Credit: Cho Tang

The GLORY lightweight division stands before a crossroads ahead of GLORY 49: Rotterdam, this Saturday at the Ahoy.

With lightweight champion Sittichai Sitsongpeenong‘s leave of absence ending at the start of next year, GLORY has planned a lightweight contender tournament and an important lightweight bout on the first part of GLORY’s big year-ending show in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

All eyes on “The Wonderboy” at GLORY 49

Tyjani Beztati has to be the big favorite heading into the one-night, four-man tournament that kicks things off in Rotterdam. The 20-year-old prodigy from The Colosseum fights his first GLORY tournament after making his debut last year on GLORY’s biggest stage to date, GLORY: Collision.

Twelve months later and Beztati is ranked fourth in the GLORY rankings with wins over Andrej Bruhl, Sabri Ben Henia, Youssef Assouik and Yodkhunpon Sitmonchai. His biggest win to date in his hometown of Amsterdam last September. This makes him the only participant on a winning streak.

Beztati first squares off with Niclas Larsen, who’ll make his first GLORY appearance since the upset knockout loss against Massaro Glunder last June in Paris. The Dane was the contender tournament favorite going in, but couldn’t overcome an early onslaught from ‘The Project’, who took his opportunity on a couple of days’ notice.

Glunder replaced Mike’s Gym teammate Stoyan Koprivlenski, one half of the other semi-final match in Ahoy. The Bulgarian takes on Brazilian Maykol Yurk from Hemmers Gym.

After debuting on the GLORY 41 undercard, Koprivlenski last fought in September when he took on Kevin Hessling, who has proven to be a real handful for some Mike’s Gym fighters in the past, in a -73 kg catchweight bout. Hessling got the nod by decision.

Yurk, usually competing at featherweight, is looking to break a two-fight skid in GLORY. Eddy Nait Slimani took a decision over the Brazilian in his last GLORY appearance on GLORY 28 in Paris, which was his first showing since the GLORY 26 featherweight contender tournament final versus Mosab Amrani.

Anil Cabri vs. Irving Sabajo decides who’ll be the reserve fighter. This bout, alongside Raymond BonteSamir “Klik-Klik” Boukhidous, will be streamed live on GLORY’s Pluto TV channel at 3.15 p.m. BST.

The winner of the contender tournament is set to face number one-ranked, Marat Grigorian.

Baya one win away from title tilt?

Christian Baya already overcame the tournament route when he won the GLORY 42 contender tournament in Paris and should be one win away from a fight with Sittichai. Standing in his way is Slovenia’s Samo Petje, an FFC champion who replaces Grigorian while competing in Kunlun FC’s 70-kilogram tournament.

Baya, one of five fighters from Mike’s Gym on this card, is a perfect 3-0 so far in his GLORY career. “Bad News” won the contender tournament by the smallest of margins by getting two split-decisions in a row, first against Anatoly Moiseev and afterward against Glunder, his friend and sparring partner.

Baya made a name when he beat Josh Jauncey on five day’s notice on GLORY 35 in Nice. Now he’s the favorite against Petje, a two-weight champion of FFC who’s been looking to make his debut in the organization for a while.

Completing GLORY 49: Rotterdam is a fight between welterweight debutants Anying Wang from China and Omar Moreno from the United States.