KSW 73 Preview; Wrzosek vs Sarara, Rutkowski, Ireland’s McNally In Action

A big KSW event takes place this Saturday night. KSW 73 will go down in the Polish capital of Warsaw. Approximately 5000 fans will pack the Torwar Arena on the west bank of the Wisła river and will be the first time the promotion has used this arena since KSW 26 in March 2014. There will be nine fights on the card, all scheduled for 3×5 minute rounds.

Arkadiusz Wrzosek (debut) steps into pro MMA for the first time. He is a former Glory kickboxer, most notably knocking out Badr Hari last September. The rematch was stopped mid fight due to fights in the crowd, a fight Wrzosek was winning. Arek left Glory following the incident. He is also a former FEN K-1 Rules champion. “Hightower” brings a very vocal fanbase with him and he is a season ticket holder with Legia Warsaw, a team who play in Poland’s top Ekstraklasa league and who play across the road in the Stadion Wojska Polskiego. It’s no surprise to know his best weapons are his kickboxing skills. In addition, he’s recently earned a blue belt in BJJ. Alistair Overeem has helped him train for his debut. Another kickboxer turned MMA fighter will stand across the cage on Saturday. Tomasz Sarara (1-0) clutched victory from the jaws of defeat in his KSW debut against Filip Bradaric. Sarara had to tough out early adversity and extreme tiredness to pick up a third round retirement win. Ernesto Hoost was his coach back in the kickboxing days, a time in which he was very successful. Tomasz won the FEN 209lb K-1 rules title back in 2016. This fight is likely going to be what it says on the tin, two of Poland’s top kick-boxers knocking lumps out of each other on the feet.

Daniel Rutkowski (13-3) returns after tasting defeat in his title shot against Salahdine Parnasse at KSW 68. He was a Polish champion in Greco-Roman wrestling and has added some very slick boxing and kickboxing to his arsenal. The Radom man is no stranger to wearing gold belts, having been the FEN and Babilon 145lb champion simultaneously. In his KSW debut, Rutek had a stunning highlight reel head kick knockout against Filip Pejić at KSW 64. Put simply, he’s one of the best on the European scene. Late notice opponent Reginaldo Vieira (15-6) steps in for Lom-Ali Eskijew who has pulled out due to illness five days out from the fight. The Brazilian has competed on TUF Brazil, winning the 4th season by beating Dileno Lopes in the final at UFC 190. From there he lost two on the spin and received his walking papers. The 39 year old’s weapon of choice is the guillotine. Leave a crack in the door and he’ll jump on it. Rutkowski will either have to keep this standing or protect his neck in the takedown attempts.

Radosław Paczuski (4-0) is another kickboxing convert and yet another former FEN K-1 rules champion at 187lbs. The Warsaw man was victorious in his KSW debut, picking up an unfortunate injury victory over Jason Wilnis who dislocated his finger. Previous to that, he had a hat trick of wins in ACA. Standing and striking will be the name of his game, and his opposition Jason Radcliffe will gladly oblige (17-9). Experience is on the Englishman’s side, having had seven times more MMA bouts, including fights in Cage Warriors and Bellator. There’s only three certainties in life, death, taxes and Jason Radcliffe trying to separate his opponent from their consciousness. Risk taking is his game and he is on kill mode from the first second. This will be a violent encounter that’s very unlikely to go to the judges’ scorecards.

Ion Surdu (11-3) rolls into KSW 73 after a spell out due to injury. The Moldovan had a lovely head kick knockout in his last appearance against Kacper Koziorzębski. “Dracul” trains out of Ankos MMA in Poznań nowadays with some of the country’s top talents. He’s a kickboxer with a panache for knockouts, and has a nasty guillotine in his back pocket if you go for the takedown. Original opponent Artur Szczepaniak pulled out last week and was replaced by Krystian Bielski (8-4). He’ll bring in a fan friendly striking style to this bout. The Mława man comes in from FEN and will be eager to make a great first impression. It will suit the striking theme of the card.

Adam Soldaev was scheduled to compete on this card, however is unable to compete due to illness. That left a spare slot on the card for an extra fight. Damian Piwowarczyk (5-1) was the one to pick up the phone and fill out the bout sheet. He took a step up in competition at KSW 70 against Bartosz Leśko and came up a little short. “Damsyn” was flawless up until then, showing a slick BJJ game with some nice striking to keep his opponents honest. At 6ft6in, his long limbs are a particular problem for foes in the triangle and armbar games. Czerwony Smok in Poznań is his current home, a top gym that boasts the likes of Mateusz Gamrot on its mats. There’s another prospect on the opposite side of the cage. Bogdan Gnidko (7-0) has been a finishing machine since his amateur days. The Kiev man is undefeated as a pro and has won every fight in the first round. Versatility is a big advantage for the Ukrainian, with big power in his fists and he’s also able to get it done on the ground. Height may be an issue in this one, with Piwowarczyk standing 5 inches taller.

Karolina Owczarz (4-2) was a trailblazer in restarting the women’s divisions since her arrival on the scene in 2018. The Łódź native began as a boxer and is a former training partner of Karolina Kowalkiewicz, Klaudia Syguła, Karolina Wójcik and Anita Bekus at Shark Top Team. When that team went on hiatus, “Owca” uprooted her entire life and moved to Warsaw to train at WCA. Her grappling is likely her biggest strength now and she has a great grappling coach in Gerard Labinski, a Leandro Lo BJJ black belt. Sylwia Juśkiewicz beat her last time out, so she’s looking to get back to winning ways. Natalia Baczyńska (6-2) isn’t a gimme fight by any stretch of the imagination. She came up short against Sara Luzar Smajić in her KSW debut, however held her own. “Baka” is durable and is decent in all areas of the game. I can envision Owczarz wanting to dominate the grappling and Baczyńska trying to win it on the feet.

Borys Borkowski (4-1) has had a mixed bag in KSW to date after picking up an arm injury in his debut and a TKO win over Arkadiusz Kaszuba. He came through the Celtic Gladiator scene. The Rzepin man is a kickboxer by trade and has power in his hands. Lithuania’s Raimondas Krilavičius was the original opponent, however they pulled out due to injury and was replaced by Dominik Humburger (3-0). The Czech is an IMMAF veteran at amateur level and has won all of his pro fights by KO/TKO. The Liberec man is powerful on the feet and can also take you down to put his vicious ground and pound to work. Yet another exciting striking battle is expected here.

Patryk Likus (3-0) is one of the new kids on the block making a name for himself. The Katowice native had one of the knockouts of the year in 2021, nailing Piotr Olszynka with a spinning elbow. “Proca” is the new breed, good at grappling and good at striking. The leaps in skill he makes from fight to fight are huge. At just 20 years old, he has the world at his feet and he has the confidence to conquer it. His next test comes in the shape of Pascal Hintzen (7-1). The German is another prospect out of UFD Gym in Düsseldorf and he’s looking to get his first KSW win after losing to Adam Soldaev at KSW 67. Submissions are his biggest strength. Put him on his back and he’ll threaten a triangle, try a sloppy takedown and he’ll attempt a guillotine and if he gets you down, he’s going for the back for a rear naked choke. This is a big test for Likus and a must win for Hintzen if he wants to stay in KSW.

Ireland has a competitor on Saturday’s card. Carl McNally (1-0) is a man who’s been fighting since 2012 at amateur, turning pro in March of this year. “King Carlos” is a man who turns the impossible into reality. In 2013, McNally landed a rolling thunder directly into an armbar to finish Ross McCorriston at Clan Wars 17. He went on to top that in his pro debut, beating Alex Budoiu with a helicopter guillotine, a submission where he swung his opponent around twice, at Clan Wars 43. The ZKJ MMA man is a student of Danny Corr, one of Ireland’s top coaches and a driving force in the effort for recognition of MMA in Ireland. Carl is a veteran of the IMMAF amateur scene, looking impressive at the 2015 Worlds before coming up just short to Jose Torres. McNally has a wealth of experience and an abundance of flair. Boring won’t be getting on the flight to Warsaw with him. You don’t get a free pass in KSW though. Miłosz Melchert (2-0) has signed from Babilon MMA after beating the brother of the co-main event Daniel Rutkowski. The Słupsk man landed a vicious body kick on Grzegorz Rutkowski in the third round and finished up with punches. He’s an exciting striker who also won his MMA debut via TKO. For what he’ll lack in the experience department, he’ll make up for in bravery and speed. This is a tasty scrap to get us underway.

KSW 73 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.