I’m going to break into my own fandom here a bit for part 2 of this article so I can tell you why I’m so damn excited about this tournament and why you should be too.
MELVIN MANHOEF. If you don’t know who Melvin Manhoef is, watch his highlights. Search on YouTube, “Manhoef vs. Cyborg”, for one of the best fights you will ever see. It’s an MMA match but there is very little groundwork and in reality it’s basically a kickboxing match with MMA gloves on. Manhoef was first, a kick boxer, despite his wealth of MMA experience. He is one of the hardest hitting fighters to ever compete in any combat sport. Another champion, Mark Hunt, is a fighter known around the world for his iron chin; Melvin Manhoef knocked him out moving backward.
Manhoef ‘s power and striking intent is very reminiscent of the great Mike Tyson. Every strike he throws has such a scary explosion to it that it offers you a glimpse into his mind by watching it. There’s much more than the desire to win a fight in those punches, there’s something primal.
Melvin has been in the ring with kickboxing greats like Remy Bonjasky, Tyrone Spong, Stefan Leko, Ray Sefo, and Gokhan Saki. Although he is only 5 foot 8 inches tall, which makes him the shortest fighter in the bracket for his his Glory debut, he has a vast amount of experience fighting in similar rule styles and knocking out much bigger, and taller men.
Melvin will need that experience because the next shortest fighter in the bracket for Glory: Last Man Standing is Simon Marcus, who is 6’1.
Simon holds wins in other organizations over three of the other fighters in the bracket. He’s beaten #1 ranked Artem Levin, he has two wins over the #2 ranked Joe Schilling and a win over the #4 ranked Filip Verlinden. Outside of these wins, there’s something else that makes Simon Marcus even more interesting in the tournament format. Although Simon Marcus has never competed in an 8-man tournament, he has fought more than once in a single night. One night in China, he KO’d two fighters in two separate fights and he never even got out of the ring between them. These were real fights too they were not shortened tournament fights and they were against real opponents who had real skills and at one point Marcus even found himself in real trouble. Crazy right? Well he’s done this twice and the second time he accomplished this, another Glory fighter, Israel Adesanya, was one of his opponents.
Simon Marcus or, Simon Sor Suchart, is also making his Glory Debut but has an impressive record of 39-0 with 1 draw. He is trained by Ajahn Suchart, at Siam #1 gym in Toronto and dons a dangerous and very traditional Muay Thai style. His wins over Artem Levin and Joe Schilling were under full Muay Thai rules which differs very greatly to the Glory rule set. In Glory, elbows are not permitted and neither are sweeps and throws. With the clinch being limited to 5 seconds, this may turn out to be the Achilles heel for the undefeated fighter.
Marcus is very skilled in the clinch and in the first fight he had with Joe Schilling which was under full Muay Thai rules, he dumped Schilling in such a way that he fell over on top of him as they both crashed into the canvas. The dump alone was not very devastating but what happened in the subsequent tumble left Schilling wobbled and concussed. When Joe got up he was clearly on unstable legs and was then KO’d with a monster left hook from Marcus. The circumstances around the KO were a bit frustrating with the tumble being more of an accident than a technique. In their second match Joe dropped Marcus in the first round with his own monster hook, although later losing the fight on points. It can be argued that one of the main reasons Joe lost the second fight with Simon was because of Simon’s high-level clinch, which will not be an issue in the Glory ring.
Simon has been known to start slow with his traditional style and use his high level skills in the clinch to secure victories. My question regarding Marcus is, can he tune his style to the fast pace action of the 3, 3-minute rounds under the Glory rule set and stay undefeated?
Another difference between full Muay Thai rules and the rules in Glory kickboxing is the emphasis that Glory puts on spectacular techniques in scoring. Techniques like spinning kicks and punches or flying knees of any variety. This motivates the athletes to bring a higher level of skill into the ring and is another rule that benefits Joe Schilling in a fight with Simon Marcus.
At Glory 10: Los Angeles, Joe Schilling won the Glory Middleweight Tournament Championship. Despite his being currently ranked #2, Joe won the tournament with wins over Kengo Shimizu and then (and still) ranked #1 Artem Levin. In the fight with Shimizu, Joe landed perfectly timed and expertly executed spinning back fists and all types of spinning kicks. At one point even putting them together in combination, landing a spinning back kick to the body and a spinning back fist as he recovered from the rotation of the first technique. It was truly spectacular to watch, both for fans and for the judges. In the final of the middleweight tournament at Glory 10, he dropped Artem Levin with a superman punch in the second round. Some critics of Joe may cite that Schilling landed a knee to the head of Levin while he was on his way down which may have been the cause for the knockdown. However, it is a fact that Levin was already wobbled and on his knees as Schilling’s knee connected, the knee making it a heavier knockdown, but a knockdown it still was, without the knee.
Now, you may have noticed that I have a slight bias towards Joe Schilling; I don’t deny that I am a fan of his and that this bias exists. I think he may win the whole thing. Though I must admit that what makes the tournament final of Glory 10: Los Angeles between Schiling and Levin so interesting is that Artem Levin won two of the three rounds but was knocked down in the second, scoring the match a draw. In the extension round, Joe scored a knockdown that I must admit, appears to be a slip.
Artem Levin came in with a kick to which Joe reached for and with good timing, simultaneously threw a windmill overhand right that landed hard on Levin. There’s no doubt that the punch landed and it certainly appears as if Levin goes down from the impact. Still, Levin was not rocked and got up rather quickly. Upon closer inspection it looks likely that (and this is my personal speculation) it was more of a forward momentum while Levin was on one leg that caused the knockdown rather than the blow itself. Of course this is just my opinion but this knockdown was key in Joe’s victory and Tournament Championship and makes a potential rematch with Artem Levin terribly exciting.
Joe Schilling is another one of those fighters, like Manhoef, who strikes with murderous intent. However, another thing I must admit despite my bias for Joe Schilling is that he can sometimes become very emotional and drain his energy level causing his cardio to become somewhat suspicious. He has said in interviews that he is the only fighter that has ever beaten him. If this happens in a fight with someone like Melvin Manhoef, he may not be able to recover from the pressure that a fighter like that can deliver under such circumstances. Yet, I don’t think that Joe has gotten to this point in his career without learning from his mistakes and improving. I have no doubt that a hungry and prepared Joe Schilling can beat any fighter in the world, or in this case, any three fighters in the world.
Schilling is one of the American nak muays who are responsible for bringing America into the international spotlight. He, and the others who represent the brand Cant Stop Crazy, are the first group of American fighters that have gained significant notoriety on the world stage of Muay Thai and Kickboxing. There have been other American fighters that represent America internationally, but none who have gained the same popularity as these guys (and gal).
There is one other who is about too though. The American, Wayne Barret is still relatively young in the world of kickboxing but has done extremely well for himself. Barrett scored a surprise win over Joe Schilling at Glory 12: New York, dropping Schilling twice for an 8-count in the second round and winning a unanimous decision victory.
Wayne Barrett has always had a high knockout ratio. As an amateur he was 19-1 with 15 KO’s. He was WKA Amateur United States Cruiserweight Champion and Golden Gloves Boxing Champion in his home state of Georgia. In his pro debut he fought a 12-fight veteran and TKO’d him in the second round. He knocked out every opponent he faced in the pro ranks until he met Joe Schilling, who he dropped twice for an 8-count. Some might believe that Schilling overlooked Barrett based on his lack of experience. Wayne Barrett brought the fight to the Tournament Champion harder than anyone thought he would. I don’t doubt that the 4-0 fighter has the ability to shock us again in Glory: Last Man Standing.
The other fighters in the bracket are no easy task for anyone either. #4 ranked Filip Verlinden has competed at higher weight classes against guys like Tyrone Spong, Remy Bonjasky and Rico Verhoeven for top promotions of the past like K-1 and It’s Showtime, also winning the gold at the IFMA’s in 2010. Bogdan Stoica has become known internationally for his rarely used stunning techniques like axe kicks and flying knees and in 38 of his wins, 29 came by way of knockout. Alex Pereira from Brazil is the tallest fighter in the bracket and fought his way into the 8-man tournament the hard way, by winning of the Middleweight Contender Tournament in Zagreb at Glory 14.
Tournaments like these have always offered so many opportunities for unforgettable moments in sports. As fans we get to see the top athletes get pushed to their limits and either hit the wall and crumble or power through it despite fatigue and injury. Good fighters become great fighters and those who fail to win will experience a life-changing event that can either empower them to find their potential or reduce them into the realm of mediocrity. I can’t wait for June 21st.