Kevin Vannonstrand’s last appearance in the GLORY ring was a February 2016 decision loss to Giga Chikadze at GLORY 27 CHICAGO. A year and a half later, in his home state of New York, he got his revenge, out-landing Chikadze to take a decision win and victory in the Featherweight Contender Tournament.
Vannonstrand booked his spot in the final via a semi-final destruction of British debutant Mo Abdurahman, overwhelming him in a whirlwind of technical savagery. There was not the slightest pretence of a feeling-out process.
He simply met Abdurahman as he came forward and went right into a clean flow of combination shots. Abdurahman got rocked; Vannostrand just kept on him, combination after combination, pouring the pressure on.
Abdurahman bravely fought his way back into the fight only to find himself caught again and on the defensive. A knockdown seemed inevitable. When it came, it was one of the most impressive pieces of timing and setup that the GLORY ring has ever hosted.
Vannonstrand backed Abdurahman onto the ropes, herded him into place with his hands and then hit a spinning backfist which put the Brit down. That one will be a feature of many, many highlight reels of the future.
Abdurahman beat the count. He was on shaky legs but still game for the fight and re-entered the fray unhesitatingly. Unfortunately for him Vannonstrand was ready and waiting. He intercepted Abdurhman, caught him clean and then resumed barraging him until he scored another knockdown.
That knockdown ended the fight under the two-knockdowns rule which governs tournament bouts and sent Vannostrand through to the final.
Chikadze’s route took a little longer. He faced Russia’s Alexey Ulianov, a team mate of light-heavyweight champion Artem Vakhitov. They had a tough, technical battle, hammering each other with kicks, knees and punches.
They went to the judges and it looked like Ulianov was going to take the win, only for the judges to give the nod to Chikadze, who had deployed by far the most flamboyant shots of the fight.
In the final it seemed like Vannostrand would have the advantage, having expended less energy, but things were very even. The two were highly motivated and very hungry for the win, both seeing themselves as worthy title challengers and a future champion.
Things were competitive. Early on Chikadze looked to be in the driving seat and dominating the fight, but he hurt himself with a foolish move in the second round, picking Vannostrand up during a clinch and slamming him into the floor. That earned him a point deduction from referee Dan Miragliotta.
In the event, the point deduction was irrelevant. After three rounds, the judges saw Vannostrand as the winner of every round. The deduction only made Chikadze’s score lower. Vannostrand put on a career-best performance, made a statement about himself and booked himself a title shot in his home arena. Not a bad night’s work for the man from Syracuse.