter, ahead on the scorecards and the one with the superior defense. He won the next two rounds handily once again barely taking any damage and becoming the new Glory middleweight champion and $200,000 richer by unanimous decision, judges scores were 29-26, 29-26, 29-26.

Overall I enjoyed Glory 17 thoroughly, out of fifteen fights there was one lackluster bout. I'm really hoping that Glory continues with the PPVs and the under card on Spike TV so that fight fans can learn to appreciate kickboxing. As long as Glory fans keep supporting them, and Glory keeps putting on events like this I cannot see why it shouldn't become the next big thing in fight sports.

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