Who Takes It? GLORY 19: Rico Verhoeven vs. Errol Zimmerman

This week’s edition of “Who Takes It?” comes as we approach a rare weekend which lacks a major mixed martial arts bout. And… that may be a good thing. There’s no excuse to miss GLORY tonight!

Our friends at UFC, Bellator MMA, the newly-dubbed ONE (in case you missed it, the Singapore-based promotion dropped the ‘FC’ in their name last week), Cage Warriors, Shooto, you name it — it’s all quiet on the MMA front this weekend.

In fact, a championship boxing event was originally scheduled for tonight, but has been nixed — a victim of Jermain Taylor’s legal issues.

(It also comes after an eerily correct edition of “Who Takes It?”, as Miesha Tate vs. Sara McMann went down as expected:

… it will be tough night for Tate, who is about a two-to-one underdog. But, I think she has shown a little more standing, and will find a way in the grappling exchanges — getting an escape here, a reversal there, and even coming close with a submission attempt — to earn an upset decision victory.

On one hand, we’re lacking  — on another, we’re on a roll and can’t wait to go on…)

So fortunately, kickboxing is ready to take center stage as GLORY World Series makes its return tonight in Virginia, featuring a heavyweight title bout and a welterweight contenders tournament.

The contenders tournament boasts names like Dutch Muay Thai standout Nieky Holzken and American karate “human highlight reel” Raymond Daniels, both well worth tuning in to SPIKE TV for the broadcast (9 pm ET).

But the main event, pitting GLORY titleholder Rico Verhoeven against Errol Zimmerman, has the spotlight — even more so after their intense stare down at yesterday’s weigh-ins.

It’s always worth watching when two of the top ten heavyweights in the world square off — but this is a particularly interesting bout, partly because of the two’s obvious differences, and partly because of a shared history.

The 28 year old Zimmerman, hailing originally from Suriname but fighting out of Holland, has slugged his way to a 79-19-1 kickboxing record (with one no contest) since making his pro debut in 2001. His KO power has won him admirers like Mike Tyson, but a brawling style, short on defensive movement, has merited an uneven 3-3 GLORY record.

His opponent, the 25 year old Verhoeven, is another in a long line of Dutch karate stylists who has transitioned into kickboxing competition on the world stage, earning a 44-9-1 record. Known as “The Prince of Kickboxing,” Verhoeven’s technical style, often using a long jab and front kick followed by hand combinations, has netted him the GLORY title and a 7-1 GLORY record.

The fighters have met twice before. In their first bout, back in 2012 in Holland for the “It’s Showtime” promotion, Verhoeven was drawn into Zimmerman’s game and found himself a victim of a one round KO — blasted by Zimmerman’s series of short roundhouse punches and a fight-ending uppercut.

In their second encounter, at GLORY 9 in 2013, Verhoeven succeeded in keeping the fight at a longer range where he had a clear advantage — and stifled  Zimmerman with a clinch the few times “The Bonecrusher” was able to advance. Zimmerman mustered only the occasional highlight, like a flying knee in round one and some crisp punching combinations in round three. A point deduction, for a Verhoeven punch to a grounded opponent, made the judges’ scoring closer than the fight’s bell-to-bell action would suggest.

Verhoeven has expressed that its his fight to lose; as Zimmerman hasn’t advanced at all since that bout. “He has one game, and he plays it good,” Verhoeven said of his opponent in an interview with Mike Tyson. “But if it doesn’t work for him, his whole game is gone.”

So what happens this time?

It’s proven both guys can win. But I think the smart money is on Verhoeven. Watch for him to make fight number three a repeat of fight number two. Despite his remarks to Tyson, I’d expect him to be even more cautious. He’s proven with the right game plan he can nullify Zimmerman’s style. But, he hasn’t proven he can really hurt him.

It’s also proven that he can’t be lethargic. In his most recent bout, Verhoeven suffered a decision loss to Andrei Herasimchuk for the Kunlun Fights promotion in China. There, after taking an early advantage, Verhoeven was knocked down twice in the second round and seemed to struggle to get back on track.

Look for Verhoeven to take a competitive decision win, with Zimmerman threatening the knockout all the way through.

But the most important prediction to make about this event is that it’s worth watching. GLORY has featured the most consistently entertaining broadcasts in combative sports, and I’d expect nothing less here.

As always, enjoy the fights!