Tomorrow night is the GLORY 11 Chicago Heavyweight tournament, which will feature the four best fighters at Heavyweight (that are still competing in tournaments, mind you) competing in a one-night tournament. The winner walks away being able to be called the best Heavyweight in the world, which is a pretty big deal. Sometimes I forget that I’m one of the few people uniquely qualified to explain this stuff to people, but that is my lot in life at this point, so I’ll just embrace it.
I’m going to break down what to look for in all four fighters as well as give you some information on them.
First, I’m going to explain why it is these four guys. If you check out GLORY’s Heavyweight rankings, you’ll see that the top four are Semmy Schilt, Gokhan Saki, Daniel Ghita and Peter Aerts. Semmy Schilt has long ruled the Heavyweight/Super Heavyweight kickboxing world, with FOUR K-1 World Grand Prix victories under his belt and last year’s GLORY Heavyweight Grand Slam tournament under his belt as well. He said after that event that he’d retire from tournaments, but from what I’ve heard, he’s retired for good, anyway. He probably has one last fight left in him, so he is not in the tournament. Then there is Peter Aerts. Peter Aerts is a legend in his own right, with three K-1 World Grand Prix Championships to his record.
Aerts is sadly getting older and putting him in a tournament seems like a no-go either. So what about the #5 guy, Remy Bonjasky? Remy also has three K-1 World Grand Prix Championships in his record, but his comeback from retirement has been bittersweet, at best. He retired due to a problem he has with his eye, where he’s had a detached retina multiple times and required multiple surgeries. His vision is very poor from that right side and the rumor is that he wants to do one last retirement fight before he calls it quits. So Remy is out.
So we’ve got Gokhan, Ghita and Rico, but how do we skip over Jerome Le Banner to get to Anderson Silva? Well, JLB is a bit of a diva sometimes and reports this week have him quitting the organization completely, so it’s a good thing he wasn’t included, either. That is how we got the four fighters involved.
Now, onto the fighters!
Gokhan Saki — Gokhan Saki is a case of a guy that fans will always love to watch. He has an exciting style and seamlessly blends his combinations together. He is traditionally undersized against some of the bigger fighters, but he’s packing a ton of power in his fists. One of his big breakthrough fights was actually against Daniel Ghita in 2010 [link], where both guys just put on an absolute brawl in the K-1 World Grand Prix Finals. Saki went on to put forth a spirited, but ultimately losing performance against Overeem in the next round, but he won over a lot of fans.
Since then the only two fighters to stand in his way have been Badr Hari and Semmy Schilt, both guys being significantly bigger than him. Saki was able to score a huge win over Daniel Ghita earlier this year, which pushed him up in the rankings to the #2 spot in the world. Saki goes into this looking to get his big tournament victory and to prove himself as the best active Heavyweight in the world.
Daniel Ghita — The Romanian “Savage Samurai” didn’t really come onto the scene until his impressive K-1 debut in 2009, annihilating the Qualifying Tournament in Tokyo before he entered his first World Grand Prix and ran into Semmy Schilt. His knockout of Errol Zimmerman in 2010 had fans riding high on him, and his fight against Saki (see above) helped to make him a regular name in the pantheon of Heavyweight Kickboxing. His close fight with Hesdy Gerges was when I felt confident in saying that Ghita would be one of the top Heavyweights in the world [link], and it turned out to be the first fight where Ghita showed a more diverse game. When they rematched almost a year later, Ghita was a new man and way more dangerous [link].
It became abundantly clear at this point that Daniel Ghita was on the road to becoming the greatest Heavyweight Kickboxer in the world and by the end of the year, he was within a breath of it, as he made it to the finals of the GLORY 4 Heavyweight Grand Slam tournament, which was a one-night, sixteen man tournament. Ghita scored three huge stoppages before he made it to Semmy Schilt, with Schilt scoring a knockdown and an over-eager ref calling the fight off far too early. It was the biggest robbery of Ghita’s career and something that we’d see again when he met Gokhan Saki this year. Saki landed an illegal leg sweep on Ghita that injured his arm and the ref counted it as a down, as opposed to giving him time to recover and warning Saki. This set up Saki for the win and for many tainted the win. Ghita gets his shot at redemption at GLORY 11, will he finally become the best in the world?
Rico Verhoeven — Rico is an odd case, as the 24 year old fighter has been competing for years now and has gone back and forth between being disappointing and brilliant. The past year or so he has really turned up the heat and what was a rather robotic, stiff style has become more fluid and he packs a harder punch when he lands his shots. This is what comes with experience, which Rico has an abundance of now. His recent fight with Errol Zimmerman shows just how much he has grown, as their first meeting saw Zimmerman knock Rico out, while this time around Rico completely out-skilled and out-witted Zimmerman, proving that he belongs in the elite.
At last year’s Heavyweight tournament Rico ran into Semmy Schilt, but without the Hightower to get in his way, this year could be a lot different for the Crowned Prince of Kickboxing.
Anderson “Braddock” Silva — Anderson Silva is a guy that is frustrating to be a fan of sometimes. He is a skilled guy who is woefully undersized for Heavyweight, but has still been able to hold his own. Braddock’s real “comeback” started at the end of 2010 when he scored a brutal knockout over Freddy Kemayo [link]. 2011 was a much better year for him, but 2012 was really THE YEAR for Braddock, even if his record looks unimpressive.
What was impressive was when he stepped into the ring against the great Badr Hari [link], he looked amazing, he gave Badr a run for his money. No one gave Braddock a shot in this fight, but there he was, holding his own against Badr Hari. He did the exact same thing in his next fight with Remy Bonjasky, giving Bonjasky hell, with Bonjasky narrowly escaping with a victory in his comeback. Gokhan Saki stopped his progress in last year’s tournament, so he will definitely be looking to avenge that loss, but he has to get by Daniel Ghita first.