Ever since beating Murthel Groenhart at GLORY 28 PARIS, Cedric Doumbé told anybody who would listen that he would take the welterweight title from Nieky 'The Natural' Holzken when they eventually met.
With Holzken riding a record-setting unbroken win streak in GLORY and having dispatched far better-known challengers in the course of that run, few believed Doumbé's confident predictions. Next time they will pay attention, because at GLORY: COLLISION he did exactly what he said he was going to do.
Statistically, Holzken is the most successful fighter in GLORY history. On the day of the event he and Verhoeven were tied for number of wins in GLORY but Holzken had the edge because his run was unbroken whereas Verhoeven's was not. And if he beat Doumbé, he would set a new record with 13 consecutive wins.
Doumbé, on the other hand, had in the win over Groenhart secured the biggest victory of his career. Outside of fighting he is also an actor, model and stand-up comedian. People assumed he was joking when he made comments that his fight would be “the end of Nieky”.
They assumed the joke was still in play when, not long into the fight itself, Doumbé danced and showboated in front of the organization's most accomplished fighter. The assumption was that he was playing for laughs from the crowd and showing off before taking his inevitable loss.
But he wasn't. What he was doing was continuing the same tactic which had seen him mercilessly hound Holzken on social media in the months before the fight. Holzken is a proud fighter, old-school in his dislike of trash-talk, and Doumbé wanted him angry. A clinical Holzken is varied and calculating, an emotional Holzken less so.
Doumbé knew Holzken was angry as soon as he stood opposite him. Post-fight he recalled looking into Holzken's eyes from across the ring. “He looked really pissed. I thought oh man, he wants to kill me”. Faced with the reality of an angry Holzken, Doumbé found himself questioning the wisdom of having spent months poking the bear.
For almost all of the fight Doumbé moved backwards and let Holzken come to him, looking to draw him out and counter-attack. Quickly he learned that Holzken's jab is so fast and precise that countering it is not an easy matter; it took him the first two rounds to get the timing down. Before he did, he took a lot of sharp straight lefts to the face.
Once the fight was two rounds in, it was clear that Doumbé did belong in there with Holzken. He was causing problems for the defending champion with his speed and his reflexes. Aside from the jab, Holzken wasn't having notable success with anything, while Doumbé was starting to find a home for his leg kicks. But Holzken is also a notoriously slow starter, so it could have been that he was simply waiting to open up.
A key moment came in the fourth round when Doumbé landed an uppercut/hook combination which staggered Holzken backwards. They were two of the cleanest blows that Holzken has taken during his entire GLORY tenure and Doumbé capitalized by hitting him with the exact same combination again. The round turned into a back and forth war in which the best shots of the fight were landed and both chins were tested.
Doumbé's efforts in the fourth tired him and his energy was noticeably depleted in the fifth and final round. Holzken turned his pace up and put the pressure on but couldn't find a way to overwhelm the Frenchman. This was probably Holzken's best round in the fight but he needed a knockout and it was nowhere to be found. His trademark liver-shot efforts came to naught and as the seconds ticked away the belt got looser around his waist.
Waiting to get going nearly cost Holzken a loss in the GLORY 26 fight with Groenhart, who racked up points in each round and was ahead before Holzken clicked into gear. Did he make that same mistake here, or was Doumbé in his head and too sharp for him on the night? Either way, the belt now has a new owner, as four of the five judges returned a decision for Doumbé and gave France its first GLORY champion.
Cedric Doumbé def. Nieky Holzken, Split Decision (48-47, 48-47, 48-47, 48-47, 48-46)