Glory 11: Chicago 10/12/13 Hoffman Estates, Illinois Sears Centre
GLORY Heavyweight Tournament Semifinals
Rico Verhoeven vs. Gokhan Saki 3R. Everyone expected Saki to plow through Verhoeven, but he really never got started. Referee Chris Wagner horribly blew a knockdown call at the outset to the point Saki could have been DQ'd for pushing the ref trying to call to his attention that Verhoeven's right was little more than a push to the breast. Saki was just out of sorts, coming up short on too many punches in round 1 and showing poor sportsmanship by kicking Verhoeven when he was walking away after taking a low blow (due to some more poor reffing, Wagner had yet to actually rule the borderline shot illegal). To his credit, Verhoeven really ran with his good fortune, gaining confidence and keeping Saki on the defensive most of the 1st round as he looked for a “2nd” knockdown that would result in an automatic TKO. Saki never used his speed or movement in this fight, just slugging it out and trying to rely on his punching power to get the knockdown back. Saki did relax after spending too much time in round 1 being frustrated and fighting with his back against the ropes, and both men delivered the right kind of tension and intensity in the final two rounds. I'd certainly rank Saki's punches above Verhoeven's low kicks for the rest of the fight. However, round 3 was close, and the toll of all the low kicks finally added up, allowing Verhoeven to come on in the last 30 seconds. What Saki did well was shift to the side of Verhoeven and then come over the top of his block with the overhand right that crossed through Rico's blind spot. I had it even with Saki winning R2 & R3 after the “knockdown” forced a 10-8 first, which would have resulted in an extra round, but two of the three judges gave Rico the third so he took the majority decision. Good match.
Daniel Ghita vs. Anderson “Braddock” Silva R1 1:56. It was pretty even for 2 minutes with neither doing any notable damage. Suddenly Ghita hurt Silva with a liver kick and miraculously knocked him out with a right something counter that seemed to at least 95% miss, but might have connected some with the bicep if Silva didn't completely duck it and definitely got him a bit between the shoulder blades. I always expect a lot from Anderson Silva, but tonight Braddock was Missing in Action.
Heavyweight Tournament Reserve Match: Errol Zimmerman vs. Hesdy Gerges R3 0:38. Zimerman's 3 losses in a row knocked him out of the main draw, but at least got him to take his training more seriously again. He did a good job of creating chaos here, sucking the technically superior striker into a brawl where he didn't have the space to throw his kicks. Zimmerman was at his best when he leapt in with a knee and flurried with punches. Gerges didn't have anywhere near Errol's power, but was ridiculously accurate, landing 3 more than Errol over the course of the match because he connected on a ludicrous 76% of his strikes. He mixed his shots well, and was scoring particularly well with low kicks (when he didn't fall from Zimmerman checking them) and left straights in between the block. Gerges also slowed Zimmerman's punching offense down by making him block middle kicks with his arms. Gerges could have won the 1st if not for Zimmerman coming on with a 4 punch combo where the two rights got around the block into the ear area, the 2nd dropping Gerges. Zimmerman rested on his laurels in the 2nd, doing well when he was willing to pressure Gerges and make it a brawl, but generally laying back and taking the round mostly off. Gerges landed a good knee and right hand at the end with Zimmerman against the ropes to secure the round. Zimmerman got his second wind after the break though, and dropped Gerges with a right hook counter to a right low kick. Gerges wasn't all there, and Zimmerman seized the opportunity, flying in with a knee that was mostly blocked then dropping Hesdy with an overhand right for the TKO. Good match.
Joseph Valtellini vs. Karim Ghajji R3 2:53. I don't have a problem with people enjoying this fight, but it just fell flat for me. They mostly traded low kicks in round 1, and it seemed pretty even because neither landed anything of note. Ghajji got a good overhand right in with Valtellini on the ropes in round 2, but just seemed too predictable as he was a kickboxer when he fought his natural left handed style, but only a power puncher who mostly missed when he switched to orthodox. Valtellini seemed very cookie cooker, a solid but unspectacular type whose offense wasn't flowing, but while most of his individual shots didn't stand out, it's hard to argue with a guy who keeps putting one combo after another on you to the tune of landing with over 85% accuracy. Valtellini did have a few big moments too, including an overhand right that should have been a knockdown because Ghajji's hand tounched the canvas when he was wobbling. This led to the best portion of the fight, as both opened up trying to take the round that rightfully belonged to Valtellini. I felt Ghajji actually landed the better punches in this round, but he never expanded his kicking game to include anything above the waist, while Valtellini just had a much vaster arsenal of strikes and was able to put them together in a multitude of ways to keep Ghajji guessing wrong, wearing him down from his precision. Valtellini landed a great spinning backfist in the 3rd that was called a knockdown even though Ghajji never touched the mat, but I felt this was a good call because Ghajji's knees buckled twice and he was very groggy. Valtellini kept the combos on him until the ref stopped it. Average match.
Tyrone Spong vs. Nathan Corbett R2 1:10. They stood toe-to-toe and blasted each other, particularly punishing the body. It was more a boxing match with low kicks to mix things up than anything else on the show, which makes some sense given Spong is training to make his boxing debut before the end of the year. He was doing a great job of digging the liver punch in. Spong staggered Corbett with a left hook counter late in round 1. Spong had been countering the low kick with the left body hook, but at the start of round 2, he switched it up, getting a knockdown countering a low kick with a left head hook. Spong soon put Corbett down again with a left hook, and the ref stopped it because Corbett was still wobbly. Above average match.
Heavyweight Tournament Final: Rico Verhoeven vs. Daniel Ghita 3R. Verhoeven may have been lucky to be in the final, and was once again a big underdog, but he really ran with the opportunity Chris Wagner gifted him all night, fighting confidently and as though he was the Bryan Danielson of kickboxing. His stamina was exceptional, especially for a guy his size, and that was really the difference in this fight. Verhoeven was able to run Ghita into the ground by coming forward to the point of smothering him, which forced Ghita to either hit or be hit for three rounds. There was no real defense or angling, hell it was often even hard to kick from as close as Verhoeven was to Ghita all fight. The first round was pretty even, but Verhoeven was backing Ghita most of the rest of the round, but also pursuing him just as quickly so Ghita couldn't get him out of his grill. Ghita was trying to use high middle kicks to slow down Verhoeven's boxing, but was tiring in round 2. Still, even though Verhoeven had taken Ghita totally out of his style, Ghita had landed 10 more strikes than Verhoeven through 2 rounds, and the fight was likely even. The 2nd round had clearly shifted the momentum in Rico's favor, and that continued in the 3rd. Round 3 was all heart, with both men giving all they had and just going for it. They'd throw a combo then eat a combo then throwing another combo and eat another combo until the 3 minutes were up. Heavyweights, especially in their 2nd fight of the night, aren't supposed to be able to keep this sort of pace for 3 rounds. Stats wise, it was still about even, but Verhoeven was the one setting the style, pace, and range, and his stamina held up better. Verhoeven won a unanimous 29-28 decision. Very good match.