In the brand-new Arena Gliwice in Poland, 15 000 fans sold out the venue to witness a night of entertaining MMA action where a double champion was crowned and a legend had his swansong. The stunning visuals and production were truly breath-taking and showed everyone watching that there is more to MMA than simply the action inside the cage. No other European promotion can sell out these size arenas right now which shows just how well KSW know the market and how well they promote every event. The evening was a long one, with all but two of the nine fights going to the judges’ scorecards, but the action was mostly high paced so fan enthusiasm inside the arena was maintained throughout.
In the most anticipated rematch in KSW history, Tomasz Narkun once again defeated Polish icon Mamed Khalidov but this time did it via a unanimous decision. You could feel the atmosphere really pick up inside the arena when the fighters began to walk out and there were genuine ‘big fight feels’ in the air. Narkun began round one by landing a number of leg kicks but then Khalidov landed an overhand left half way through the round to drop Narkun. The second round saw the fight continue to play out on the feet with both men’s most significant strikes coming via leg kicks. Khalidov briefly flirted with Narkun’s guard towards the end of the round before standing up and being taken down before the horn. Round three saw some great ground exchanges take place as Khalidov swept Narkun from side control before having to narrowly escape different Narkun submission attempts, one of which looked extremely close to being locked in.
Khalidov announced after the loss that he had decided if he didn’t get revenge in this contest he would retire from the sport. It is yet to be seen if he has retired for good or if this was partly an emotional decision on the night but if this was the last time we saw Khalidov inside the cage, it is relieving to see him not having taken any major beatings on the way out which is so hard to say for many of the sports greats. He will go down as one of the best ever to never fight in the UFC. Tomasz Narkun on the other hand will go back to defending his Light Heavyweight title in his next fight where Wagner Prado seems to be best placed in line to face the champion out of the fighters on the roster.
The co main event saw Mateusz Gamrot drop down to the featherweight division for the first time and become the first man to hold two KSW belts simultaneously. Towards the start of the fight, both men were letting big, looping punches go on the feet and it was clear that Gamrot was at first very cautious of being in the guard of Koike Erbst. During round three, former featherweight champion Erbst suffered a nasty cut underneath his left eye but the cut was placed where his vision wouldn’t be compromised. Gamrot continued to edge Koike on the feet as well as showing good fundamentals when on top to avoid placing himself in trouble. Gamrot’s cardio held up really well during the championship rounds at this new weight and he landed some really good combinations on the feet. At this stage of the fight, he knew he had taken Koike’s best submission attempts on the ground and looked as though he knew Koike couldn’t threaten from the bottom until the final bell.
It will be interesting to see whether double champion Gamrot’s next move sees him return to the more familiar lightweight division or whether he stays at featherweight to take on clear number one contender, Salahdine Parnasse. The latter looks to be the more obvious move as there is no clear number one contender at 155 so Gamrot can take on Parnasse while the lightweight division allows a new contender to rise.
Salahdine Parnasse got lots of media attention in his home country of France during fight week and even got a prominent feature in L’Equipe which is usually reserved for the country’s more mainstream sports stars. For a major outlet to display interest in Parnasse at this early stage in his career shows the star potential that he has. During his previous fight against Artur Sowinski, it was Parnasse’s striking that shone but it was his grappling and his transitions between being on the feet and the ground which stood out during this fight against ‘The Polish Zombie’ Marcin Wrzosek. Both fighters got some good shots off on the feet, but it was Parnasse who displayed more of his tools so that Wrzosek didn’t know what was coming his way next. The Frenchman hurt Wrzosek badly on the feet during round two and threatened with rear naked choke attempts. With this victory, 20-year-old Parnasse now has two consecutive wins over former KSW champions and now looks to be in line for the next title shot. He is still in the early stages of his MMA career and is definitely one to closely track the progress of.
Other notable bouts saw welterweight champion Roberto Soldic out strike Vinicius Bohrer who was too tough for his own good before a vicious left hand put the Brazilian’s lights out. Roman Szymanski used his superior wrestling to take a decision against Daniel Torres and Marian Ziolkowski took a well fought decision against previous title challenger Grzegorz Szulakowski.
Rounding out the card, Artur Sowinski got back in the win column after moving up to 155, Anton Racic went 3-0 in KSW to possibly put him in line for a shot at the inaugural bantamweight title next year and Krystian Kaszubowski knocked out Michal Michalski with what looked like a forearm shot.
KSW will be back on Saturday 23rd March 2019 from the Atlas Arena in Lodz where one of the companies most popular fighters and previous World’s Strongest Man, Mariusz Pudzianowski, takes on 2008 Olympic Weightlifting Gold Medalist, Szymon Kolecki. More fights are set to be announced over the coming weeks.
Full fight card results:
Tomasz Narkun defeats Mamed Khalidov via unanimous decision
Mateusz Gamrot defeats Kleber ‘Koike’ Erbst via unanimous decision to become KSW Featherweight Champion
Salahdine Parnasse defeats Marcin Wrzosek via unanimous decision
Roberto Soldic defeats Vinicius Bohrer via KO (Round 1, 4:34)
Roman Szymanski defeats Daniel Torres via unanimous decision
Marian Ziolkowski defeats Grzegorz Szulakowski via unanimous decision
Artur Sowinski defeats Kamil Szymuszowski via unanimous decision
Antun Racic defeats Sebastian Przybysz via unanimous decision
Krystian Kaszubowski defeats Michal Michalski via KO (Round 1, 2:14)