The line-up for Tokyo’s GLORY SuperFight Series bouts was a mixture of living legends and rising stars. It included the Japanese retirement fight of Remy Bonjasky and a featherweight fight which could easily have been a title fight in its own right.
We also had the welterweight debut of Artur Kyshenko and a heavyweight encounter between French legionnaire Jerome Le Banner and the Russian bear Sergey Kharitonov. This was one of the most stacked SuperFight Series cards of 2013 and a fitting way to end the year.
Remy Bonjasky vs. Anderson Silva
The first fight between these two was a war and this one was no different. Silva’s gameplan seemed to be to look for the knockout as early as possible, leading to a punch-heavy approach. As always, Bonjasky (98-12-0, 36 KO's) preferred to use his legs and so the fight took on a puncher vs. kicker aspect.
Early on Silva (37-10-1, 24 KO's) had success with his approach. Towards the end of the first round he had Bonjasky stuck in a corner under heavy pressure. That seemed to switch Bonjasky on though and in round two he gave it all back with interest, hammering Silva’s body and legs with perfectly-timed kicks.
The pace was relentless throughout, but Bonjasky’s work on the body took a lot of Silva’s energy away. He had a slower round three and seemed stuck for ideas, while Bonjasky maintained his work rate and landed some nice clean shots.
Having clearly outworked Silva in round three, Bonjasky was expecting a decision win when the final belt went. The shock on his face as the unanimous decision was announced for Silva said it all. He was almost literally speechless. Even Silva seemed a little surprised.
The Brazilian has had a hard run in GLORY, a mixture of hard fights and bad luck, but he now stands 2-1 in his last three outings. Adding Bonjasky’s name to his win column is a huge bonus for the Team Nogueira fighter, even if the victory wasn’t as decisive as the official score suggests.
Sergey Kharitonov vs. Jerome Le Banner
In his post-fight interview Le Banner (91-21-2, 70 KO's) made reference to struggling with injuries in training for this fight, and that might explain why he took the approach he did. With Chariton (5-3-0, 3 KO's) being an MMA fighter at heart, the obvious route for kickboxers is to attack his legs with low kicks that he isn’t as well-versed in defending as the full-time professional kickboxers are.
Le Banner’s approach was very light on kicks though. For the most part he chose to box with Kharitonov but had the worst of it, constantly moving backwards under fire and eating a lot of big shots. Kharitonov had particular success with the uppercut and the jab, both of which penetrated Le Banner’s guard with ease repeatedly.
The real focus of the fight should perhaps be the improvements in Kharitonov’s kickboxing rather than Le Banner’s shortcomings.
The big Russian’s offense was the most polished it has ever been. Aside from a newly-acquired lightning-fast jab, he has also started working low kicks into his game and looked completely different from the plodding slugger who was dismantled by Daniel Ghita back in 2010.
Le Banner’s constant backwards movement played into Kharitonov’s hands and eventually the Frenchman’s offense completely disappeared. Kharitonov wore a huge smile in the third round as he variously showboated and landed at will. Le Banner joined in, smiling back. At one point they shared a hug in the middle of the ring, out of the blue.
Strange scenes aside, the fight showed a lot of improvements in Kharitonov’s game. As a two-sport athlete his focus has previously been mainly on MMA. This fight suggests that his camp has now shifted in the opposite direction.
Hesdy Gerges vs. Ewerton Teixeira
Teixeira (9-4-0, 3 KO's) is one of Brazil’s most accomplished karate fighters but he hadn’t fought under kickboxing rules for several years prior to this bout. Instead he has been part of the team around former UFC heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos, which lead to him training and competing in MMA himself.
Ring rust was a factor. Teixeira was out of rhythm in the ring whereas Gerges (43-13-1, 19 KO's) is razor-sharp, this fight coming on the heels of his October fight with Errol Zimmerman at GLORY 11 CHICAGO. Gerges’ kicking won him the fight, racking up points as he took advantage of Teixeira’s slower reactions.
Outgunned, Teixeira increasingly resorted to spoiling tactics. He clinched up whenever Gerges got close enough, making this fight the only one on the card in which the referee had to tire himself out by pushing two big men apart repeatedly.
Teixeira did have some success but the fight was almost entirely Gerges’. He was awarded a unanimous decision win and was overjoyed, it being his first victory under the GLORY banner. He is now 1-1 in the organization and will need to work hard to establish himself in 2014.
Aleksandr Stetcurenko vs. Karim Ghajji
The fact that both of these fighters were searching for their first win in GLORY gives you some idea of the strength of talent in the welterweight division. Stetcurenko (49-8-0, 24 KO's) and Ghajji (93-10-1, 49 KO's) are both world-class fighters with numerous titles and championships to their name, but went into this with a zero in their GLORY win column.
They went after it hard and had a great fight, displaying savage but technical kickboxing skills. Stetcurenko in particular clearly wanted to score a finish, using his boxing skills to head-hunt Ghajji and look for the knockout.
Ghajji’s kicking game was superb but Stetcurenko’s boxing was the deciding factor in the fight. On the attack he was dangerous, scoring with straight punches and body shots. Defensively he had moments of mastery, weaving his head under and around three- and four-punch combinations from Ghajji.
The fight took place almost entirely at touching distance and numerous firefights took place over the course of three rounds. In the third Stetcurenko was clearly pushing the pace but the judges had the fight a draw and wanted to see an extra round. Stetcurenko took that too, earning the decision win and his first GLORY victory.
Artur Kyshenko vs. Ken Mun
Kyshenko (55-11-1, 28 KO's) has spent most of his career at lightweight but was always large for the weight class and found the cut increasingly difficult. Now that GLORY has made welterweight a flagship division, Kyshenko has elected to move up and fight at his more natural weight.
Ken Mun (24-6-0, 18 KO's) has fought with success on the Japanese circuit but Kyshenko was by far the biggest name opponent he has faced and the difference in class was obvious. Kysehnko dominated the fight from the opening bell.
Over the course of his career Kyshenko has established a reputation as a hard-hitting power-puncher. Ken Mun elected to avoid trading hands with him and instead looked to stay on the outside and play a long-distance kicking game.
It didn’t work. Kysehnko got into his preferred distance and worked Ken Mun over whenever he could, with Ken Mun becoming increasingly evasive as the fight went on. Kyshenko was never in any trouble and while he can celebrate a successful welterweight debut, the real tests of the division will come in 2014.
Mosab Amrani vs. Yuta Kubo
This fight could have been a headliner in its own right and in fact was expected to be the final of the GLORY 8 TOKYO Featherweight Championship Tournament earlier this year. Amrani (51-8-4, 15 KO's) unexpectedly exited that tournament in the second round, with Kubo (40-5-1, 18 KO's) going on to win it.
At GLORY 13 they showed fans what that tournament final could have looked like. They went at a ferocious pace, trading blow for blow and combination for combination. Amrani is famous for a forward-pressure style but Kubo more than matched it, meeting the onslaught head-on.
`Home-town pride may have played a part in that. Usually Kubo fights in more measured style. By meeting Amrani head on, he played the Dutch-Moroccan’s game and let the fight play out in the style Amrani wanted it to.
Three rounds of non-stop action later, Amrani was declared the winner by unanimous decision. A Kubo/Amrani clash had been highly anticipated by the kickboxing fanbase for years and it did not disappoint. Even better, a rematch is highly likely at some point in the coming year. No doubt Kubo will adjust his tactics for that one.
GLORY Superfight Series 13: Official Results
Sergey Kharitonov defeats Jerome Le Banner via unanimous decision (29-25) (30-26) (29-25)
Hesdy Gerges defeats Ewerton Teixeira via unanimous decision (29-28) (30-27) (29-28)
Anderson Silva defeats Remy Bonjasky via unanimous decision (29-28) (29-28) (29-28)
Aleksandr Stetcurenko defeats Karim Ghajji via unanimous decision (29-28) (29-28) (30-27)
Artur Kyshenko defeats Ken Mun via unanimous decision (30-27) (30-26) (30-27)
Mosab Amrani defeats Yuta Kubo via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27) (30-27)