In GLORY’s last event of 2017, GLORY heavyweight champion Rico Verhoeven has to defend more than his top spot against former foe Jamal Ben Saddik. A heated rivalry has grown between the two, which makes the fight more than just a title bout.
Of course, ‘redemption’ is not just an empty phrase in the title of GLORY: Redemption. It’s a reference to Verhoeven’s task at hand as “The King of Kickboxing”, undoubtedly biggest name in the company right now, who wants to take revenge on the man that handed him first knockout-loss in 2011.
Ben Saddik made his kickboxing debut at age 20 against an up-and-coming Verhoeven in Sporthallen Zuid in Amsterdam, the same venue where the men had one of their many intense staredowns last September during GLORY 45. In four minutes it was over, as “The Goliath” scored the first of his 26 career knockout wins.
Despite those numbers and the previous victory, it’s Ben Saddik who’s undoubtedly the underdog coming into the bout. A role that he’s not unfamiliar with, as the life of the big Belgian is one big underdog story that includes battles with thyroid cancer and surviving a gun shot wound to his leg.
The beef reached it’s boiling point five weeks ago during the final press conference in the same venue the heavyweights will fight on Saturday when Ben Saddik spat on Verhoeven during their last staredown after a heated press conference.
“I told him some things from the past that I didn’t forget. Things he doesn’t like to hear,” Verhoeven told Ziggo Sport about the incident. “He lives in his own fantasy world. He’s just an idiot.”
GLORY hopes Duut and Ilunga deliver again
Before Verhoeven gets his shot at redemption against Ben Saddik, it’s Danyo Ilunga’s turn to try to avenge a loss. The Congolese-German will fight number three-ranked light heavyweight Michael Duut in a rematch from last year’s GLORY Collision.
It’s not hard to guess why GLORY put this one together again. Despite Duut’s contender tournament win and Ilunga’s seven fight-losing streak (that includes last year’s loss to Duut), the light heavyweights get the task to emulate last year’s magic from their epic bout that was voted GLORY’s fight of the year 2016.
Duut decisioned “Dibuba” in December 2016 after four rounds in which the Dutchman suffered two knockdowns and gave Ilunga the fifth knockdown of the fight in the final seconds before the bell.
Since then it’s been an up-and-down road for Duut, who lost his two following bouts, first against Fred Sikking by knockout in the first round on WFL – Champion vs. Champion, and four weeks later on GLORY 41 to Mourad Bouzidi by disqualification.
The Dutchman turned things back around in September when he won the GLORY 45 light heavyweight contender tournament with two knockouts in under a minute. “The Dream Crusher” knocked out Dragoș Zubco in 36 seconds and a battered Manny Mancha in 12 seconds, who was clearly still wounded from his first round-fight with Imad Hadar.
Ilunga also suffered two losses, against Ariel Machado (GLORY 38) and Stéphane Susperregui (Fight Night Saint-Tropez) by decision but despite this poor run Glory and fans alike will hope for fireworks once again when the pair meet this weekend.
Feathweights get a chance on the big stage
The two other bouts on the GLORY Redemption pay-per-view are reserved for the smaller fighters, as Zakaria Zouggary fights Petchpanomrung Kiatmookao in a number one contender bout and 19-year-old Chenglong Zhang takes on 20-year-old Bailey Sugden from England.
Zouggary has made a real impression in his first two GLORY appearances and could round out the year on a impressive note as the number one contender with a win over the number two-ranked Thai in his hometown of Rotterdam.
“Double Z” debuted last May in a fight of the year candidate against Yetkin Özkul. Last September in Amsterdam, he decisioned Massaro Glunder to extend his GLORY record to 2-0.
Petpanomrung has the chance to get revanche on featherweight champion Robin van Roosmalen, who beat the young Thai last May in Den Bosch. Since then he’s 1-1 with a decision win over Xie Lei on GLORY 46 in China in his most recent performance.
On that same event in Guangzhou, Chenglong Zhang was named Fighter of the Night with a featherweight qualification tournament win to extend his GLORY record to 3-0.
Sugden, currently ranked 20th in the GLORY featherweight rankings, from Newark hopes the spoil the party of the Chinese teenager with his second GLORY win. “Bad Boy” made his GLORY debut in June on GLORY 43 in New York with a decision over American Arthur Sorsor.
GLORY: Redemption will be broadcast live on PPV from Ahoy Rotterdam in the Netherlands at 9 p.m. GMT (4 p.m. ET / 1 p.m. PT.) and is available for purchase at UFC.TV.