With Jamal Ben Saddik coming off a ‘Fight of the Year’ performance against Rico Verhoeven in December - albeit on the losing side - he was naturally the heavy favorite over Jahfarr Wilnis going into this rematch.
The two first met at GLORY 2 BRUSSELS and Wilnis came away the winner by decision. But over the years their careers took different trajectories; Ben Saddik found himself a contender and Wilnis an underdog.
This was actually Wilnis’ first fight in the organization since GLORY 35 NICE. Two losses followed by injury problems and the passing of his father kept him sidelined for over a year.
Wilnis rode a three-fight skid into this fight with Ben Saddik and most pundits had a Ben Saddik win as a formality, the question being ‘when’ he would stop Wilnis, not ‘if’.
Instead it was Wilnis who nearly stopped Ben Saddik, sending him to the canvas in the third round by way of a lightning-fast flurry of punches which opened his guard up for a final, felling right cross.
That combination started with a rear uppercut and it was that shot which scored again and again for Wilnis throughout the fight. The uppercut is underused in kickboxing, strangely so for a sport in which the double-arm cover is the go-to defense, but Wilnis is an expert with it.
Numerous times over the course of the bout he made Ben Saddik shell up and then sent that right uppercut sailing vertically between the twin pillars of Ben Saddik’s guard, snapping ‘The Goliath’s head back.
Ben Saddik started strong and in the first round looked like he had rocked Wilnis with a right hand. But for some reason his gas tank was emptied after that first round and he offered progressively little offense to Wilnis as the fight wore on.
It was a strange downturn given the superb performance he put in against Rico Verhoeven in December, with any number of possible explanations as to why.
Whatever the reason, it is irrelevant now. Wilnis announced his return to the GLORY heavyweight division in compelling fashion.
He remains the division’s most accurate puncher - 66% of his punch attempts are successful - and the question now is whether he can achieve consistency or, like Ben Saddik, rise and fall from fight to fight.
Jahfarr Wilnis def. Jamal Ben Saddik by Unanimous Decision, R3 3:00
(29-27, 29-27, 29-27, 29-27, 29-27)