GLORY 13 TOKYO: Welterweight Championship Tournament Breakdown

GLORY 13 TOKYO: Welterweight Championship Tournament Breakdown

Wednesday, Jul 12 2017

2013 has been a huge year for the GLORY World Series and it will end, fittingly, with GLORY 13 TOKYO.

Taking place at the Ariake Coliseum in Tokyo, Japan, on Saturday December 21 the card is one of the most stacked in kickboxing history.

It hosts legendary names from the heavyweight division - such as Peter Aerts, Remy Bonjasky and Jerome Le Banner - and the new stars, fighters such as Nieky Holzken and Joe Valtellini.

Those two are one half of the GLORY 13 Welterweight Championship Tournament. The one-night, four-man tournament has a grand prize of $150,000 on the line and each participant has his own very distinctive style.

Nieky Holzken (82-11, 43 KO’s) is ranked number one in the world at welterweight and for good reason.

In the course of his career he has left 46% of his opponents on the canvas, often via one of his trademark body-shots. Holzken has some of the best hands in the kickboxing game and is a master at setting up the left hook to the liver.

It is no surprise that Holzken has stopped all three of his opponents in GLORY since his debut at GLORY 1 STOCKHOLM back in May 2012.

Accomplished Swedish fighter Alex Harris (27-4, 8 KO’s) was the first to go down, followed by veterans Murat Direkci (69-17-2, 57 KO’s) and Karim Ghajji (92-9-1, 48 KO’s) at GLORY 2 BRUSSELS and GLORY 6 ISTANBUL respectively.

Direkci and Ghajji are both top-tier talents with a lot of experience. Ghajji has had over 100 fights in his career and Direkci’s record isn’t far from that. But all that experience still didn’t help them against Canadian wunderkind Bazooka Joe’ Valtellini (10-1, 9 KO’s).

Coming out of Toronto, Valtellini’s rise has been absolutely remarkable. He debuted at GLORY 6 ISTANBUL, facing Direkci in his ancestral Turkish homeland and fighting overseas for the first time as well. So, big-show debut, veteran opponent, first international fight - no pressure, right?

Well as it turned out, apparently there wasn’t. Valtellini went in as an unknown but came out as one to watch, dominating the fight and forcing Direkci’s corner to throw the towel in. He then stopped ‘Road to Glory’ tournament winner Francois Ambang (11-3, 3 KO’s) at GLORY 9 NEW YORK and did the same for Ghajji at GLORY 11 CHICAGO after a close fight.

Leg kicks are the Valtellini trademark. He is a savage leg-kicker and has a lot of variety in terms of timing and angles. The set-up is everything; he does a lot of different things to try and catch the opponent standing dead with all his weight down, or otherwise unable to move the leg.

Also on the GLORY 11 CHICAGO card was Raymond Daniels (24-0, 14 KO’s). To say that ‘The Real Deal’ is a legend in the karate world would be an understatement. Daniels is one of the superstars of the karate tournament scene, having won every major competition multiple times.

Point-karate is his background but playing for points isn’t his style. Daniels likes his fights to finish. His kicking game is the most unorthodox in the whole of full-contact martial arts competition, including such things as hook-kicks and tornado-kicks.

In his time with Chuck Norris’ World Combat League, Daniels showcased the jumping spin-kick as his trademark knockout technique. He makes it look easy.

At GLORY 11 CHICAGO he pulled off another highlight-reel KO when he stopped the UFC veteran Brian Foster in the first round with a spinning heel kick. Foster has wins over the likes of Matt ‘The Immortal’ Brown. He is not an easy person to put away.

Daniels’ game is almost entirely kick-based but anybody who thought he would struggle with kickboxing has been silenced. He is a very unique threat and opponents need to be very careful with him.

The final participant is Karapet Karapetyan (42-8-2, 4 KO’s), of Armenian heritage but based in the Netherlands. In many ways he is the opposite of Daniels. Where Daniels is mobile, flamboyant and unpredictable, Karapetyan moves forward constantly and throws combinations in almost robotic fashion.

Karapetyan’s work-rate is almost unrivalled in the welterweight division. He is like a Van Roosmalen or a Kiria, staying in range the whole time and throwing punches and kicks constantly. Describing his style as ‘robotic’ is not an insult. It just means that the pace and volume of his attacks are almost inhuman.

He is a technical fighter, throwing the right things at the right time and setting his attacks up well.

Karapetyan is an intelligent fighter and intelligent man - away from the ring he is a qualified lawyer. Clean knockouts are not a trademark of his but attrition is. Karapetyan is one of those fighters who puts opponents through the grinder.

The first semi-final pits Karapetyan against Holzken.

The world #1 is the favorite to win that fight but Karapetyan has a showed a marked resistance to being stopped, which means there is a good chance the fight goes the distance. If it does, Holzken is going to have a really hard fight and take some damage even if he wins.

The second semi-final sees Valtellini face Daniels.

Valtellini is a technical and intelligent kickboxer and so far he has been able to set his opponents up to put them exactly where he wants them. But Daniels is probably the most unpredictable fighter in all of kickboxing.

This fight is equally unpredictable. Valtellini has to impose his game and maintain that control, while Daniels can end it in an instant with a kick that nobody saw coming.

On paper the grand finale is Holzken versus Valtellini, but this has been the year of upsets so it could easily be Karapetyan versus Daniels or any other mix in between.

GLORY 10, GLORY 11 and GLORY 12 have all seen the ‘rising star but underdog’ fighter win (Schilling, Verhoeven, Ristie) so if that pattern continues, the belt could be going home with Valtellini.

The tournament reserve fight has Alexander Stecurenko (48-8, 24 KO’s) facing Karim Ghajii.

This will be a tough fight for both. Ghajji’s experience favors him against the young Russian, but Stetcurenko has a size and power advantage as well as some mean body shots and a tendency towards being unorthodox.

GLORY 13 TOKYO takes place Saturday December 21 and airs on SPIKE TV via tape-delay at 9PM ET and 9PM PT. The event airs in the UK on BT Sport.