KSW 71 Preview; Ziółkowski vs Rajewski, Mańkowski, Szpilka in action

The KSW machine rolls back into town for another top night of fights this Saturday night. KSW 71 takes place in the North-central Polish city of Toruń for the first time in promotional history. There will be eight MMA fights, including one for an international KSW championship. There will also be a K-1 rules bout on the card, another first in KSW history.

“The Golden Boy” Marian Ziółkowski (24-8-1) returns to defend his KSW Lightweight title. He won the belt at KSW 57 back in December 2020, and has defended it successfully twice since. The WCA Warsaw man is 5-2 in KSW, and has recently added a bigger finishing threat, notching up a submission and TKO in recent title fights. His last defence against Borys Mańkowski showed the evolution of The Golden Boy. Borys gave him hell and it was a close decision in the end. What Ziółkowski showed was how well rounded he was and that his decision making is the best in the division. He possesses slick footwork in the stand up and his kickboxing is coming into its own. In the wrestling game, he’s improved a lot in controlling top position and transitioning into submission opportunities, and also improving at getting back to the feet from bottom. Sebastian Rajewski (12-6) is the next man to get the shot at the strap, a shot which he earned by going on a three fight win streak. He is a Sanda master, a form of Chinese kickboxing. The Czerwony Smok man leads his opponents in a merry dance around the cage with his exquisite footwork, timing and accuracy. He’s been working hard on his wrestling with the likes of Mańkowski and his coaches have been scouting Ziółkowski for a while having already had a challenger from the gym. If the fight takes place on the feet, we should be treated to a technical striking contest. Ziółkowski may try to use his superior grappling to control it as well. We’re probably heading for a 25 minute fight here.

KSW’s first K-1 rules bout features one of the promotion’s biggest fan favourites. Marcin Różalski (7-4 MMA) is a man that you don’t forget about, he’s covered from head to toe in tattoos. He’s a former KSW Heavyweight champion and is 4-3 in his MMA fights under the KSW banner. He is a Muay Thai fighter and trains out of WCA in Warsaw. He competed in bare knuckle boxing in his last bout at Genesis. His biggest weakness may be his age. At 43, he’s not as quick and doesn’t have as much stamina as he used to. He can still swing and power is the last thing to go for a fighter. He’ll take on Errol Zimmerman (0-1 MMA). The Dutchman is also a Muay Thai fighter and has a 103-13 kickboxing record with 53 knockouts. He won the 2008 K-1 Grand Prix and is a former Glory fighter. This fight is simple enough, both will throw kicks and punches in small gloves in a cage. The big lads will be looking for the KO from the jump.

We move on to another KSW legend in former KSW Welterweight Champion Borys Mańkowski (22-9-1). He’s called “The Tasmanian Devil” for a reason and he never stops working. The Czerwony Smok man has a fantastic boxing game and throws with speed and volume. He mixes this up with his very strong wrestling, some of the best in Europe. He’s ridiculously durable and there’s not an ounce of quit in him. He takes on a former KSW Featherweight Champion Daniel Torres (13-5). The Brazilian born, Austrian based Torres recently moved up to 155 and secured a win via ground and pound at EMC 9 back in April. He’s a black belt in Shotokan karate. His control of distance and his accuracy is impressive. He’s 5-2 in KSW and is more of an attritional fighter than an outright knockout threat, however with a bit more weight behind, that might change. The big question here is what can he do about Borys’ takedown threat? Can he hold the distance to keep it in the stand up and try to restrict Borys’ volume? This is a very intriguing fight.

Heavyweight boxer Artur Szpilka (24-5 Boxing) is switching codes to MMA for the first time in Toruń. He has been training for his MMA debut for a few years in WCA Warsaw and has trained with the likes of Jan Błachowicz. In boxing, he fought for a title against Deontay Wilder, took on Dereck Chisora and holds a win against Polish legend Tomasz Adamek. He’ll take on former boxing foe Serhij Radchenko (2-1 MMA). They had a bout back in March 2020, with Szpilka winning a majority decision. Radchenko has two MMA wins under his belt, both TKO victories. This is hard to predict due to inexperience in MMA, but we should at least see some boxing to begin with. There’s no big gloves to protect either man so we should see more big shots slipping through.

Roman Szymański (15-6) continues his march towards another shot at the 155 title. He’s won two on the bounce since coming up short against Ziółkowski at KSW 57. He’s a heavy, heavy puncher that does attritional damage. He backs it up with a strong wrestling game. He’s 7-3 in KSW with two knockouts and one submission. Valeriu Mircea (26-7-1) is a recent signing. Born in Chisinau, Moldova and fighting out of Rome, Italy, “The Solitary Wolf” has a background in wrestling and judo. He has a huge amount of top European level experience having competed for Bellator, Brave, Eagle FC and Venator. Along with his grappling skills, he has a big punch which has won him a lot of fights along the way. This should be a fun matchup.

Speaking of fun matchups, Jakub Wikłacz (12-3-1) returns in a title eliminator in the 135lb division for Sebastian Przybysz’s title. He trains out of Arrachion, Olsztyn, the former home of ex-UFC champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk and current home of KSW legend Mamed Khalidov. He’s a BJJ whizz with a massive box of tricks. If you make half a mistake, he’ll snatch a limb. He’s got guillotines, triangles, rear naked chokes, you name it. He’s won two on the bounce, including an impressive victory against former champ Antun Račić last time out. He faces fellow BJJ aficionado Bruno Santos (10-3). The Brazilian is a former title challenger, losing to both Przybysz and Račić when stepping up. He’s strong at wrestling and good at back takes, winning four fights by rear naked choke. If this one hits the mat, I think Wikłacz will be a little more creative and find a submission in the scrambles.

In the heavyweight division we will see a couple of newcomers. Filip Stawowy comes in from Babilon MMA and he’s a heavy puncher who finishes fights. He’s won 7 of his last 8 with the only blot on the copybook coming to Dana White Contender Series challenger Kevin Szaflarski. Standing opposite him will be former ACA and Oktagon fighter Michal Martínek (9-3). The Czech is also a big puncher and is 2-3 in his last 5, with the 3 defeats being stoppages. Great opportunity for Stawowy to make a name for himself against a solid name.

There’s another cracking fight at lightweight. Former Cage Warriors man Donovan Desmae (15-7) is coming in hot from his fantastic submission victory against Łukasz Rajewski via armbar. “Vegas” is a beautiful kickboxer with a grappling game and particularly dangerous in a scramble. He’s a true exciting, well rounded martial artist. He’ll face former KSW Featherweight champion Artur Sowiński (22-13). He’s a man well know to hardcore Irish fans having fought Conor McGregor, Norman Parke and Artem Lobov. The Silesian Cage Club man’s style isn’t too dissimilar to Desmae’s. He’s explosive on the feet and can mix it in with his wrestling. He’s a very competitive and durable fighter. Both men like to put on a show.

In the evening’s opening bout, Marc Doussis (7-1) is looking to bounce back from his first pro loss to Damian Piwowarczyk. The German is a finisher, with 5 wins through strikes so far. He trains with the popular Zawada brothers. He’ll go up against Przemysław Dzwoniarek (3-1), another finisher. He can get it done on the feet and through ground and pound. He’s fought for Armia FN and Babilon MMA in the past. This will be by far his toughest test and he gives up a bit of experience here. Should be a fun, explosive fight.

KSW 71 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.