KSW 67 Preview; de Fries defends vs Stošić, Grzebyk vs Bartosiński

KSW return to the Polish capital of Warsaw this Saturday night. KSW 67 will take place at the GlobalEXPO on the east bank of the infamous Wisła river. The card features 9 fights, including one for a KSW international title.

The longest reigning KSW champion headlines the card. Phil de Fries (20-6) won his KSW Heavyweight title against Michał Andryszak at KSW 43 via first round knockout back in April 2018. He has since defended the strap 5 times. The Sunderland man has a strong wrestling and submission game. He is a big heavyweight and uses the weight very well in top position. He has power to finish it on the feet and his ground and pound is usually a fight ender. The challenger this time around is UFC veteran Darko Stošić (16-4). The Serbian is 3-0 since signing with KSW, finishing two with big punches. His game is all about powerful movements. He’s unlikely to throw in great volume and what he does swing will be with full power. He utilises big takedowns and slams often and his ground and pound is lethal. He’s been training in WCA Warsaw for this one and has got rounds in with former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jan Błachowicz. He will potentially be giving up 30lbs for this fight. This will likely be a battle of control and position (de Fries) vs exposivity (Stošić).

The co-main event is an absolute gargantuan matchup. You won’t see many European MMA fights on this level. Andrzej Grzebyk (18-4) has all the makings of a superstar. Outside the cage, he has the swagger and fashion sense. Inside the cage, he is a striking sensation. The Tarnów man is a former FEN Welterweight and Middleweight champion. His last seven wins have come via KO/TKO, showing the kind of quality kickboxing he possesses. In the blue corner we have the undefeated Adrian Bartosiński (11-0). Whilst he may not be the flashiest fighter outside the cage, he certainly is up there with the elite inside it. The Octopus Łódź man has left a trail of bodies in his wake. Like his opponent, he is a savage striker that hits like a train. His power lasts well into the third round so you’re never safe. He’s nifty enough on the deck as well, although we haven’t seen it as often at pro. He finished most of his amateur fights by submission. Make no mistake about it, this is a title eliminator.

Ivan Erslan (11-1) is back in action on the main card. The Croatian is a knockout artist with his only loss coming to former Light Heavyweight champion Tomasz Narkun. With a new king at the top of the division in Ibragim Chuzhigaev, Erslan must have his sights set on getting another crack at the belt. He is an extremely quick starter and usually has it wrapped up within the first round. He’ll take on undefeated newcomer Hasan Mezhiev (12-0). The Latvian is a submission expert with good kickboxing. His only defeat in MMA was as an amateur against the UFC’s Magomed Ankalaev. He comes in from the LNK promotion in his homeland and this will easily be the biggest show he’s competed in. This should be a fun explosive fight.

Igor Michaliszyn (8-2) is another jumping over from the now defunct EFM Show. The Silesian Cage Club man is very well rounded with good chokes and heavy punches. He looked great last time out against veteran Georgi Valentinov and locked in a beautiful guillotine. He trains with the likes of Artur Sowiński and Adam Niedźwiedź so you know he’s getting his grappling rounds in. Lionel Padilla (8-2) is hoping for second time lucky after losing his KSW debut to the co-main event’s Adrian Bartosiński. The Spaniard is another allrounder who is relatively comfortable wherever the fight goes. He made his name in the AFL in his homeland and was their welterweight champion.

Dawid Śmiełowski (8-0) is a big signing coming in from Babilon MMA. He trains out of one of Poland’s premier gyms Ankos MMA in Poznań. “Królik” is a slick kickboxer who disguises head kicks particularly well. He is a prolific finisher who has yet to see the judges’ cards. He was scheduled to face Daniel Rutkowski for the Babilon featherweight strap, however it didn’t materialise. Rutkowski now fights for the KSW Featherweight gold in April, so Śmiełowski might get his chance to fight Rutek for a belt yet. Filip Pejić (15-6-2) will step in on short notice as he has done a few times before. Croatia’s “Nitro” is as game and as exciting as they come. All he needs is a pair of gloves and shorts and you have a banger in your hands. He is an explosive kickboxer who’s here for a good time, not a long time. Kill or be killed.

There is a fight between recent signings in the featherweight division. Adam Soldaev (5-1) trains out of WCA in Warsaw, another of Europe’s top gyms. He’s been a pro since 2015, however hasn’t been very active, averaging less than a fight a year. He is a lovely kickboxer and works his levels very well. He’ll eat away at your legs, smash you in body and knock your head off, keeping you guessing at all times. He takes on the man they call the “Daywalker”, the undefeated Pascal Hintzen (7-0). A veteran of the UFD Gym owned EMC promotion, the German comes in with a reputation as being a strong submission artist. He came through the IMMAF system at amateur level and has several chokes available in his arsenal to end things early.

We have a battle of the newcomers in the bantamweight division. Shamil Banukayev (7-1) is a member of the UFD Gym in Düsseldorf, one of the best gyms in Europe where he trains with absolute killers. He’s a well rounded fighter. He likes big slams and when it hits the deck, he’s a good scrambler and very dangerous in transitions. On the feet he has lovely combinations and hits cracking night ending shots often. Zuriko Jojua (7-1) comes to us from one of the biggest hotbeds for MMA talent today in Georgia. The Tbilisi man has strong Jiu Jitsu and is dangerous even off his back. He has one victory by knockout and is used to going all fifteen minutes, with cardio not being an issue. Big chance for both men to make a good first impression.

Borys Borkowski (3-1) makes his sophomore appearance under the bright KSW lights. He lost out to Marcin Krakowiak last time due to an arm injury. The 24 year old is a decent striker and has one KO/TKO on his record. Arkadiusz Kaszuba (3-0) is a highly touted fighter out of Rzeszów. He beat Fantom MMA’s Dawid Wisniosz at EFM Show 2. He has a flair about his striking and likes to utilise spinning attacks. This should be a fun welterweight bout.

Oskar Szczepaniak (2-0) is another young Polish pro looking to make a name for himself at Europe’s top table. He trains out of the Berserker gym in Szczecin in Western Poland. He has a very slick Jiu Jitsu game and is particularly strong at taking the back. He combines it with decent kickboxing on the feet. Yann Liasse (5-1) is a promising IMMAF graduate. The Luxembourger is an allrounder and made a name for himself with a flying knee finish at Brave CF 44. He’s also got a very good rear naked choke in his locker.

KSW 67 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.