BREAKDOWN: GLORY 12 LIGHTWEIGHT TOURNAMENT
Published on Nov 13, 2013
If you thought the GLORY 11 heavyweights set an exciting pace, wait until you see the lightweights.
Fighting at 70kgs/154lbs, the four contenders in the GLORY 12 tournament are the best in the world. So is the location - Madison Square Garden is the most iconic venue in fight sports and is the perfect stage for this world-class showdown.
Let’s take a look at how the $150,000 tournament could play out:
Robin Van Roosmalen (30-5, 19 KO’s)
Van Roosmalen was picked as one to watch several years ago but it was only last year that he really broke out of the lightweight pack and started to rise above his peers. He blasted his way through GLORY’s 2012 lightweight tournament field before losing a close decision to Giorgio Petrosyan in the finals.
Since the loss, Van Roosmalen has been active against top-ranked opposition and has kept racking the wins up. As a result he has gained enough ranking points to dislodge Petrosyan from #1 spot in the official rankings. Van Roosmalen hasn’t paid that much attention though. All he really wants is to win this tournament, ideally beating Petrosyan along the way.
Stylistically, Van Roosmalen is Dutch-style Kickboxing to the core. He throws hard hand combinations which often end on a kick, usually to the inside or outside of the opponent’s lead leg. Dutch Kickboxing is primarily focused on destruction; their fighters don’t get in there to play for points. Van Roosmalen’s main defense is a tight double-arm cover rather than evasive movement.
His left hook could knock a horse out and every opponent has to be wary of it. In fact he has big power in everything he throws, plus the fitness and conditioning to throw non-stop. His technique is excellent and his continual attacking style usually forces openings in an opponent’s guard, setting them up for the heavy finishing blows.
Giorgio Petrosyan (78-1-1)
Born in Armenia but raised and trained in Italy, Petrosyan combines his homeland’s warrior tradition with Italian style. His is designer kickboxing - graceful, minimal, perfect down to the last detail. His technicality is almost surgical in its precision, hence his nickname ‘The Doctor’.
Like all the best designers, Petrosyan takes simple things and does them extremely well, adding a few little personal touches along the way. He follows kickboxing’s textbook to the letter: his hands are always in position, he is never off balance. This focus on the fundamental basics is at the heart of his success.
Because he is always in a good position, his guard and his balance are never compromised. Thus he is able to defend or evade everything which comes in, then score with counter-attacks. He also has a masterful understanding of distance and angles. Opponents press forwards, sure they can trap him in a corner, only to find that he is now stood to the side of them and they are wide open for anything he wants to throw.
Earlier this year, Petrosyan found himself dislodged from the #1 ranking spot. Robin Van Roosmalen had a very busy year and earned enough ranking points to take the top spot. This is the first time Petrosyan has been at #2 and he’s going into this tournament with a point to prove. This will be the most fired-up we have ever seen him.
Davit Kiria (21-8, 6 KO’s)
Kiria comes the mountain lands of Georgia, formerly part of the Soviet Union. A karate stylist since his youth, he won the 2009 European Kyokoshin Karate Championships - one of the hardest competitions in karate - before switching to kickboxing competition.
Kyokoshin is an infamously tough style of karate but Kiria’s own style is tougher again. Ashihara Karate was created by Kyokoshin practitioners looking for an even harder discipline. It places a lot of emphasis on constant attack and resilience to pain. They train bare-knuckle and with no padding.
As a result, Kiria is pound-for-pound one of the toughest fighters in the world. He has yet to be rocked or otherwise visibly hurt by any opponent in his GLORY career. Meanwhile, he has a relentless forward-pressure style of attack which has to be seen to be believed. Kiria literally never takes a backwards step and never stops throwing combinations.
Like Van Roosmalen, he lost a decision to Petrosyan in last year’s tournament. But he is still relatively new at this top level and he thinks he learned enough in the fight with Petrosyan to beat him should they meet again. He thinks the same about his decision loss to Van Roosmalen in 2011, which was very early in his kickboxing career.
Andy Ristie (39-3-1, 19 KO’s)
Ristie is the tournament dark horse. This is his first time in a world-elite level tournament but there is no doubt he deserves to be here. Since being called up to the GLORY World Series ranks in 2012 he has gone 4-0, with two of the wins by knockout.
One of those knockouts was over the one-time K-1 MAX tournament winner Albert Kraus. It took place in Tokyo, Japan earlier this year. Ristie and Kraus got into a war when suddenly Ristie landed one of his trademark knees and felled Kraus.
That win earned Ristie a lot of ranking points and when he followed it with a win over Danish Muay Thai champion Niclas Larsen at GLORY 10, it booked him a place in this tournament. Ristie has a very unorthodox style and a lot of power. He says he can knock out any of the other three fighters in the tournament - we will find out on fight night.
Semi-Final One: Robin Van Roosmalen vs. Davit Kiria
This is going to be an absolute war. On the one side, a fighter who presses forward the whole time and throws bombs. On the other, a fighter who presses forward all the time and throws ridiculously hard combinations.
If anyone scores the stoppage in this fight it will be Van Roosmalen. But Kiria is an extremely tough customer and has never been stopped - even welterweight #1 Nieky Holzken couldn’t stop him, despite his size and weight advantage.
His background in Ashihara Karate means he can neither be hurt nor intimidated. If Van Roosmalen wants to stand in front of him and replicate the 2012 Fight of the Year he had with Dzhabar Askerov, Kiria will happily oblige him.
This is likely to go the distance, Van Roosmalen’s power and combination-work against Kiria’s toughness and work-rate. They will hammer each other until one goes down or, more likely, the final bell goes and the judges have to make a very hard call.
Semi-Final Two: Giorgio Petrosyan
Ristie is usually described as ‘unorthodox’ but another word which is also often used is ‘wild’. Petrosyan is a master technician, so when presented with an opponent who leaves openings, he can usually rack up the points while keeping himself out of trouble.
However, technical fighters do best against fighters who are also doing their best to be technical. Because one side-effect of a fighter doing ‘the right things’ is that he can become somewhat predictable - hence the reason we see so many fighters able to seemingly anticipate things like left hooks and roll underneath them.
When you get to face an unorthodox fighter, that changes. They might throw things in correct technical fashion - with correct hip-rotation and weight-distribution - but the angle and order of their strikes is anybody’s guess. You can just as easy end up moving into one of their strikes as away from it. This is why Ristie has had so much success - fighters describe him as ‘difficult’.
Petrosyan is the heavy favorite and with his superb record it would be a brave man who put his money down on Ristie. But anything can happen in a fight; Ristie packs a lot of power and can change the course of a fight in an instant - or end it there and then.
The Grand Final
Bookmakers have this down as Van Roosmalen vs. Petrosyan. If that scenario plays out, Van Roosmalen will have been through an extremely grueling fight with Kiria (unless he scored a quick KO) and is likely to be far more banged up than Petrosyan.
If Petrosyan has beaten Ristie it will have been by outclassing him over the course of three or four rounds. Petrosyan is generally good at avoiding injury and is also used to fighting through tournaments. He will need a full gas-tank to handle Van Roosmalen, who has already said he will be putting it on Petrosyan from the opening bell if they do meet.
Van Roosmalen believes he deserved an extra round in the Grand Final of the 2012 tournament. He says that in the third round of that fight he had Petrosyan figured out and was hurting him, so if they get rematched in this year’s tournament, he is going to treat the first round as if it was last year’s extra round.
History and the bookmakers favor Petrosyan, but Van Roosmalen has been on outstanding form all year and has come the closest to beating Petrosyan out of any fighter in the division. Petrosyan has ruled the lightweight ranks for a long time but all reigns must come to an end - will we see a new king crowned in the Empire State?
GLORY 12 NEW YORK airs LIVE on SPIKE TV from Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, New York on Saturday, November 23.