GLORY 13 preview: Welcome to the dawn of a new (and old) era in kickboxing

James Law for GLORY

What happens when you take the old guard of K-1 and mix it with the explosive young talent in GLORY? You get perhaps the greatest kickboxing card in years, which could help make or break the future of the upstart combat sports promotion in the birthplace of martial arts. And we get to be a witness!

GLORY World Series stunned combat sports fans last month with an exciting and action-packed fight card from inside The Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Now, it's time to deliver the knockout punch.

GLORY 13 is set to pop off this Saturday night (Dec. 21, 2013) inside the Ariake Coliseum in Tokyo, Japan, with a four-man Welterweight Championship Tournament, in addition to its "Super Fight Series" featuring some of the most accomplished fighters in the history of kickboxing (details).

As well as a group of hungry, young up-and-comers.

On the surface, the narrative for this event is old school versus new; however, this is about more than just a night of wild fights in "The Land of the Rising Sun," widely-considered the birthplace of martial arts. It also represents a turning point for the promotion.

We're about to find out if GLORY is here to stay.

During yesterday's media conference call, vice president Jim Byrne assured me that "once you tune in, you'll become a fan," in explaining why Boxing's Floyd Mayweather Jr. -- typically critical of combat sports outside his own -- was making cameos at GLORY events.

And you can't do much better than this, at least when it comes to talent.

Even if you haven't watched kickboxing -- which is hard to understand considering how many mixed martial arts (MMA) fans boo when a UFC fight hits the floor -- chances are you've heard names like Jerome LeBanner, Peter Aerts, Daniel Ghita and Errol Zimmerman.

Plan on hearing them again this Saturday night.

If you can somehow look at this line-up from top to bottom and think "meh," then GLORY will never be able to accomplish what K-1 couldn't -- and that's capture the stateside market. True, every new brand takes time to establish itself and carve off a piece of the market, but with no UFC or MMA card to challenge it, ratings must meet and preferably exceed what they were for November's "Big Apple" bash.

That card was good. This one is better.

Leading the charge is a heavyweight battle pitting Peter Aerts vs. Rico Verhoeven, which has been getting a lot of attention because "The Dutch Lumberjack" announced he would be hanging up the gloves after this fight. Often referred to as "Mr. K-1," Aerts has 137 fights to his name and has knocked out nearly 80 men in his career.

That's not a typo.

But he's also fighting Verhoeven, a 24-year-old Dutch wunderkind who captured the GLORY Heavyweight Tournament earlier this year in Chicago and can do the unthinkable by defeating Gokhan Saki, Errol Zimmerman, Daniel Ghita and Aerts all in one year.

Just saying it out loud sounds crazy.

That's the level of skill you can expect from the next generation of stand-up fighters, which is why there is so much buzz surrounding the welterweight tournament. Fight fans have already crowned "Bazooka Joe" Valtellini the heir apparent in the wake of his upset win over Karim Ghajji at GLORY 11.

Just don't tell undefeated phenom Raymond Daniels, the lone representative of the United States, who undoubtedly wants that title for himself.

Elsewhere on the main card, the aforementioned Zimmerman and Ghita will bang it out in a heavyweight hoss fight that not only serves as a rematch from their K-1 days, but also puts the winner in line for another crack at Verhoeven, assuming the Dutchman can complete his Cinderella story.

And that's just one half of the card.

The "Super Fight Series" features another pair of veteran heavyweights in the form of Remy Bonjasky vs. Anderson Silva (the other one). "The Flying Gentleman" is a three-time K-1 World Grand Prix champion, but has struggled in his return to the fight game after missing nearly three years due to an eye injury.

Bonjasky, 37, holds a previous win over "Braddock" Silva at GLORY 2 and would make an interesting addition to the heavyweight mix if he can return to form this weekend in Japan.

That's something the legendary Jerome LeBanner has been able to do at age 40, winning his last five fights and ending four of them by way of knockout or technical knockout. Keeping pace with him is "Super Fight Series" opponent Sergei Kharitonov, who splits his career between kickboxing and MMA.

To great results.

The former PRIDE, K-1 and Strikeforce veteran is fresh off a win over Daniel Sam at GLORY 11 and at just 33 years old, still has plenty of gas left in the tank, which is why he was able to beat the brakes off Alexey Kudin a month after his Sam win.

But enough about the big guys.

Another fighter to watch on Saturday night is Nieky Holzken, who isn't getting a lot of fanfare heading into the weekend's welterweight tournament, but is seeded for a possible championship bout against "Bazooka Joe," assuming both men advance.

That would be an insane war of attrition.

You could probably say that about most bouts for GLORY 13, which leaves fans without a "piss break" fight, a crude and juvenile (but effective) way of identifying the one contest on every card that gives fans a chance to get up and relieve themselves, as the bout in question has no relevance or no distinguishable "names."

Sorry folks, you're going to have to go full-camel on this one.

The GLORY 13 main card airs via tape delay this Saturday night (Dec. 21, 2013) at 9 p.m. ET on Spike TV. The "Super Fight Series" is pay-per-view (PPV) only and can be streamed live at by clicking here. That same live video thread will also enable you to watch the main card LIVE before it airs on cable television later in the night.

See the entire GLORY 13 fight card, bout order and start times here.

Enjoy the fights!

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