Image Credit: KSW
The Guide to KSW 54
Gamrot’s Grande Finale
After seven years and thirteen fights, Mateusz Gamrot (16-0) will step into the KSW cage for the last time this Saturday against Marian Ziółkowski (21-7-1). Supposedly. While it’s not a secret that Gamrot’s contract is up after Saturday and he has stated his intent to compete in the UFC, KSW has in similar situations managed to hold on to both Mamed Khalidov and Michał Materla by giving them significant raises. But perhaps the fact that the promoters are openly calling this fight ‘The last opportunity to see Gamrot compete in Poland for KSW’ and even went so far as to call this, in jest, ‘The Last Dance’, is a signal of how much faith they have in enticing their featherweight and lightweight champion to stay.
Gamrot was supposed to face undefeated Russian, Shamil Musaev, but a knee injury in the last week of camp ruled ‘The Silent Assassin’ out. Instead, he faces the experienced Marian Ziółkowski who did a full camp in preparation for Maciej Kazieczko. That’s a bigger problem for Ziółkowski because Kazieczko is a striker with a wrestling base and isn’t a deadly takedown threat like Gamrot. The Warsaw-based fighter was also offered the chance to challenge Gamrot at KSW’s last event, but he turned that bout down saying he wanted to structure a full camp towards such an opponent.
That said, Ziółkowski has made incredible strides since joining WCA Fight Team and coach Robert Jocz. He always had the tools to be a great fighter but his lazy approach to training and low fight IQ were often his downfall in the biggest fights. These two factors have changed dramatically, exemplified best by a very diligent approach against KO-threat, Gracjan Szadziński. Ziółkowski is also no slouch on the ground and his long frame lends itself to triangle chokes, a technique he used to finishing effect five times.
Don’t get discouraged by Musaev’s injury. This is still a great match-up as Ziółkowski cashes in on his title shot that was supposed to happen against Norman Parke at KSW 50 while Gamrot was going through his contract dispute.
The Big Debut
The co-main event sees the debut of accomplished boxer and kickboxer, Izuagbe Ugonoh (Pro Debut), against French-Portuguese, Quentin Domingos (5-1). Ugonoh, born in Poland to Nigerian parents, won the WAKO K-1 rules amateur kickboxing World Championship in 2009, defeating fellow MMA convert Vladimir Mineev in the final bout. He followed that success with a European Championship from Baku in 2010, before transitioning to professional boxing later that year.
In 9 years as a pro boxer, he went 18-2 with 15 KO’s. Following his losses to Dominic Breazeale and Łukasz Różański, the main charge levied against him was his perceived mental weakness and the inability to fight back when the going gets tough. For his MMA debut, he has been preparing in Warsaw’s WCA Fight Team alongside Jan Błachowicz, Michał Kita and Daniel Omielańczuk as well as boxers Artur Szpilka and Maciej Sulęcki. Ugonoh is a big favorite in the books and should have a huge edge on the feet.
Domingos seems like a typical heavyweight brawler who likes to wrestle his opponent to the ground if he can, but also has a small gas tank. It’s a contrasting style match-up for the debuting Pole but one he should pass if his MMA career is supposed to have any legs to it.
The Main Card
Third from the top of the card is a heavyweight rematch between Michał Andryszak (21-8) and Michał Kita (19-11-1). These two met in 2017 at KSW’s National Stadium event and Andryszak quickly tapped Kita out with an Anaconda Choke in 74 seconds. “Quick” is Andryszak’s calling card – boasting an incredible 20 finishes in round one among his 21 wins, he is MMA’s ultimate sprinter. The 28-year-old is coming off a 9 second high kick knockout over Ion Grigore just last month and says he has finally dealt with lingering health issues that included a parasitic infection.
The grizzled veteran Kita is also coming off a quick win. It took him only 37 seconds to get Igor Pokrajac out of the cage in June but his form overall has been slipping in recent years. Pokrajac and a life-and-death battle with Artur Głuchowski are his only wins in the last 4 years. Andryszak, while prone to being finished as quickly as he does the deeds himself, seems to have much less wear-and-tear on his body.
Ireland-based Paweł Polityło (4-2) returns to take on Bogdan Barbu (16-11) at bantamweight. Polityło, despite his lack of experience, is a capable fighter going twice to split decisions against the bantamweight champion, Antun Racić. A grappler, who once shared the wrestling mats with Mateusz Gamrot, faces the returning jack-of-all-trades Barbu. The Romanian is solid in all phases of the fight but lost his only KSW bout last year to Sebastian Przybysz by TKO.
Łukasz Rajewski (9-6) faces Bartłomiej Kopera (9-5) in a lightweight clash of styles. Rajewski comes from a kickboxing family and has some of the smoothest technical striking in Polish MMA. He also won 2 of his last 3 in KSW but then took fights outside of the promotion which showed his big grappling deficiency. After working hard in Red Dragon and ATT to shore that weakness up, he actually won his last fight by rear-naked choke but Kopera is a more dangerous grappler than Piotr Przepiórka. For the 27-year-old fighter from Łódź, this is likely a last chance fight after having 2 losses on his KSW record.
One of Poland’s brightest prospects, Maciej Kazieczko (6-1), returns to action against late replacement, Karlo Caput (8-1). Kazieczko looked great in his KSW fights so far – he has powerful and clean boxing and is hard to take down. The only blemish on his record is a desperation punch by heavy-handed Gracjan Szadziński in a fight Kazieczko was absolutely dominating. He was preparing to fight Marian Ziółkowski and Caput, coming in on less than a week’s notice and moving up in weight, has a humongous task in front of him to get something out of this fight.
The undercard is filled with four KSW rookies, who penned contracts in the midst of a massive singing spree going on since at least early spring. Sebastian Rajewski (8-5), Łukasz’s younger brother, faces Armen Stepanyan (6-3) at lightweight. Rajewski’s record belies the improvements he made in his recent fights. Since his last loss in December 2018, he has won four straight, three of which by hellacious head-kick knockouts that would make Mirko Cro Cop proud. Stepanyan, an Armenian who began his MMA career in Poland, will test if his ground game is as good. The UFD Gym fighter has a solid grappling background and will want to impress in his first fight in Poland since 2017.
In May, Kacper Koziorzębski’s (6-2) name was anonymous to all but his training comrades. The 25-year-old was a massive underdog against Szymon Dusza in June but he gingerly danced around the much slower Dusza, showing creative striking skills. He makes the jump to KSW and faces Adam Niedźwiedź (7-3) at welterweight. Niedźwiedź is a solid grappler but has never showed he has anything to fall back on when his ground game gets stifled.
Haratyk upsets Strus in ACA clash
In a fight between Poland’s middleweight elite, Rafał Haratyk (13-3) scored a first round TKO win over Piotr Strus (15-6) at ACA 109 last Thursday night in Łódź. The fight was the main-event of the first Polish show for the Chechen promotion since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
The 33-year-old Haratyk capitalized on a notorious slow-start from Strus and stunned him with a left hook after 2 minutes of the fight. What followed was a barrage of strikes that finally led to a stoppage at the 2:29 mark. Haratyk’s win over the ACA mainstay was his 6th in a row and he has signaled intent to compete for the promotion’s middleweight title before the end of the year.
Elsewhere, it was a mixed bag for the Polish fighters on the card. Daniel Omielańczuk (24-9), who gambled with his promised heavyweight title shot, defeated Tomas Pakutinskas (19-13) by TKO after round one. The Lithuanian, tenderized by Omielańczuk’s powerful body and leg kicks that broke his ribs, did not answer the bell for round two.
Karol Celiński (18-9) closed out his trilogy fight against Luke Barnatt (15-9) with a decision win. Celiński, who many thought was looking increasingly vulnerable to knockouts, outstruck Barnatt over 15 minutes earning him a unanimous decision win. The 40-year-old veteran now holds two decision wins over the Englishman, sandwiching a vicious KO loss in 2019.
The next generation of Poland’s MMA fighters did not fare as well. Łukasz Kopera (9-4) was smothered by Aurel Pirtea (21-11) on the ground en route to a unanimous decision loss. Undefeated Kamil Oniszczuk (7-1) became the latest victim of renowned “Polish hunter” Mindaugas Verzbickas (17-7) after completely running out of gas after a good first round. Verzbickas came back and used his grappling to win the remaining periods handing Oniszczuk his first loss. Verzbickas improved to a respectful 6-2 against Polish opposition.
Heavyweight, Adam Pałasz (5-1), also suffered his first defeat, courtesy of returning Dmitry Poberezhets (25-5). The Ukrainian, who has been away from competition for nearly 4 years, looked dominant in the striking department and used an overhand right to put Pałasz away by TKO in the fifth minute of the fight.
In the remaining fights that didn’t involve Polish fighters, Nikola Dipchikov (19-7) defeated Goran Reljic (19-9) via strikes following a knee in the first round. Lom-Ali Eksijew’s (17-5) brutal knockout of Oemar Cankardesler (12-6) earned him not only the win, but also a ‘knockout of the night’ bonus. Levan Makashvili (17-3) beat Roman Dik (8-4) by second round TKO and Vitezslav Rajnoch (9-3) bested Christian Draxler (17-7) by unanimous decision.
FEN 205 throne still vacant after no-contest between Kowalski and Łazarz
Fight Exclusive Night will have to postpone the coronation of their new light heavyweight champion after a no-contest fight between Adam Kowalski (12-5-1) and Marcin Łazarz (12-7) at FEN 29 in Ostróda.
The fight, a largely kickboxing affair which after two rounds seemed to be going Kowalski’s way, ended after Łazarz swung at his opponent with an open hand in round three, causing a fight-ending eye poke. Referee, Piotr Michalak, deemed the foul inadvertent and thus the fight ended without a winner or loser. While FEN’s president Paweł Jóźwiak was bullish on a rematch between these two, it’s worth remembering that Marcin Wójcik won the right to fight Kowalski for the belt at FEN 28 in June and was only replaced by Łazarz due to injury for this event.
Adrian Zieliński (20-9) looked strong at lightweight, knocking out Danilo Belluardo (12-6) with a right hook in round one. Zieliński quickly asserted his striking advantage with kicks and with a switch of stances landed the fight-ending punch. The 33-year-old is eyeing a featherweight showdown with FEN and Babilon champ, Daniel Rutkowski, later this year.
Veteran Marcin Naruszczka (20-9) stopped Marko Radakovic (10-4) with punches in the first round as well. The Pole used a referee break to rush the Serbian fighter and knocked him out with a right cross towards the end of the first period. This was Naruszczka’s first stoppage win in over 4 years and nine fights.
Kacper Formela (10-4) also returned to winning ways with a spectacular knockout of Kamil Łebkowski (18-10) in round three after a riveting fight that earned both men fight of the night honors. The younger Formela looked faster and stronger in the striking phase and also managed to land a couple of takedowns to work his opponent on the ground. The finish came following a beautiful body-head combination.
FEN newcomer, Robert Bryczek (11-3), made an impression with a TKO win over Jacek Jędraszczyk (7-3) in round one. Bryczek, also contracted to Oktagon MMA in the Czech Republic, rocked his foe with a powerful overhand right and rushed in to finish the job. After the fight, the 30-year-old declared his intent to capture the vacant welterweight title.
The remaining fights included a forgetful heavyweight affair in which Kamil Minda (5-1) defeated Grzegorz Ciepliński (8-8) by decision and Krystian Bielski’s (6-2) 49-second KO over Seweryn Kirschhiebel (2-4). Heavyweight, Paweł Biernat (1-0), showed promise with good striking fundamentals and a guillotine finish of Kacper Miklasz (0-1), Kamil Kraska (5-1) submitted Piotr Golon (0-1) with a rear naked choke in round one and Mateusz Kopeć defeated Karol Łasiewicki by TKO in the evening’s lone K-1 bout.