GLORY’s Heavyweight Grand Prix has been in the works for over a year now, with various qualifiers happening on almost every card from the organization over the last twelve months. The first round of matchups has been revealed with the final eight-man shortlist. Let’s review each matchup and try to establish who the favorites are. The Grand Prix is set to go down on March 9th and will be one of the most significant events of the year in kickboxing.
GLORY Reveals March 9th Grand Prix Lineup
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Levi Rigters vs Uku Jurendal
Levi Rigters is ranked #2 in the Heavyweight division and has looked extremely impressive throughout his career. With only one loss in his career, Rigters has established himself as one of the best Heavyweights on the planet; he has fought six times for GLORY, going 5-1, and has picked up victories over the likes of Tariq Osaro and Nordine Mahieddine with his singular loss coming to veteran Moroccan fighter Tarik Khbabez. One of the most technical fighters in the division, Rigters will undoubtedly have the height and reach advantage over most in the Grand Prix, standing at 2 meters tall. Yet the only thing that may work against him is possible ring rust, as he has only had two fights in the last two years. Granted, he has looked impressive in both.
His opponent, Uku Jurendal, is a somewhat recent addition to GLORY’s Heavyweight roster, making his debut in February 2023. Despite being in the organization three years less than Rigters, Jurendal only has one fight less in GLORY than the Dutchman and, in the last year, has stepped into the ring an incredible five times. Three of these resulted in victories, all by way of KO. While not as tall as Rigters, standing at 1.93m, Jurendal is certainly not a small man and is a physical powerhouse among the strongest fighters in the organization. Twenty career wins, sixteen of these being knockouts, showcase his impressive power. While perhaps not the most technical, Jurendal is a physical powerhouse capable of switching the lights off for any fighter he comes up against.
Pick to win – Levi Rigters, while Uku Jurendal does possess the power to win any fight with his impressive power it is difficult to ignore the technical prowess of Rigters in this contest.
Tariq Osaro vs Bahram Rajabzadeh
Former Interim Champion Tariq Osaro will enter the Grand Prix after failing to unify the Heavyweight belt with a losing effort to Rico Verhoeven last November. Within GLORY, Osaro is a physical specimen who holds knockout power, with all five of his victories in GLORY coming by way of KO. His most impressive performance was his total domination of former Interim Heavyweight champion and training partner Antonio Plazibat, which saw Osaro capture gold for the first time. He hopes to avenge his losses to Verhoeven and Rigters at this tournament and has the potential to go far.
Bahram Rajabzadeh has massively impressed since joining GLORY and has become known as one of the deadliest fighters in the organization. Undefeated since moving up to Heavyweight, the Azerbaijani fighter has claimed the scalps of Luis Tavares, Mohamed Amine, and Uku Jurendal, which has earned him a place in this Grand Prix. He has looked untouchable at heavyweight, and no opponent appears to trouble him so far. His only shortcoming is that he is relatively undersized compared to his competition, standing at 1.87m tall and usually hitting the scales around the 100kg mark. Osaro will stand over ten centimeters taller than him and will likely weigh at least 20 kg heavier. While Rajabzadeh certainly possesses the skills to take on any fighter, it remains to be seen if he can overcome the size disadvantage posed by the biggest Heavyweights.
Pick to win – Very hard to say but due to the size difference Tariq Osaro gets the edge.
Nordine Mahieddine vs Nabil Khachab
Another one of the smaller fighters taking part at the Grand Prix, Nordine Mahieddine has competed nine times for the organization and, in his most recent outing, picked up his first KO victory with a devastating head kick knockout over Abderahmane Coulibaly. Going 5-4 in GLORY, Mahieddine has shown that he is capable of being beaten, yet wins over former interim champ Antonio Plazibat show that on his day, he is very capable of taking on some of the best fighters in the world.
Nabil Khachab is one of the most interesting fighters in the tournament, style-wise. He boasts a massive bulk, generally weighing around 130 kg and standing at 1.88m. He does not look like a man blessed with great cardiovascular endurance. Yet he has a hugely impressive gas tank and relentlessly pressures his opponents, throwing various unorthodox strikes from all angles.
Pick to win – two very evenly matched fighters, Nabil Khachab gets the nod though due to his size advantage as well as his very impressive cardio
Rico Verhoeven vs Sofian Laidouni
Rico Verhoeven has been the Heavyweight king of GLORY and kickboxing for over a decade now. There appears to be no man who can beat him as he showed last November, returning to GLORY after a nearly two-year absence to beat Tariq Osaro via decision to retain his Heavyweight crown. Though he has somewhat struggled with injuries as he has gotten older, Verhoeven appears to be as dangerous as ever. One of the biggest Heavyweights in the Grand Prix and one of the most technical, Verhoeven will be the pick of many to win the entire tournament, and it isn’t easy to pick against him. While every dog has its day, it remains to be seen if the decline of Verhoeven will arrive soon or if he will stay at the top for the foreseeable future.
Laidouni will undoubtedly be a massive underdog heading into this bout, though he is an excellent fighter in his own right. Wins over Benjamin Adegbuyi and Nabil Khachab announced him as a serious presence in the Heavyweight division. With swift hands and slick boxing skills, Laidouni possesses a speed advantage over many of the fighters he faces. An experienced fighter with over 40 professional contests, we will see if he has the skills to challenge Rico Verhoeven, an opponent who will undoubtedly be the toughest of Laidouni’s career.
Pick to win – while Laidouni is an excellent fighter it is impossible to pick against Rico Verhoeven in this instance.