By Jeremy Wall
Glory 23 took place Saturday, August 7th at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. It was the promotion’s debut in Vegas. The show was headlined by Nieky Holzken defeating Raymond Daniels in the third round by TKO due to a cut to win the vacant Glory Welterweight title. The show also featured a one-night, four-man middleweight tournament won by former UFC fighter Dustin Jacoby, who knocked out Ariel Sepulveda in 2:59 in the semi-finals and then stopped Casey Greene by TKO at 1:19 of the second round in the tournament finals. The show aired on Spike TV.
The main event between Holzken and Daniels was an exciting match. It was a rematch of the finals of a welterweight tournament at Glory 19 in February, which Daniels lost by TKO. This time Daniels looked much improved, particularly his boxing skill. The first two rounds saw Holzken back Daniels into corners, but Daniels would box his way out. Daniels is a 35-year-old karateka with some incredible spinning offense, but that he was able to improve his boxing to a level where he was competitive with Holzken, who is known as a good boxer, was impressive.
Daniels looked like he was winning the fight when he ate a hard knee above the eye, which opened up a disgusting cut. Referee John McCarthy stopped the fight immediately once he saw the cut. It was too bad because it was a good fight that might have led to a win by Daniels, a flashy American who, although a bit old, has charisma. I would think the obvious thing to do here would be to do a rematch once Daniels is ready, although that might be hard to justify since Daniels already has two losses to Holzken.
With the tournament victory, Holzken won the Glory Welterweight title. The title was previous held by Joseph Valtellini, who had to vacate due to lingering post-concussion syndrome. Valtellini was at the event as a backstage interviewer and participated in commentary for the tournament finals. He hasn’t officially retired, though, so he might be back if his concussion problems subside.
Valtellini would make a natural challenger for Holzken’s title. Holzken already holds a win in Glory over Valtellini via third-round TKO at Glory 13 in Tokyo on December 21st, 2013. Valtellini could also face Daniels again at some point. Valtellini beat Daniels by knockout on that same card in Tokyo. Valtellini’s last fight was a win over Marc de Bonte at Glory 17 in Los Angeles on June 21st, 2014, which was the failed Glory pay per view.
In the co-main, Jacoby beat Greene by TKO in the second round in a middleweight tournament finals. Jacoby is a former UFC, WSOF, and Bellator veteran with a 10-5 MMA record. He had losses in both his UFC fights to Clifford Starks and Chris Camozzi, lost to David Branch in WSOF, and lost to Mo Lawal and John Salter in Bellator. He is 6-5 in kickboxing, but actually had a losing record going into the Glory 23 tournament. He has exciting fights, but is definitely not in the upper tier of skilled fighters either in MMA or kickboxing. He is 3-5 in Glory.
He beat Ariel Sepulveda in the first round of the Glory 23 tournament to meet Greene in the finals. Greene beat Quinton O’Brien by unanimous decision in the first round. Even though Jacoby is not one of the better kickboxers at middleweight, Greene had a hard time with Jacoby, and was nearly knocked out in the first round. In the second, Jacoby continued to pummel Greene until the fight was stopped with Greene taking tremendous damage.
By winning the tournament, Jacoby earns a spot in yet another tournament to determine the number one contender to the Glory Middleweight title. Tournament booking is beyond lazy matchmaking. Tournaments only work when they are used sparingly, like the early Pride Grand Prix tournaments. Those early Pride tournaments were fantastic because the idea that Pride had at the time was for the Grand Prix to be like an Olympic event that only came around once every few years and featured the best. The later Pride Grand Prix tournaments meant a lot less because they were held so frequently, and thus the appeal was diminished.
The problem with so many tournaments is that people forget who was in the tournament and who won which tournament. I also think the “wrong guy” wins more often in a tournament. If you have four fighters and you have one guy that is the preferred tournament winner because he is the most marketable, if he wins his first fight, but gets injured, or his cardio is weak, or gets roughed up and fights poorly in the finals, then he ends up losing and you’ve damaged his marketability. I think it is better for Glory to just do single fights with an eye on matchmaking to try and create new stars.
Also on the show, Xavier Vigney beat Daniel Sam by split-decision at heavyweight. The split-decision was a bad call because Vigney dominated the entire fight. Vigney won a heavyweight qualifier tournament at Glory 21 in San Diego back in May and that tournament win hasn’t really gone anywhere. I don’t think Glory really runs enough events to hold tournaments for guys to win places in better tournaments, anyway. Vigney looked good, but not great, in this fight, although he will make a competitive challenger against Glory Heavyweight champion Rico Verhoeven if Glory chooses to make that match.
Production was good. The Hard Rock Hotel came across as such a small venue on television, but that is typical for many of the Glory shows that take place in the US. Even with the smaller venues, I think it is better for Glory to take place in the US and preferably air live if they are going to become a successful television product for Spike. Mauro Ranallo and Stephen Quadros provided commentary, and were as good as they have ever been. Bill Goldberg appeared to hype the Dynamite show as a brand ambassador for Glory. If they could get Goldberg to fight in a superfight or something at heavyweight that would probably do a strong rating, as Bellator has done well with the freak show stuff (although that won’t last).
Georges St-Pierre, of all people, also participated in a bit of the hype for this show, although he wasn’t featured on the broadcast. He was in Las Vegas the week of the fights to promote a new kickboxing glove being marketed by Hayabusa, who is one of GSP’s sponsors. Hayabusa also sponsors Glory and Nieky Holzken. Holzken and GSP sparred. It would have been cool if during the Spike broadcast Glory aired a clip of Holzken sparring with GSP, with GSP talking about how great Glory is. I don’t know GSP’s contract status with UFC, but maybe because of that Glory couldn’t do it.
The show aired on Spike from 11pm ET to 1am ET. Perhaps that the event took place out west was the reason for the late start time, but it is hard to imagine ratings being strong for such a late showing. After the broadcast Spike also aired a hype show for the Antonio Tarver-Steve Cunningham PBC fight that takes place this Friday. The hype show aired from 1am ET to 2am. I don’t understand the point of putting shoulder programming on so late, since the idea with that kind of content is to get as many eyeballs on it as possible in order to build hype for the actual fight. Airing shoulder programming at 1am feels a bit pointless. Friday during prime time, Spike aired a marathon of Cops episodes.
Glory has aired outside of prime time for a couple of shows now, which isn’t a positive. Glory 22 took place June 5th from France and aired at 4pm ET on Spike. It only drew 152,000 viewers, the poorest Glory has drawn on Spike. The afternoon broadcast didn’t work. Maybe a late night broadcast will work better. Prior to Glory 22, Spike has aired eleven Glory events that have averaged 462,818 viewers per show.
The problem with airing Glory in the afternoon or late at night is that in the United States, people are used to seeing kickboxing as filler material on secondary sports channels. Kickboxing also isn’t a native sport in the US, as it is realistically a foreign sport with similarities to boxing, its more popular American cousin. Comparing kickboxing to boxing in terms of American popularity is a bit similar to comparing rugby to football or cricket to baseball in the US. It’s not exactly the same, but the point is that because kickboxing is a foreign sport that has been used as time filler in the US, Glory has to overcome the negative perception associated with kickboxing in the US in order to become a box office draw.
Airing outside of prime time does not help overcome that negative perception. Glory needs to air in prime time on Spike in order for the audience to become accustomed to the idea that kickboxing is a prime time sport and not something that airs at funny times in the afternoon or late at night. Glory has been on Spike since 2013 and Spike has broadcast numerous Glory events in prime time. Maybe 462,818 viewers per show isn’t cutting it for Spike on prime time. If that is the case, then Spike has a problem with their “Friday Night Lights Out” combat sports series, because although Bellator draws better, PBC boxing isn’t drawing much better than Glory.
Glory is back for the Dynamite event on September 19th at the SAP Center in San Jose that is being co-promoted by Glory & Bellator in a throwback to the old mega events in Japan. The idea here is to obviously take what would have otherwise been one of the major tent pole Bellator shows that draw well and add some Glory fights in order to increase Glory’s exposure. If that’s the case, then Spike should not have been airing Glory outside of prime time for the last couple of events. That feels like throwing in the towel too early on Glory, because if the Dynamite event succeeds by increasing Glory’s popularity, then Spike needs to continue airing Glory in prime time, otherwise Glory’s increased popularity will fade quickly.
Dynamite is headlined by Tito Ortiz challenging Liam McGeary for the Bellator Light-Heavyweight title. Ortiz is shot, but McGeary hasn’t faced someone with as big of a name on such an important show as this, so it will be an interesting test for him. On the Glory side, there are four fights. First is Saulo Cavalari vs. Zach Mwekassa for the Glory Light-Heavyweight title that was stripped off Gokhan Saki due to a contract dispute with Glory. Second is Gabriel Varga making his first defense of the Glory Featherweight title against Sergey Adamchuk. Third is Paul Daley against an opponent TBA, although Holzken has challenged Daley and they could make that for the Glory Welterweight title now that Holzken is champion. Last is a women’s flyweight match between Keri Anne Taylor-Melendez and an opponent TBA. Melendez is the spouse of Gilbert Melendez. Joe Schilling was also supposed to be on the show, but had to withdraw due to injury.
Glory has made some odd choices here. This is meant to showcase the best of Glory, since this event will surely get more viewers than Glory has ever had for a show in the US. But the company isn’t even highlighting their best fighters. I have no idea why they are having a women’s fight here when Glory has never aired women’s kickboxing on Spike before. Melendez signed with Bellator a few weeks ago, so maybe they feel she has star potential and want to give her a push by putting her in a showcase fight on the Glory side of this event. But Bellator doesn’t even have a proper women’s division, let alone a proper women’s flyweight division, and neither does Glory, so that makes zero sense.
I like the idea of Daley challenging Holzken for the Welterweight title, if that is what happens. It would give Holzken a chance to beat an MMA fighter with somewhat of a name in a high profile fight and maybe in turn increase Holzken’s profile. The two other title fights are okay, although I would have gone with a different title matches than the Light-Heavyweight and Featherweight titles, particularly since the fighters involved in those matches don’t have tremendous star potential. It would have been better if Glory had booked a heavyweight title match with champion Rico Verhoeven and maybe a middleweight title match with champion Artem Levin, with the idea of the middleweight title match being that it could build to a title defense against Joe Schilling on a later show. If Artem Levin retained his middleweight title, he would thus face Schilling in a rubber match, as they each hold one win over the other.
This is Glory’s best chance to get their product across to a wider audience and I think they are squandering it. Since it will mostly be MMA fans watching Dynamite, I think a better theme for Glory’s portion of the show would have been four Kickboxing vs. MMA fights, with four fighters from Glory facing four MMA stars under kickboxing rules. Glory could get fighters from Bellator, such as Daley, or use former UFC guys that also do kickboxing, like Jacoby or Pat Barry. The idea is that the MMA names would generate broader audience interest and most of the fights would be won by Glory guys, since they would be competing under kickboxing rules. It would be a chance to put over Glory kickboxers who otherwise wouldn’t have as much of a chance to get over with a wider audience.
Also, if Glory was ever going to do a kickboxing match featuring Bill Goldberg, the Dynamite event was obviously the time.
The truth is that Glory hasn’t been able to create a major new star, or even find a potential major new star, that they can use to headline an important show like Dynamite. Everything in combat sports is based on star creation. It is hard to create new stars. I have yet to see a single fighter on a Glory event that has major breakout star potential, but isn’t quite there yet. The closest would be Joe Schilling, but I don’t think he quite has the skill level to hang with the best and win regularly in order to maintain his star status. Tyrone Spong also has potential, but hasn’t fought for Glory in ages.
That’s what Dynamite would be good for, showcasing a fighter who Glory believes has the ability to carry the promotion to a higher level of popularity. Bellator has a few guys with potential. PBC has Deontay Wilder and possibly Keith Thurman, and a few others. I don’t know if Glory really has anyone. They have many great fighters, but being a great fighter is not the same thing as being a star (although typically a star needs to be a great fighter, too). Glory needs that one charismatic star that can draw interest from people who would not otherwise watch a Glory show, and right now I don’t know who that star could be.
Jeremy Wall can be contacted at email@example.com and found on Twitter @jeremydalewall.