KSW 66 Preview; Two Title Fights, Materla Returns

It’s that time of year where we take down our 2021 Pudzianowski calendars and replace them with the 2022 version. The more things change, the more they stay the same as KSW returns to Szczecin for the first time since October 2014 with a big show to kick off the year. KSW 66 will take place this Saturday at the Netto Arena in the north of the city. Ten fights will take place on the night, including two for KSW international titles.

A KSW Lightweight title fight gets top billing. Champion “Golden Boy” Marian Ziółkowski (23-8-1) is set to defend his title for the second time in the main event. The WCA Warsaw man has looked sensational in his recent fights. He captured the gold with a beautiful body kick against Roman Szymański and defended it with a slick rear naked against Maciej Kazieczko. He is a man who can do it all, a sharp striker in the standup, a tricky BJJ player with a solid wrestling game. Once he smells blood, invariably he gets the finish. A legend awaits him in the blue corner. Borys Mańkowski (22-8-1) is a former KSW Welterweight champion. He main evented KSW 39 against Mamed Khalidov in front of 58,000 fans in Warsaw’s PGE Narodowy stadium, the second most attended MMA show in history. As his nickname indicates, “The Tasmanian Devil” is a demon on the feet. The Czerwony Smok man is an accurate boxer with a high output. He recently earned his black belt in BJJ and is a very strong wrestler. His main training partner is Mateusz Gamrot who is the last man to defeat Ziółkowski, so he will be well versed. He’s won three on the bounce, with two coming at lightweight against former champions Marcin Wrzosek and Artur Sowiński. This is a big fight to start the year.

The second title fight is for the KSW Light Heavyweight crown. Long time champion Tomasz Narkun (18-4) defends his title for a 6th time. “Żyrafa” is the longest reigning of KSW’s champions, winning the strap in London against Goran Reljić back in October 2015. He is a member of the Berserker Team in Szczecin so it’ll be a hometown fight for the big man. Narkun is an elite submission expert, being particularly adept at subbing you before you even know you’re in trouble. Off the bottom he has a good triangle choke and he also has a nasty guillotine game. He carries knockout power on the feet and is lethal with knees in the clinch. He faces his toughest test for the belt yet in Ibragim Chuzhigaev (15-5). The Russian comes in from the ACA promotion where he plied his trade as a middleweight. He’s an old school pankration fighter who’s exchanged the open hand blows for closed fists. His kickboxing game is savage, with particularly heavy hands. On the submission front, he has good top pressure and has a tricky head and arm choke in his repertoire. Will it be enough to overthrow the king?

There are a lot of star names on this card along with a few KSW legends. None come bigger than Berserker Team’s Michał Materla (30-8). It’s a double homecoming for “Cipao”. It’s his first fight back since re-signing with KSW and he’ll do it in front of his friends and family in the city of his birth. He is a former KSW Middleweight champion and holds big wins against the likes of Rousimar Palhares, Tomasz Drwal and Kendall Grove. He’s an aggressive striker who doesn’t need many to land to turn your lights out. The risk in taking him down is his guillotine game. He’ll pounce on any mistake you make. Jason Radcliffe (17-8) will be the man in the blue gloves in this one. The Englishman is a vicious kick-boxer who will look to end the fight with every shot. He’s a risk taker and has great results against people of a similar nature. He knocked out fan favourite Albert Odzimkowski at KSW 64 in the first round so will be hoping to keep the momentum going. This should be a blood and thunder affair.

The next Berserker in action is Tomasz Romanowski (14-8). He is a must watch fighter. Every time he steps into the cage, he leaves it all in there. He was the 2020 Tylko Jeden winner, the KSW version of TUF. Since then, it’s been exciting from start to finish. He likes to keep things on the feet where he can unleash his ultra active boxing game. He originally started out as a Jiu Jitsu player, so has a fall back if necessary, however he loves the hands. Krystian Kaszubowski (9-2) is a very game opponent. He’s 4-2 under the KSW banner, with his only defeats coming to Roberto Soldić and #1 ranked middleweight Michał Pietrzak (which was a close split decision). The Mighty Bulls Gdynia man may try and use his wrestling in this one should the heat on the feet get too hot. He’s got heavy top pressure and is good at holding position. It’s important to keep the fight at his pace and to not let Romanowski settle. The fans will be up for this fight, so he’s going to need to silence them.

Czerwony Smok was the top gym in Poland in 2021. Along with Mańkowski in the main event, they’ll have the Rajewski brothers in action at KSW 66. Younger brother Sebastian Rajewski (11-6) is a talented kick-boxer and is ranked third in the lightweight division. He’ll have you chasing shadows and he’ll lay traps along the way. He works his levels and will look to set up a vicious head kick often. He’ll take on newcomer and UFC veteran Niklas Bäckström (11-3). The Swede will bring in lots of viewers from the new Scandinavian market as a result of the ViaPlay streaming deal. He trains out of the famous Allstars gym in Stockholm. He’s a good wrestler who is adept at snatching the back in the transitions. This is his first fight since 2017 so it will be interesting to see how much his skills have developed in his 4 years away from competition.

Wojciech Janusz (10-7) is another light heavyweight from the Berserker Team and has spent many hours training with the likes of Narkun and Karol Bedorf. This is his first KSW bout, having previously competed with the promotions such as Fight Exclusive Night and Babilon MMA. He’s got big one punch power and has a good choke game anywhere from top position. He’ll take on fellow newcomer Przemysław Dzwoniarek (3-1). The Namysłów man comes over from Armia Fight Night and Babilon MMA. He’s an all rounder who has yet to hear the final bell as a professional. He maintains his power through all three rounds so you’ll need to stay alert for the full fifteen minutes.

The older Rajewski brother Łukasz (11-6) is on a three fight win streak in the lightweight division. He’s an artist in the standup with an elite and technical kickboxing game. If you allow him to get settled, he can dance around you for hours, picking you off along the way. He’s up against a man that’s going to try and unsettle him in Donovan Desmae (14-7). “Vegas” is a former Cage Warriors title contender who will try to use his clinching to disrupt the rhythm of his opponent. The Belgian has a solid kickboxing game of his own, albeit a bit more of a blunt force. This is a big fight for two men looking to break into the rankings.

Another man coming in off a layoff is Berserker Gracjan Szadziński (8-4). “Terminator” earned that nickname through his fighting style. He’s got devastating power in his punches and will walk forward swinging until you put him down. We haven’t seen him compete in MMA since 2020 due to injuries. His last bout was a bare knuckle fight in KSW’s sister promotion Genesis, winning in dominant fashion. Francesco Moricca (9-5-1) makes his KSW debut and walks straight into the fire. The “Blessed Warrior” is certainly going to earn that nickname if he gets into a war with Szadziński and survives. The Italian is a training partner of high level compatriots Carlo Pedersoli, Danilo Belluardo and Mauro Cerilli. He’s not much of a finisher with most of his wins coming via decision. On the flip side, he’s never been knocked out. The weather forecast on Saturday is predicting violence in this one.

Kacper Koziorzębski (7-4) has had a bit of a rough go of it recently, suffering a head kick loss to Ion Surdu last April and a guillotine submission loss to Marcin Krakowiak in December 2020. He’s not the biggest finishing threat on the card, however he’s a strong grappler with a powerful overhand. He’ll take on the returning Hubert Szymajda (9-4). The Biała Podlaska man has a notable rear naked choke strength. He has struggled with defensive wrestling in the past. Both men will be desperate for a very valuable win here.

A pair of young bantamweights go to battle early in the night. Patryk Surdyn (5-2) will be hoping to regain his Armia FN form and snap a two fight losing skid. In his defence, the defeats have come to top contenders in Damian Stasiak and Jakub Wikłacz. The Łomża native is a good BJJ player and holds a standout victory over Sylwester Miller. David Martinik (5-3) picked up his first KSW victory against Lemmy Krušič back in July. The Czech trains out of the Polish city of Cieszyn, right on the border. He’s an all rounder who will look to finish the fight wherever it goes. His finishes are split evenly between knockouts and submissions. He will be defending his #5 rank in this one.

KSW 66 is live from 6pm Irish time 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.