Saturday, April 4, 2015

Congratulations Simon Marcus and Gabriel Varga!

Last night's Glory 20 Dubai was a great card full of top level kickboxing, highlighted of course by the 4 man Middleweight contender tournament. Although not Muay Thai, which has made Simon Marcus' entry into the league an intriguing one, Glory has some of the best talent and an exciting format to showcase it with.

I'm not speaking about the rule set, which I am personally not the biggest fan of (I would at least like to see catches and sweeps), but the rankings and tournaments. Last year saw a tournament to decide the Middleweight champion, and this event hosted the tournament to decide who the contender for the next title shot would be. Artem Levin won the decider last year and currently holds the belt, and so the winner of this tournament would earn the right to fight him for it.

That winner is Simon Marcus. In a conservative semi final against Wayne Barrett, Simon played an outside game for the most part, timing a cracking left body kick or right low kick anytime Wayne came to make a move. Wayne would edge forward with his own strikes, but Simon answered back each time. It was a fight where both looked tense and cautious not to make any mistakes. It was in the 3rd round where Simon pressured forward more, backing Wayne up with combinations of punches and that serious left kick, culminating with a clinch knee when Wayne was on the ropes with no where else to go. It was a close fight, but clearly Simon's win with the clean kicks landed and strong finish in the 3rd round.

Also on the card was Gabriel Varga, from Victoria British Columbia. The Canadian had won last year's featherweight contender tournament (beating Yodkhunpon Sitmonchai and Shane Oblonsky) in order to earn the title shot against champion Mosab Amrani. This fight was incredible. Mosab came out ripping to the head and body, mainly with his close range hands. Gabriel responded to the champion in kind, although there was a clear power difference and Gabriel was backing up a little more. Still, Gabriel was throwing and connecting to keep pace with Mosab all the way through, making it a tight contest.

In the 3rd was where the tide most clearly started to shift. Mosab became wilder, and his balance was beginning to lack from fatigue. At this point, Gabriel was connecting with cleaner shots as well as with a higher variety (scissor knee, high kick, low kick, hands). Rounds 4 and 5 saw Mosab continue to swing, again mostly with hands, and much wilder...but Gabriel's movement and variety allowed him to consistently catch Mosab and avoid most of the danger. At this point, Gabriel began to show signs of fatigue too, but was kept his work rate fairly level and looked like he could have kept going a few more rounds. While Mosab was still dangerous till the end, it was clear that his accuracy and balance were too much affected by fatigue, and that Gabriel would come out on top. Congratulations to the new champion!

Simon Marcus then fought his final contender bout against Jason Wilnis. Jason had endured a war in his own semi final with Alex Perreira, having knocked Alex down but also being knocked down himself. Simon on the other hand was relatively fresh given his cerebral bout with Wayne. Simon opened up with those serious left kicks again, and as the fight progressed, established his hands a bit more. Jason began edging forward, but mostly to receive Simon's responses. Up until about midway through the 2nd round, Simon was favouring the outside, moving and kicking almost as he did in the first fight. However, there was a clear shift when he began to gain Jason's respect with his hands, thereby allowing Simon to land his knee. These knees made the biggest difference in the fight, through to the end.

Just as in the fight with Wayne, Simon pressed more in the 3rd, culminating his attacks with those strong knees. Jason stayed dangerous with his dynamite hands, but failed to land anything with effect. Jason had more success with his low kick, but Simon answered back each time and continue to spear the body with knees. In the end, there was no doubt that Simon had controlled the bout, and was now the contender tournament winner....and the next in line to challenge the champion, Artem Levin.

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