This Day in MMA History: April 12

By Ben Duffy Apr 12, 2020

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The Glory Kickboxing Light Heavyweight World Series final between Gokhan Saki and Tyrone Spong on April 12, 2014 was a dream matchup on several levels. They were two of the best heavyweight kickboxers on the planet in spite of being two of the smallest, and now they were meeting in the final of a tournament practically tailor-made for them. They had fought five years before, with Saki prevailing in the fourth round of a sensational fight, and both men had only raised their stock in the years since. To top it all off, the tournament final took place in Saki’s ancestral homeland of Turkey. The stage was set for perhaps the biggest and best kickboxing match of the year.

The fight, however, ended in disaster, as Spong suffered a nasty fracture of his right shin within 90 seconds. Spong was left lying on the canvas, his right foot bent at an alarming angle, as Saki was declared the Glory light heavyweight tournament champion in the most disappointing way imaginable.

From there, the two fighters’ trajectories diverged, though neither was long for kickboxing. Saki took only one more kickboxing match before signing a multi-fight deal with the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He has gone 1-1 with the promotion since then. Spong, after recovering from the injury, jumped immediately to boxing, where he has found success, going 14-0 with 13 knockouts and winning the WBC Latino heavyweight title.

Also of interest on that night in Istanbul was the undercard appearance of a 24-year-old, Nigerian-born fighter from New Zealand who was dabbling in MMA, as well as kickboxing. The lanky and unheralded Israel Adesanya dropped a unanimous decision to Filip Verlinden in a close fight. He would avenge the loss a few years later but gradually shifted his focus to the MMA cage, where in 2019 he won the UFC middleweight title and was declared Sherdog’s “Fighter of the Year.”

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