The opening round matches for the highly-anticipated GLORY 4 TOKYO – Heavyweight Grand Slam, one-night, 16-man kickboxing tournament at Saitama Super Arena on New Year’s Eve, were determined via a random draw in the Japanese capital today.
“The tournament draw has made some really interesting matches for the first round, matching the best rising stars with some of the sport’s biggest names. Some of the pairings are absolutely explosive and will be guaranteed wars,” says GLORY chairman Pierre Andurand.
“This is the world’s most prestigious kickboxing tournament and is the single biggest kickboxing event in history. We are extremely proud of this line-up that features fighters from over a dozen nations, and are very excited at seeing the tournament play out,” says GLORY Managing Director Marcus Luer.
“Tens of thousands of fans watched the draw online and it was attended by numerous members of the press both in Tokyo and online, guaranteeing that the eyes of the world will be on the Saitama Super Arena this New Year’s Eve.”
World No. 1 ranked heavyweight and No. 1 tournament seed Semmy Schilt (39-6, 18 KO’s), who won the GLORY heavyweight title earlier this year, drew Brice Guidon (28-7, 4 KO’s) of France as an opening round opponent. Schilt, an Ashihara Karate black belt, is a notoriously difficult opponent because of his size (2.12 meters/6-foot-11) and his unique style, which explains why only four men have ever beaten him in his entire career.
Guidon’s style is characterized by excellent timing. He is the WPMF European Heavyweight and WPMF World Super-Heavyweight champion and has fought Schilt once before, going the distance with him in Moscow, Russia earlier this year.
No. 2 seed is Gokhan Saki (77-15, 53 KO’s), of Turkish heritage, but born and raised in the Netherlands. Saki is a fan favourite worldwide and his famous left hook has put a quick and definitive end to many an opponent’s night. Saki is the shortest fighter in the tournament but also the most explosive and anyone who faces him knows they are going to get hurt.
Facing him in the first round will be the Japanese puncher Raomoru. He likes to get into a scrap and he will happily stand and trade with Saki, which should ensure that one of them will not be making it to the final bell.
Daniel Ghita (44-7, 34 KO’s), known as ‘The Savage Samurai,’ is the No. 3 seed. Noted for his brutal leg-kicks and technical kickboxing, he has dismantled all the opposition placed in front of him over the last two years. Ghita is now at his absolute prime and touted as a future all-time great. He is the second favourite to win the tournament, according to odds makers.
Ghita will face the Brazilian-Japanese fighter Fabiano ‘Cyclone’ Aoki (27-9, 14 KO’s) Hailing from the large Japanese-descent community to be found in the Belem region of Brazil, Aoki is from the same town as former UFC champion Lyoto Machida but competes in Japan. In recent years he has taken the RISE, J-Network and WPMF heavyweight titles.
No. 4 seed is the high-flying Remy Bonjasky (77-14, 40 KO’s). His breath taking array of flying kicks and knees makes him one of the most unique fighters ever to step into the ring and he always puts on a show. He returned to action this year after an extended layoff and showed that he deserves his spot at the upper end of the rankings.
Bonjasky will face Filip Verlinden (38-6, 17 KO’s), an outstandingly technical Muay Thai fighter. Verlinden had a long and successful amateur Muay Thai career which culminated in his winning a world title. Verlinden has trained from a young age under his father, a former champion, and it has been his lifelong dream to win a major kickboxing tournament.
No. 5 seed Peter Aerts (104-30-1, 78 KO’s) has, for two decades he won in the rings of Japan, becoming an idol to fans both there and around the world. Aerts is the oldest fighter in the competition but also the most experienced. He holds three wins over Schilt and there are few fighters who can surprise him with anything.
Opposing Aerts in the first round of the tournament will be his close friend and training partner Mourad Bouzidi (73-19, 33 KO’s). The draw was not what they wanted but such is the nature of things in tournaments and they say it will be strictly business on Dec. 31, with the friendship suspended until the fight is out of the way.
No. 6 seed Errol Zimmerman (76-16-1, 41 KO’s), ‘The Bonecrusher’, earned his nickname due to his ferocious right hand. Zimmerman’s raw power is unbelievable and he has been adding new skills to his game following an unsuccessful shot at the GLORY heavyweight title earlier this year.
The draw has matched Zimmerman with Jamal Ben Saddik (22-0, 19 KO’s) who has been referred to as the ‘Moroccan Semmy Schilt’ on account of his size. Almost as tall and as heavy as Schilt, it’s hard to believe Ben Saddik is just 22 years old. He made his professional debut last year by stopping Rico Verhoeven, who had never previously been knocked out.
No. 7 seed Anderson ‘Braddock’ Silva (32-8-1, 22 KO’s) is Brazil’s top heavyweight and was Aerts’ main sparring partner for several years while based in Holland. He faced Bonjasky and fellow top heavyweight Badr Hari in 2012 and impressed fans in both starts. In 41 professional fights, the 26-year-old has never once been KO’d.
Silva faces the hard-hitting Igor Jurkovic (44-5, 29 KO’s) of Croatia. Jurkovic made his GLORY debut in Brussels earlier this year and stopped Tony Gregory of France with a body shot in the second round, earning himself a spot in the Grand Slam in the process.
No. 8 seed is the Russian bear, Sergei Kharitonov (22-7, 12 KO’s). A former paratrooper, Kharitonov knows a thing or two about shock tactics and he tries to overwhelm his opposition with the bombs he carries in each glove.
He has drawn Rico Verhoeven (37-6-1, 8 KO’s), regarded as one of the brightest young prospects in the heavyweight division. Verhoeven is 23 years old and has faced some stiff tests on the way to this tournament, including a win over the It’s Showtime heavyweight champion Hesdy Gerges.
GLORY tournaments use a seeding system akin to that used in tennis and other tournament sports. The top eight fighters in the official GLORY rankings were appointed seeds one through eight, respectively, in the invitation-only Heavyweight Grand Slame draw, and today’s draw determined which of the remaining eight participants would face them in the first fights of the night.
A total of $600,000 in prize money will be awarded during the GLORY 4 Tokyo – Heavyweight Grand Slam fight card, which represents one-half of the ‘GSI presents DREAM 18 and GLORY 4 Tokyo – New Year’s Eve Special,’ double-header event at Saitama Super Arena.
The action will kick off at 4 p.m. JST with DREAM 18, a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) card stacked with world-class talent to be announced soon.
Stay tuned to MMAWeekly.com for all the latest MMA news and updates.