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GLORY 35 preview and predictions for 'Vakhitov vs. Mwekassa' on ESPN3

GLORY Sports International

GLORY kickboxing returns to Europe later today (Sat., Nov. 5, 2016) with GLORY 35 at Palais Nikaia in Nice, France., the promotion's first fight over seas since GLORY 31, which took place in Amsterdam.

The five-fight main card will be headlined by a light heavyweight title unification bout as current champion Artem Vakhitov (16-5) faces interim champion Zack Mwekassa (14-3). Mwekassa is coming off a technical knockout victory over Mourad Bouzidi at GLORY 31 this past June. Vakhitov, meanwhile, has been recovering from an injury after defeating Saulo Cavalari for the title by unanimous decision at GLORY 28 this past March.

In the co-main event, Pavel Zhuravlev (69-11) takes on Zinedine Hameur Lain (56-13).

The one-night, four-man tournament will take place in the heavyweight division. In the semi-final matchups, Benjamin Adegbuyi (22-4) faces Hedsy Gerges (49-17-1) and Jafarr Wilnis (29-7-1) takes on Mladen Brestovac (49-11-1).

GLORY 35 airs live on ESPN3 at 4 p.m. ET / 1 p.m. PT on Saturday, Nov. 5, with a replay broadcast on ESPN2 at 11 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. PT on Sunday, Nov. 6.

Let's take a closer look at the matchups:

Artem Vakhitov (16-5) vs. Zack Mwekassa (14-3)

At 25 years of age, the GLORY light heavyweight champion continues to impress and has become better and better with each fight. Vakhitov has excellent boxing and will attack the body with big punches. He's 5-1 in GLORY and has been in some great battles with Saulo Cavalari twice, among others. But he has yet to face a fighter with the fight-altering power of Mwekassa. The interim champion simply mowed down Mourad Bouzidi in his last fight and has proven over and over that if he connects cleanly, his opponents go down in a heap. I think this one will be interesting at first, but Mwekassa will connect in a flurry and put the young Russian away to unify the two titles.

Prediction: Mwekassa via second-round TKO

Zinedine Hameur Lain (56-13) vs. Pavel Zhuravlev (69-11)

Hameur Lain laid waste to Ariel Machado and Warren Thompson in the same night to win the GLORY 32 "Contender" tournament back in July. Meanwhile, Zhuravlev got upset in the semi-finals of that tournament by Machado. Hameur Lain has deceptive power behind his straight punches, but as a fighter who often has a reach advantage, he does let his opponents get inside of his range. Zhuravlev likes to keep his guard high and throw heavy. He's also the faster striker. I'll side with the Ukrainian to out duel the Frenchman over three rounds.

Prediction: Zhuravlev via unanimous decision

Tournament semi-final: Benjamin Adegbuyi (22-4) vs. Hedsy Gerges (49-17-1)

Adegbuyi has fought the other three fighters in the GLORY 35 "Contender" tournament and defeated them all. When he last fought Gerges, "Mr. Gentlemen" won by unanimous decision and I think he will do so once more. Gerges likes to keep his guard high and wait for his openings to attack with punches or low kicks. Adegbuyi has a great jab and also has a solid kicking arsenal at his disposal. Both possess knockout power, but I think it goes the distance. I'll side with the Romanian, who should land more over the course of nine minutes.

Prediction: Adegbuyi via unanimous decision

Jahfarr Wilnis (29-7-1) vs. Mladen Brestovac (49-11-1)

The last time these two faced off, Brestovac knocked Wilnis out with a devastating high kick at GLORY 14 in Zagreb, Croatia. Brestovac has lighting quick kicks, but if you apply pressure on him, and utilize low kicks, he doesn't fare too well. Adegbuyi did that to him, as did Verhoeven. Wilnis, who has a classic Dutch kickboxing style, will keep his guard up and come inside with combinations and low kicks repeatedly. I think he exacts revenge from GLORY 14 and finshes the Croatian inside the distance.

Prediction: Wilnis via second-round TKO

Tournament final: Adegbuyi vs. Wilnis

These two fought in the final of the GLORY 24 "Contender" tournament, with Adegbuyi winning by split decision, and I think this one will be just as close. Both will fight tough and both will swing the momentum in their favor, but in the end I think it's the Romanian who gets his hand raised after a back-and-forth affair.

Prediction: Adegbuyi via split decision

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