GLORY 15 'Istanbul' preview: Meet the light heavyweight championship tournament participants

GLORY

GLORY returns to Istanbul, Turkey on Sat., April 12, 2014 with the fifth kickboxing card to air on Spike TV. The main event will pit Robin Van Roosmalen against Marat Grigorian in a lightweight battle, but the majority of fans and media are clamoring to see who will conquer the light heavyweight tournament and become the inaugural GLORY light heavyweight champion. Let's take a closer look at the light heavyweight field that comprises Gokhan Saki, Nathan Corbett, Tyrone Spong and Saulo Cavalari.

GLORY heads back to Istanbul, Turkey, for the first time since GLORY 6 this coming Saturday (April 12, 2014) from Ulker Arena via tape delay on Spike TV in the U.S. At 8 p.m. ET. The main event will feature a lightweight clash between Robin Van Roosmalen and Marat Grigorian.

While that is a promising match-up, all eyes will be on what GLORY prides itself on: the one-night tournament. For GLORY 15, the promotion will march out four of its best light heavyweights to fight for the right to be the first-ever GLORY light heavyweight champion. Among the four participants are hometown favorite Gokhan Saki, who has already earned a spot among the immortals of the sport, and the rising sensation -- who also competes in MMA -- Tyrone Spong. Rounding out the field will be Australian standout Nathan Corbett and Brazilian phenom Saulo Cavalari.

The four kickboxers have a combined knockout ratio average of 70 percent, to go along with a combined total of a staggering 179 knockouts. So expect action and plenty of it.

Let's take a closer look at the light heavyweight tournament participants:

Gokhan Saki: 79-16-0 (5-2 GLORY)
Last fight: Lost via majority decision to Rico Verhoeven at GLORY 11
GLORY 15 match up: Nathan Corbet

Sometimes referred to as the "Mike Tyson" of kickboxing, the Turkish fighter makes his move down from heavyweight where he was often undersized. His striking speed should be faster at light heavyweight and that along with his formidable punching power, should make him extremely dangerous for his opponents at this weight class. "The Rebel" seemed to start slow in his loss to Verhoeven in the opening round of the heavyweight tournament at GLORY 11 Chicago, but with his hometown crowd behind him and now in a division that better suits him, expect to see aggression from start to finish this time around. This will be Saki's third tournament appearance for GLORY. He also made it to the semi's of the GLORY 4 heavyweight tournament before losing to eventual winner Semmy Schilt by unanimous decision.

Tyrone Spong: 90-5-0 (5-0 GLORY)
Last fight: Defeated Nathan Corbett via KO at GLORY 11 Chicago
GLORY 15 matchup: Saulo Cavalari

The "King of the Ring" hasn't done much wrong under the GLORY banner. He knocked out kickboxing icon Remy Bonjasky at GLORY 5 London, ran through the GLORY 9 light heavyweight tournament in New York, knocking out two out his three opponents and most recently separated Corbett from consciousness at GLORY 11 Chicago in the second round. The Dutch-Surinamese fighter is quickly becoming one of the most popular fighters in the world. He hasn't lost in almost four years, also competes in MMA for WSOF and trains with the Blackzilians alongside UFC notables, Rashad Evans and Anthony Johnson. Currently the No.1-ranked light heavyweight in GLORY, Spong is both technical and powerful with great hand speed. If he lands a clean shot it usually results in a short night for his opponents. Spong's last knockout loss was to Saki back in 2009 in the K-1 World Gran Prix, making a potential final match-up all the more interesting.

Nathan Corbett: 57-4-0 (0-1 GLORY)
Last fight: Lost via knockout to Tyrone Spong at GLORY 11 Chicago
GLORY 15 matchup: Gokhan Saki

A multi-time Muay Thai champion, "Carnage" is known for his high ratio of knockouts in his career. The Australian fighter has a incredible knockout ratio of 71 percent and is currently the eighth-ranked GLORY light heavyweight. He needs to bounce back after a tough loss to Spong, but will no doubt have his work cut out for him with Saki in the tournament opener. Corbett is the oldest fighter in the tournament at 34 years old. His last and only tournament experience came in 2007, when he won the K-1 Scandinavian WP.

Saulo Cavalari: 28-2-0 (2-0 GLORY)
Last fight: Defeated Mourad Bouzidi via knockout at GLORY 12 New York
GLORY 15 matchup: Tyrone Spong

Hailing from Curitiba, Brazil, the city that spawned Anderson Silva and Wanderlei Silva, Cavalari is the No.4-ranked GLORY light heavyweight and the dark horse of the GLORY 15 tournament. "Cassius Clay" is fast, strong, and aggressive. In his first GLORY outing he showcased his skill set against the savvy Filip Verlinden, winning by decision. At GLORY 12, the 24-year-old Brazilian showcased his power, unleashing a wicked overhand right and sending Bouzidi out on a stretcher. Expect the opening round vs. Spong to be action packed with plenty of strikes thrown with bad intentions.

Tournament Reserve:
Since there is a higher chance of injury with fighters fighting more than once on one fight card, a tournament reserve bout is always added to every fight card in the event one of the fighters cannot continue after their first fight.

Here are the two tournament reservists:

Danyo Ilunga: 54-5-0 (5-2 GLORY)
Last fight: Defeated Michael Duut via knockout at GLORY 11 Chicago
GLORY 15 matchup: Andrei Stoica

Ilunga is the No.3-ranked GLORY light heavyweight and the Congolese fighter is a little miffed as to why he wasn't included in the tournament. In his first tournament appearance for the promotion at GLORY 9 New York, Ilunga dispatched of Mourad Bouzidi and Dustin Jacoby before losing by TKO in the final to Tyrone Spong by knockout in 16 seconds. The stoppage was a controversial one, as Ilunga thought he could've continued fighting. The 27 year old lives in Germany and trains under kickboxing legend Remy Bonjasky and the 2003 K-1 Germany champion Asmir Burgic. After losing to Spong in the GLORY 9 final, Ilunga bounced back in a big way with a KO over Duut at GLORY 11. He will look to keep that momentum going into GLORY 15.

Andrei Stoica: 32-5-0 (0-0 GLORY)
Last fight: Defeated Ondrej Hutnik via unanimous decision at 2013 SUPERKOMBAT World Gran Prix final
GLORY 15 matchup: Danyo Ilunga

Making a name for himself in his native country of Romania, "Mr. KO" has showcased his power with 21 career knockouts. He is the SUPERKOMBAT super cruiserweight champion and was also a Gold medalist for Romania in the 2008 European Sanshou championships. He will be making his GLORY debut at GLORY 15.

Most will predict a final between Saki and Spong, but the beauty of the GLORY tournament is that it is usually filled with surprises and underdogs often rise to the occasion. They may not win it all, but there is always a chance of an opening round favorite getting knocked off by one of them.

MMAmania will be on hand in Istanbul this week, so keep it locked here for all news coming out of Turkey leading up to Saturday night's fights. To live stream this weekend's kickboxing event click here.

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