In the desert oasis of Las Vegas, you can win — or lose — a fortune in a manner of moments.
It’s a place where MMA and boxing have had some true days in the sun lately.
Back in May, Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao hit the jackpot, blowing every money-making record out of the water for their showdown. UFC is on a bit of an upswing too, having what longtime boxing journalist Al Bernstein called “one of the best nights of combat sports I have seen” at UFC 189 last month. PPV numbers are up — from a disastrous 2014.
But it’s kickboxing that takes that center stage in the “Fight Capital of the World” tonight, as Glory World Series – or, what I call “the most consistently entertaining show in fight sports” — rolls into town.
Headlining the event is Dutch Muay Thai ace Nieky Holzken battling American karateka Raymond “The Real Deal” Daniels for the promotion’s welterweight title, in an interesting style clash which just happens to be a rematch of one of the year 2015’s most memorable fights.
So, are you ready to roll the dice? Read on…
Back in February, Holzken and Daniels met in the finals of Glory’s welterweight contenders tournament.
Daniels immediately began his typically spectacular attacks – back spin kicks, jumping side kicks, and the rest of his arsenal, typically only seen in tournament karate competition. But Holzken forced his way inside where his in-fighting shined. A left hook to the body dropped Daniels early in the first stanza.
But the American battled back, using his reach advantage for unorthodox punching combinations. It wasn’t enough to even the round, but it certainly made matters seem interesting.
The second was more of the same, with Holzken employing his advantage in footwork to keep the fight at the distance which favored him, cornering Daniels for punishing combinations. But then Daniels came back again – hitting a jump back kick to score a knockdown of his own. Holzken would keep the pressure on, however, eventually cornering Daniels with a knee strike followed by a series of rights and lefts to end the bout in the third stanza.
Holzken celebrated the tournament win, and title shot – but all was not as it seemed.
Glory’s welterweight champion Joe Valtellini would vacate his title due to post concussion syndrome. His career, sadly, is now in doubt. But it seems his misfortune is Raymond Daniels’ gain – as now Daniels and Holzken will rematch for the vacant title.
So, who takes it?
“Nieky Holzken to me is the prototypical kickboxer,” Glory commentator Mauro Ranallo said in a recent promotional video. “If I were to start a kickboxing promotion, I would make him my number one draft pick.”
The smart money would seem to be on the footwork and great hands of Holzken, whose fluid combinations to head and body, along with the low kicks and the occasional knee, have earned him win after win in the classic Dutch Muay Thai style.
But he faces a “wild card” in Daniels, who incorporates strikes from his karate tournament days that you just don’t see every day in kickboxing. Further, Daniels has claimed he was exhausted at that first bout with Holzken, due to his victory earlier in the evening.
Could tonight be a different story?
The bet here is no.
Sure, “The Real Deal” is going to be better physically prepared. But I also expect Holzken to be more confident against the awkward style of Daniels this time. Look for him to similarly control the ring and get his man cornered, eventually ending the bout with a TKO in the third or fourth round.
But more than anything, the bet here is that this is a show to watch. Kickboxing has struggled to find an audience in today’s glut of MMA and boxing programming. But then, the sport’s decline has had an upside, as Glory has been able to assemble more of the world’s best to their shows than can be found in their ring-and-cage sport counterparts. In an odd way, the sport’s loss has been the fan’s gain. One way or another, this level of kickboxing probably won’t be available this readily for long, so enjoy it while you can.
As always, enjoy the fights! You can catch the live stream of Glory 23 Here