KSW 69 Preview; Przybysz defends, Kęsik vs Pawlak

KSW returns to the Polish capital city of Warsaw this Saturday night for another fun slate of fights. There will be eight fights, including one for an international KSW title. The action will take place on the eastern bank of the Vistula river in the ATM Studio in front of a crowd of about 400 spectators.

Sebastian Przybysz (9-2) is one of the hottest properties in European MMA at the moment. The KSW Bantamweight Champion has been taking huge leaps forward skillswise in the last few years. He trains with the Mighty Bulls team in Gdynia in the tri-city area in Northern Poland, however can also sometimes be spotted on the mats at WCA in Warsaw. His last two fights have shown he can do it all. Against Račić he was able to stand toe to toe and land the more impactful and accurate strikes. Against Bruno Santos he was able to show his slick BJJ game with a beautiful inverted triangle choke. He’s on a five fight win streak, including avenging both career losses. He absolutely oozes confidence and has a permanent smile on his face. He’s calm in a storm and is a great decision maker. The opponent is a late replacement in Werlleson Martins (16-4). Originally the hope was to set up a trilogy with Jakub Wikłacz, however due to injury that didn’t materialise. Then Zuriko Jojua got the nod but unfortunately had to pull out due to injury last week. Opportunity knocks for Martins. Born in the Amazon Jungle in Maunas, the Brazilian fights out of Rio de Janeiro. He’s an exciting fighter who tries to press the action. Martins has made a name for himself in Europe for the Serbian Battle Championship, where he’s won his last two fights. He trains BJJ under Márcio Pontes, who also trains a lot of the Nova União fighters. In terms of what to look out for, he has a nice armbar and is willing to stand and bang on the feet. He’s bitten off a lot here with the short notice. I would expect Przybysz to finish this in the first few rounds to set up another defence in Gdańsk in the summer.

The co-main event of the evening features the most eagerly awaited fight on the card. Cezary Kęsik (13-1) is ranked fifth in the middleweight division. He had hoped to fight in Radom last month, however his day job as a soldier put a stop to that. He’s one of the most talented fighters Poland has produced and is a finishing machine. His only defeat came at the hands of current UFC fighter Abus Magomedov. He predominantly does the damage on the feet with his hard punches and slashing elbows, however he can also grapple his arse off and has submissions to be wary of. Paweł Pawlak (19-4-1) is the fourth ranked middleweight. He is a kickboxer fighting out of Octopus in Łódź. He went 1-2 in the UFC and was cut slightly harshly with the final defeat coming to Leon Edwards. He’s been 8-2-1 since then. He’s tough and durable with cardio to keep the pace up for the full fifteen minutes. He’ll pepper you with shots the whole time. He’s a smart fighter who maybe won’t take unnecessary risks to get the finish. If the opening doesn’t present itself, he is happy to win on the cards. Not many go long with Kęsik and come out victorious. This should be a fantastic battle with potential title implications if Roberto Soldić heads to the UFC.

Robert Ruchała (6-0) is leading the charge of the new generation of KSW stars along with the likes of Damian Piwowarczyk, Patryk Likus and Patryk Kaczmarczyk. The 23 year old beat Kaczmarczyk in the battle of the prospects at KSW 64 in a close decision, a fight we are likely to see again down the line for greater stakes. He’s a BJJ whizz who can lock on submissions very quickly. His armbar in particular is lethal. He showed last time out that he can hang on the feet as well, an area where he’s improving a lot from fight to fight. He’s already notched up three KSW wins so is knocking on the door of the rankings. His strength of opposition to date has been really strong, and Saturday will be no different. Michele Baiano (7-0) comes in with a reputation from the local Italian scene and is highly touted by the likes of Alfredo Zullino who isn’t that easy to impress. On paper, his strength of opposition also looks strong. He’s finished his fights with almost an even split of knockouts and submissions. This should be a fun fight.

KSW has been building the women’s 115 and 125 divisions over the last while and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them introduce Ariane Lipski’s old red strap belt soon. Sara Luzar Smajić (3-1) was one of the first new faces to hit our screens when she beat Aitana Alvarez by decision at KSW 63 in the same building where Saturday’s event takes place, earning her fifth place in the rankings. She was born in Zagreb, Croatia and trains out of the UFD Gym in Düsseldorf, Germany. Her nickname is Guerreira, which translates to Warrior, and it’s for good reason. She’s a boxer by trade and will stand and throw punch for punch with you. She’s got a lot of physical strength and is very, very athletic. She welcomes newcomer Natalia Baczyńska (6-1). Since losing her debut, she’s won six on the bounce. She fights out of Jelenia Góra, Poland near the border with Czechia. The majority of her fights have gone to a decision, winning her last fight via knockout. This is a chance to make a name for themselves.

Maciej Kazieczko (7-2) is the fourth ranked lightweight in KSW. This will be his first appearance in a year, coming up short in a title fight against Marian Ziółkowski back at KSW 60. He trains in Ankos MMA in Poznań, one of the best gyms in the country. He’s a durable striker who can wrestle his butt off. He scored one of the most devastating knockouts in promotional history against Michael Dubois at KSW 52. He takes on Wilson Varela (6-2), who fights out of Marseille in France and was born in Cape Verde. The 26 year old has won most of his fights via submission, with his last victory coming via a big left hook knockout.

Artur Szczepaniak (7-1) is the new prospect on the block. He picked up an impressive victory at EMC 8, submitting Walter Gahadza with a kimura. He’s from Konin in Poland, however trains in the Belgian city of Genk. You may remember him from the Cage Warriors card in Antwerp back in November 2017, where scored a TKO victory over Jefferson Santana. He causes a lot of damage on the feet and will mark you up with his punches and can finish you with accumulation. He faces fellow newcomer Jivko Stoimenov (13-4). The Bulgarian trains out of Sofia and is a good kickboxer with a dangerous leg lock game. He’s an exciting fighter who takes chances to get the win, sometimes to his detriment. This should be a fiery contest.

Ireland has a representative on the card. Paweł Polityło (6-3) is from Wrocław in Poland, however trains out of SBG Ireland and has lived in Dublin for years. The Polish Eagle is ranked fifth and is aiming to bounce back from his loss to Bruno Santos at KSW 62. He likes to dominate the opponents on the cage, wearing them down along the way. He does have nice striking when he chooses to use it. Polityło is durable and tough, never taking easy fights. His opponent certainly has more of a reputation for having some flair. Patryk Chrobak (3-1) is a Berserker out of Bielsko-Biała. He earned the nickname “Showtime” with exciting finishes on the feet. He also has a submission threat off his back. He lost his last fight at EFM 4 to current Bellator fighter Khurshed Kakhorov. His aggressiveness may give Polityło a chance to open his game up a bit more and go for a finish. It’s a risky strategy to try and outpoint someone as explosive as Chrobak.

Wojciech Kazieczko (1-0) is the brother of the aforementioned Maciej Kazieczko. He fights out of Zielona Góra and is known for his kickboxing. He’s won his only professional MMA bout by working his levels well, landing a big leg kick and following it up with punches. He’s fighting a Muay Thai fighter in Luboš Lesák (2-0). He’s from Czechia and impressed on the Oktagon scene as both an amateur and a pro. This has the potential to explode at a moment’s notice and we may be in for a short fight to kick off the card.

KSW 69 is live from 6pm Irish time on Saturday and access can be purchased at KSWTV.com or on the ViaPlay subscription service in select countries.

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.