Three fights, three wins, and a rivalry brought to an end – Nieky 'The Natural' Holzken's win over Murthel Groenhart in the main event of GLORY 34 DENVER brought to an end a trilogy which has provided one of the sport's most compelling storylines in recent years.
The two have been bitter rivals since their first fight, in 2010, ended in a decision win for Holzken. Groenhart strongly disputed the result and said he felt he had been robbed, comments which Holzken did not appreciate. In 2015 they fought a rematch at GLORY 26 AMSTERDAM, preceded by a huge amount of media hype, and Holzken again won a decision and Groenhart and his supporters again strongly disputed it.
Going into this third fight, both were very keen on scoring a knockout and having the fight end decisively. There was much less trash-talk between them than there was for the GLORY 26 fight, but their intensity of feeling was no lower. Both said that this was going to be their final encounter and that they would not fight each other again regardless of the outcome.
Groenhart started strong, looking to pressure Holzken and put him on the back foot. He met with success in the first round, looking like he rattled Holzken with a flurry at one point, but Holzken gradually slowed Groenhart's forward momentum and began taking control of the center of the ring.
In their GLORY 26 fight Holzken had a lot of success with leg kicks and Groenhart was limping towards the end of the bout. He continued with that strategy in this fight, flicking constant low kicks onto Groenhart's lead leg, working both the inside and the outside.
By the end of the second round Groenhart had taken thirty clean kicks to the leg from Holzken and was already beginning to show signs of difficulty with it. Rounds two and three saw Holzken constantly forcing him backwards and shutting his offense down. From pushing the pace in round one, Groenhart by the middle of the fight was being herded onto the ropes and picked apart.
Surprisingly, Groenhart rallied in the fourth and started taking the fight to Holzken, reversing the momentum of the previous rounds. He pushed the pace for the first minute but then the fight briefly got bogged down in an ugly moment as Groenhart clinch-wrestled Holzken to the floor and hit him in the face with a knee on the way down, for which he received a warning.
The two sniped at each other for the rest of the round before a wild scrap broke out in the dying seconds of the round. Groenhart's rally earned him the win in this round and he carried the momentum through to the fifth and final round. Advantage passed back and forth but Holzken's tight defense kept him out of serious trouble; Groenhart threw with plenty of power but much of his output detonated on Holzken's guard.
And so they went the distance once more. The decision seemed more clear this time, but things were still tense as the fighters waited for the official decision. All three judges saw it the same way, scoring it 48-47 across the board for Holzken. There was no protest from Groenhart this time and no disputing of the decision.
Afterwards both fighters confirmed that they would not be fighting each other ever again and they would henceforth be friends. True to their word, the two were later found in the GLORY hotel bar drinking a beer together.
Nieky Holzken def. Murthel Groenhart (48-47, 48-47, 48-47)