KSW 65 Preview

KSW will round the year off with the beginning of a new chapter. The Polish giants have recently inked a deal with Nordic streaming service ViaPlay which will see the events shown on the platform in 10 Nordic and Baltic countries. KSW 65 will be the first of the shows and it’s a big one. The Gliwice Arena in the Silesian area of Poland will host one of the biggest European fights of all time this Saturday night.

European MMA legend Mamed Khalidov (35-7-2) is putting his KSW Middleweight Championship on the line against future legend Roberto Soldić (19-3). Khalidov regained his title at KSW 55 against Scott Askham with one of the 2020 knockouts of the year with a jumping switch kick. He has won titles in each of the last three decades and he has never lost when a title has been up for grabs. Born in Chechnya, he moved to Wrocław, Poland to study in 1997. After some early homesickness, he found a home at Arrachion Olsztyn in the north of the country (a gym that would later produce UFC Champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk). He came in with a wrestling and Taekwondo background, and after some early losses, he would soon become a very well rounded fighter. He went 11-3 on the local scene before signing with KSW and creating one of the most iconic partnerships in European MMA history. At KSW, he’s been a champion at both Middleweight and Light Heavyweight. His spell Dec 2010-2017 saw him go 14-0. That run saw him defeat 8 UFC veterans and some local legends in Michał Materla and Borys Mańkowski, the latter being the most attended event in European MMA history.

“Robocop” Roberto Soldić was born in Vitez, Bosnia and Herzegovina during the Bosnian war, however is a Croatian citizen. He did judo from a young age and in 2015 he emigrated to Düsseldorf in Germany to train at the UFD gym under Ivan Dijaković, where he would develop some of the best standup striking on the continent. He had a similar record to Khalidov on the local scene, going 11-2. In that fourteenth fight, he would light up Cage Warriors like very few have done before, beating Lew Long with a head kick knockout after forty seconds. Two months later when he joined KSW, he’d do what nobody else was able to do, he made Borys Mańkowski give up on his stool between rounds after a comprehensive two round beating and in doing so becoming the KSW Welterweight Champion. He then slipped to current UFC Middleweight Dricus Du Plessis at KSW 43. It’s been unblemished since then with 6 wins in a row, including avenging the defeat to Du Plessis at KSW 45 in dominant fashion to regain the strap. He had a spectacular win over Materla and top European talent Patrik Kincl in recent times.

The fight. Roberto Soldić will come in as the younger man at 26 years of age, 15 years Khalidov’s junior. He will also come in as the bookies favourite. Robocop is going to walk forward and let his exquisite striking do the talking. He’ll work his levels, legs, body, head and will set traps every second of the fight. The biggest challenge will be trying to trick a man who’s seen it all. Khalidov can wrestle, he can submit you and he can knock you out. You cannot make any mistakes against him. Khalidov’s 3 losses since 2010 have all come via the ground. Scott Askham wrestled him at KSW 55 at the same Gliwice Arena and KSW Light Heavyweight Champion Tomasz Narkun beat him twice at a catchweight 203lbs (including one in Gliwice Arena, an arena Khalidov has yet to win in). Soldić showed in his last fight he can take it to the mat and wrestle, although he used his fists to finish it. The gameplan is everything in this fight. Soldić is a world class kickboxer, however can he do what nobody has done and take Khalidov out on the feet? Does he mix it up and take it to the mat? How many surprises does Mamed have up his sleeve? So many questions with only one way to answer, let’s get it on.

The co-main event of the evening is a rematch between Daniel Torres (12-4) and Salahdine Parnasse (15-1-1). In the first matchup at KSW 58, Torres won the title via a bicep strike to the head. Torres is from Brazil and now training in Austria and is a karate specialist. He’s 4-1 in KSW with the only blot on the copybook against title challenger Roman Szymański. Parnasse is one of the top prospects in Europe. He’s beaten a string of European champions and challengers along the way. He’s a beautiful striker with fantastic combinations. The first fight ended within two minutes so they didn’t get much of a look at each other. We get to reset and see what happens the second time around.

There’s a big fight at the top of the featherweight division between Damian Stasiak (13-7) and Lom-Ali Eskijew (18-5). Stasiak is a UFC veteran, winning two fights on the biggest stage. He is a really sharp submission expert and is aggressive on top and bottom. He has a karate background so isn’t shy on the feet either. Eskijew is one of the top talents in the UFD Düsseldorf gym, home of Soldić. He’s a talented kick-boxer with stopping power. He’s dangerous with hands, feet and knees and is lethal when he smells blood. He notched up his first submission win in eight years last time out at KSW 62. Don’t be surprised to see the winner get a title shot.

Roman Szymański (14-6) looked impressive in his last fight, beating Donovan Desmae in a decision. The Poznan man is a very good all rounder. He can take you out on the feet and he is also dangerous at taking the back. Mateusz Legierski (7-0) is a former Oktagon welterweight champion. He is a knockout artist with solid wrestling and good cardio. He beat Francisco Barrio via majority decision in his KSW debut. He had a very good amateur career which should help bridge the pro experience gap in this one. I’m expecting this one to be fierce and violent.

Damian Piwowarczyk (4-0) is the new kid on the block in the Light Heavyweight division. The big man looked impressive on his KSW debut, winning via rear naked choke. He’s a natural finisher with big power in his punches. His only drawback so far is the gas tank. He began to fade in the second round before finishing the last fight. Marc Doussis (7-0) will come in the more experienced of the two. This will be his first fight in a major promotion so it’ll be interesting to see how he handles the step up. He’s predominantly a striker with concrete hands. Let’s see if these lads can give the division a shot in the arm.

Magdaléna Šormová (11-3) is a recent signee from Oktagon MMA. She holds a win over Kay Hanson in an Invicta bout. The Czech native is a submission specialist with the cardio to go all fifteen minutes without much bother. Anita Bekus (4-2) is stepping in at short notice, filling in for teammate Karolina Wójcik who withdrew due to illness. Łódź’s Bekus is more of a boxer and has two wins via knockout. She does have a jiu-jitsu game, however I don’t think it’s as strong as Šormová’s. Bekus is also a fitness competitor and has won bodybuilding titles. The women’s divisions have seen a lot of new faces come in recently, I’d expect there to be a title created for the division soon enough.

Michał Kita (20-13-1) is a veteran of Polish Heavyweight MMA. The Zabrze man’s intentions for this one are clear, he’s coming to try and knock his opponent’s head off. That opponent is Marek Samociuk (3-1). He was the inaugural Wotore tournament winner, a bare knuckle MMA promotion. He picked up a big win against Izu Ugonnah in his KSW debut, a fight he jumped into on very short notice. He’s going to try and use his wrestling in this one and from there look for a submission. I’m not expecting this to go the distance.

Adam Niedźwiedź (8-4) is an exciting BJJ player. Where he really excels is in the head and arm chokes, winning his last five fights with the technique. Miroslav Brož (12-3) is another late stand in and is another to have come in from Oktagon MMA. The Czech welterweight usually goes to decisions, however won his last fight via rear naked choke. In this one he needs to keep it upright and try to tire out Niedźwiedź. If this hits the deck, it could be an early night very quickly.

Patryk Likus (2-0) is one of the biggest young prospects in KSW. He won a decision in his promotional debut following a great performance over Cyprian Wieczorek. He’s very well rounded and is happy to strike or grapple. He mixes between the arts seamlessly. Original opponent Luke Santarelli pulled out due to injury, Alexander Lööf (2-0) has answered the call. The Swede has been signed from Fight Club Rush and has competed as an amateur on the IMMAF scene. He’s a good striker with knockout power. He has shown deficiencies in his grappling game as an amateur so it will be interesting to see if Likus attacks that element.

Shamad Erzanukaev (debut) takes a step up to the pro level in the evening’s opening clash. He trains at one of the best gyms in the world, WCA in Warsaw. He’s got a solid wrestling game and has nice submission ability. Bartosz Rewera (1-0) is looking to spoil the party. The Rzeszów man won his pro debut via elbows from crucifix on a Babilon MMA show in September. Time to see if the Erzanukaev hype is real.

KSW 65 is live from 6pm Irish time and access can be purchased at KSWTV.com or on the ViaPlay subscription service.

Seán Denny is a Dublin man who writes mostly on the European scene, with a keen interest in the Irish, UK and Polish scenes in particular. Follow me on Twitter at @DennyRants.