By Jeremy Wall
Glory 20 took place April 3rd at the World Trade Center in Dubai and aired on tape delay on Spike. It was a slower paced show compared to previous Glory events on Spike TV, albeit headlined by an exciting Lightweight title fight as Robin van Roosmalen retained the belt defeating Andy Ristie via unanimous decision.
It was Glory's second show of 2015 and only their third since their failed pay per view last June which resulted in Andrew Whitaker being replaced as CEO by Jon Franklin. Glory 19 took place in February and was a major step forward for the promotion, an excellent show that drew their second highest rating to date on Spike.
Glory 20, however, wasn't at the same level. Overall the fights weren't bad, but there were a few issues. First was the location of the event. It took place in Dubai and aired on Spike from 10 to 12 ET. Usually Spike airs their combat sports shows at 9pm ET and with Glory 20 being pretaped, I'm not sure why they went with the late start time.
Dubai wasn't the best choice for a show that is being broadcast in the US, either. Maybe the promotion was paid a location fee by someone in Dubai that made it worthwhile to hold the show there, I don't know. But if Glory wants to be serious about becoming a television product in the United States, then they need to air shows live in the US because this event had that stale post-production feeling that comes with sports events that are pre-taped.
It was obviously taped and edited heavily to fit into two hours. The live venue had a slick looking stage built for entrances, but they didn't show a single fighter entrance during the Spike broadcast. There also were no post-fight interviews. In fact, Spike would frequently cut to commercial exactly as the bell sounded to end a round, nearly cutting into the fight. And some rounds only aired a single twenty second commercial, making it obvious to anyone watching that the show wasn't live. There were very few features done on the fighters, as this felt like one of those afternoon K-1 shows on ESPN from another era where it was just fight after fight of random kickboxers few people have ever heard of. It's not the way to create new stars, which is what Glory needs to do if it is ever going to be successful.
Commentary was provided by Mauro Ranallo and Stephen Quadros, who are among the best. The Dubai crowd, though, was dead quiet. The arena was also dark, making it difficult to see how large the crowd was. But you could have hard a pin drop as the crowd reacted to almost nothing, making it feel like the show was taped in a studio. Quadros even mentioned how quiet the crowd was during the main event, noting that this felt like being at an event in Japan. It makes for weak television.
There was also the issue of jet lag caused by flying all the fighters over to Dubai. Some fighters arrived as late as Tuesday. The show featured a four-man middleweight tournament in the undercard with American Wayne Barrett as the favourite. But Barrett was obviously jet lagged from apparently arriving late in Dubai and put on a lackluster performance in the show's opening fight and was eliminated by Canadian Simon Marcus via unanimous decision.
The best fight of the night was the main event between van Roosmalen and Ristie. Van Roosmalen (43-14-3) was making his first defense of the Glory Lightweight title, which he had won defeating Davit Kiria by majority decision in November. Going into this fight Ristie held a win over van Roosmalen from the finals of a one-night tournament in November 2013 that aired on Spike, where Ristie not only defeated van Roosmalen, but also shocked Giorgio Petrosyan with a knockout victory in the first round.
Ristie (47-5-1) was Glory's first Lightweight champion, but lost the title to Kiria in Zagreb in March 2014. He came back with a couple of wins in Glory over Ky Hollenbeck and Steve Moxon to setup the rematch with van Roosmalen.
Van Roosmalen dominated Ristie as the fight wore on, scoring two knockdowns in the fourth round en route to winning the fight on straight scores of 49-44. Van Roosmalen has a reputation as a small Mike Tyson and gave up a large height and reach advantage to Ristie. Van Roosmalen, however, threw more punches and landed with significantly more power, even though he threw zero knees and only half as many kicks as Ristie. But it was the power in van Roosmalen's hands that rocked Ristie, as van Roosmalen has clearly improved as a fighter since the last time the two met.
Glory seems to have two credible options for van Roosmalen's next challenger. First would be Petrosyan, who beat van Roosmalen via unanimous decision in a tournament final at Glory 3 in Rome on November 3rd, 2012. Petrosyan hasn't been back in Glory since losing to Ristie, which was only the second loss of Petrosyan's career in 81 pro fights, which is insane. But Petrosyan did fight for another promotion in Italy in January and is booked to fight in Italy again on April 11th. Should Petrosyan win his next fight, he would seem to make sense as van Roosmalen's next challenger. Glory, though, has been cutting down on how much they spend on talent and Petrosyan likely doesn’t come cheap. Otherwise Glory would likely do another four-man tournament to create a new challenger.
Also on the show, Glory crowned its inaugural Featherweight champion when Gabriel Varga of Canada beat Mosab Amrani by unanimous decision on scores of 50-46, 48-47, and 49-46. The fight was much closer than the scores indicated. Amrani was widely considered the top featherweight in kickboxing and Varga ranked lower in the top ten, so this was a minor upset. Neither of these guys has any name value outside the hardcore kickboxing fanbase, which I think is incredibly small even as far as hardcore fanbases go.
In the one-night tournament to create a challenger for Artem Levin's Middleweight title, Simon Marcus defeated Jason Wilnis by split-decision on scores of 30-27, 29-28, and 28-30 in the tournament final. Marcus had defeated Barrett earlier in the night and neither match was particularly exciting. Wilnis reached the finals by defeating Alex Pereira in the first round by unanimous decision on scores of 28-27, 28-27, and 29-28. The tournament looked setup for Barrett to win, which didn't end up happening. Levin (83-7-1) will probably be the favourite to beat Marcus (42-2-1), even though Marcus holds a five-round decision win over Levin from March 2013 in Lion Fight. It's actually an interesting fight for people who know who these guys are, but Glory didn't generate any interest at all in this bout.
Glory also taped a series of fights for CBS Sports that will air at a later date. The headline for the CBS Sports fights had Saulo Cavalari beat Artem Vakhitov by split-decision on scores of 30-27, 29-28, and 28-29. Also, former UFC and Bellator fighter Dustin Jacoby fought and lost to Mourad Bouzidi on straight scores of 30-27.
Glory 20 was the tenth event the promotion has aired on Spike. The latest in February drew the company's second highest rating at 542,000 average viewers, peaking at 825,000. The promotion has averaged 424,400 viewers over ten events, with the peak being 659,000 viewers for Glory 13. Glory 20 had little hype going into it and felt like a flat show, so if the ratings come out strong, that would be indicative of an upswing either in interest in the Glory brand, or interest in Spike's Friday Night Lights Out theme of combat sports on Friday nights. But if ratings are poor then the promotion needs to look at what caused the dip and what they need to do to improve, which may include holding more of their events in the US, so that they air live on Spike.
Glory is back on Spike with Glory 21 at the Valley View Casino in San Diego on May 8th, headlined by Levin defending the Middleweight title against Marcus. Glory 22 then takes place in Bucharest in June and Glory 23 is on a date TBA from Amsterdam.