When we last saw Gokhan Saki on Spike TV it was at Glory 11. Due to a questionable knockdown in the first round, Saki was upset by eventual heavyweight tournament champion Rico Verhoeven. When he lost that fight we saw the angry side of Saki. After Tyrone Spong broke his leg on a checked kick, we saw the compassionate side of him for the second time on the night.
He seemed as broken up by Spong’s injury as anybody. It was obviously not how he was looking to win the tournament.
He defeated Nathan Corbett in the opening fight of the night on Spike TV. After a couple of exchanges it was clear that Saki retained all of his power and quickness. He looked great at this new weight class. Which was not surprising since he was always an undersized heavyweight with startling power.
We saw that power in the first fight with Corbett where a vicious left hook from Saki appeared to shattered his eardrum. Corbett continued for a moment but it was clear his equilibrium was off and blood was pouring out of the right ear.
Saki went over and lifted Corbett up out of respect. We saw more of that in the Spong fight in the finals.
It was the final that everybody was hoping for when this tournament was announced. At Glory 11, fans were hoping for a rematch between Saki and Daniel Ghita. Instead, Verhoeven upset them both. This time we got the rematch between the two top ranked fighters. It was not the finish anybody wanted.
As unfortunate as the outcome it does not take away from Saki’s performance in winning the tournament in his home country. It was a very subdued celebration by him even when he was awarded the belt.
Saki’s response when it happened was one of anguish and disappointment. After that initial moment he immediately went over to Spong who raised his glove up to Saki, who instead knelt down and held Spong.
You felt for both fighters in that moment and it reminded us that it is a violent and emotional sport. The fighters know that better than anybody. Saki understood Spong’s emotions better than anyone else could.
Mauro Ranallo’s real, emotional response captured the disappointment viewers felt watching the devastating injury. His co-commentator Duke Roufus reminded us that the is a part of the sport and one that fighters understand. It is still difficult to watch a fighter suffer a such an injury.
Hopefully it is one that he can recover from fully.
Spong got to the final by defeating a rising talented young fighter in Saulo Cavalari in their semi-final fight. This was a step up into the spotlight for Cavalari who looked good in this fight. He battled Spong for all three rounds and lost a close decision.
Cavalari showed a lot of heart and seemed to get better as the fight progressed. His best round was the third one. Spong had rocked him early showing his speed, accuracy and power. Cavalari was wobbled slightly but never went down. He started answering Spong’s combinations with his own.
They went back and forth unloading punches and kicks in blurring combos. There was four or five punches from Spong then three or four from Cavalari.
As the fight went deeper in the second round onto the third you saw Cavalari started to answer the combos with more strikes. He also started to string together sets of combos in response to Spong’s.
Cavalari’s performance was impressive against one of the two best light heavyweight kick boxers in the world. It left you very excited about his next fight in Glory.
In the other light heavyweight fight Danyo Ilunga announced that he is ready to move up from the alternate fight. He knocked Andrei Stoica out with clean right hand that ended the fight.
Stoica threw an awkward four punch combo that got him off balance. The punches were hooks and the last one left him wide open for the right hand counter from Ilunga.
Watching them both fight on this card made it natural to want to see Cavalari and Ilunga face each other.
On the headline event Robin Van Roosmalen took a split decision over Marat Grigorian in the lightweight battle. It was a close action packed fight that showed why people are excited about Grigorian. You could make the case that he did beat the number two ranked Van Roosmalen.
You can expect that these two will probably meet again in the Glory ring.
photo credit – Glory Sports International
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