GLORY makes its stateside return on Friday night (Feb. 26, 2016) with GLORY 27 at Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, Ill., the kickboxing promotion's first offering of the new year.
The card will be headlined by a middleweight title fight between current champ, Artem "The Lion" Levin (50-4-2) and the No. 2-ranked contender, Simon "Bad Bwoy" Marcus (42-2-2). This matchup will be the rubber match between the two fighters, who fought to a draw in their last fight at GLORY 21 in San Diego last May.
The main event was originally scheduled for GLORY 24 this past October, but Marcus had to withdraw with an injury. Levin vs. Schilling was booked in its place, but then the champion had to pull out with an injury of his own. While Marcus has been on the mend, Levin has remained active, winning four straight fights in his native country of Russia.
In the co-main, Giga Chikadze (33-4) will face undefeated newcomer Kevin VanNostrand (11-0) in a featherweight bout. VanNostrand steps in for the injured Anvar Boynazarov, who defeated Chikadze by split decision at GLORY 24.
There will also be a one-night, four-man "Contender" tournament taking place in the middleweight division. The semifinal matchups are Dustin Jacoby (7-6) vs. Karl Roberson (2-1) and Wayne Barrett (5-4) vs. Robert Thomas (8-3).
Let's take a closer look at the matchups:
Artem "The Lion" Levin (50-4-2) vs. Simon "Bad Bwoy" Marcus (42-2-2) middleweight title fight
Their last encounter was a fierce and closely-contested one, and Friday's should be no different. Marcus has made vast improvements in his game and many felt he had won the five-round war vs. Levin at GLORY 21--especially after Levin had a point deducted for holding. Levin is as technical and crafty as they come, but against Marcus he has his work cut out for him. On the flip side, Marcus is strong and powerful with his striking, particularly his leg kicks, excellent in the clinch, and he too will have to earn everything he gets against the champion. Both fighters will stymie the other, and it will lead to a stalemate and a struggle like the last fight. They will truly have to dig deep to find a way to convince the judges in what should be another gritty and tough five-round decision. And with how the officiating has been in GLORY's last two fight cards no one is safe. I'll side with the challenger here.
Prediction: Simon Marcus by split decision
Giga Chikadze (33-4) Kevin VanNostrand (11-0)
While the two names won't jump out at anyone, this fight could turn out into being the most entertaining of the evening. Chikadze, who trains at Kings MMA under the tutelage of Rafael Cordeiro, has an aggressive style, can switch stances and will come with creative and unorthodox attacks like rolling thunder kicks and jumping knees. In his first GLORY fight at GLORY 24 he dropped Ken Tran with a body kick to win by knockout. VanNostrand has a vast repertoire of side kicks, spinning-back kicks and will often fight out of sideways stance. He will also attack from that stance with kicks and also with a very rare step-in right hook at times. This fight has fireworks written all over it and based on the two styles could be a coin flip. I don't believe it will go the full three rounds. I think Chikadze gets it done.
Prediction: Giga Chikadze by TKO RD 2
Dustin Jacoby (7-6) vs. Karl Roberson (2-1) Tournament Semifinal
If there is one thing Jacoby is quite proficient in it's tournament experience. The Colorado native won the GLORY 23 tournament last August, and back in 2013 on the "Road to GLORY" tournament to earn his contract with the promotion. Jacoby has competed in a light-heavyweight tournament at GLORY 9, and also an additional middleweight "Contender" tournament at GLORY 14. Walking into GLORY 27, no one matches him in that department. Jacoby took his lumps early on in his GLORY tenure against superior competition, and at GLORY 23 that experience paid dividends as he knocked out both Ariel Sepulveda and Casey Greene to earn the Ramon Dekkers trophy. Then--and to the surprise of many--he knocked out Wayne Barrett at GLORY 24. Roberson--like Jacoby--also competes in MMA. His last kickboxing outing he lost a controversial decision to legend Jerome LeBanner in France, in a fight where he knocked him down twice. Roberson has some quickness and some pop in his punches, but this is Jacoby's fight to lose. Jacoby is never flashy, but he has knockout power, and uses his length and reach very well.
Prediction: Jacoby by TKO RD 2
Wayne Barrett (5-4) vs. Robert Thomas (8-3) Tournament Semifinal
Barrett is arguable the biggest enigma within the middleweight division. The New Yorker is far removed from his upset over Joe Schilling at GLORY 12 in his hometown and a decent outing at GLORY "Last Man Standing," where he knocked out Bogdan Stoica before losing a close decision in rematch against Schilling. Since then, Barrett has lost to Jason Wilnis at GLORY 18, Simon Marcus in the semifinals of the tournament at GLORY 20, and got knocked out in the third round by Jacoby at GLORY 24. It goes without saying it's a must win for Barrett, who still possesses knockout power and unorthodox movement that has confused his past opponents. Thomas likes to keep a high guard and will march forward looking to unload with punches. He is well mix things up with some knees from the clinch and an occasional teep or high kick, but the Canadian likes to get in the pocket and throw. It's also worth noting Thomas has fought both Schilling and Levin, losing both, but gaining much needed experience against top competition. This could be a very close fight, but I just don't have the confidence in Barrett any more to pick him.
Prediction: Thomas by unanimous decision
Tournament Final: Jacoby vs. Thomas:
If the tournament shakes out the way I think it will, then this could be a highly entertaining final. I'm going to ride with the hot hand and say Jacoby continues his surge of momentum and picks himself up another Ramon Dekkers trophy. This will be a back and forth slug fest with both fighters not being afraid to stand and trade in the pocket. I don't think we see a knockout, but perhaps a pivotal knockdown, and I think "The Hanyak" does enough to get the nod from the judges.
Prediction: Jacoby by unanimous decison