KSW 90 Preview; Wrzosek v Vitasović; Fabiński debuts

The first KSW event of the year is already upon us. Saturday will see a raucous Varsovian crowd descend on the COS Torwar arena on the Wisła river in Warsaw. KSW 90 will see ten fights take place under KSW MMA rules.

The card will be headlined by a local legend. Arkadiusz Wrzosek (3-0) is a bonafide elite kickboxer who has brought sheer excitement to the MMA scene since switching codes. The tall Pole does not walk alone, his fights come with a large group of loud and often shirtless fans. A huge Legia Warszawa fan, he’s a member of their main support group, Zylete (Legia’s stadium sits opposite the arena). One of the rules of standing in their section is that you make noise from start to finish, uninterrupted. The Uniq Fight Club man is a true fighter who’s competed at the highest level, including beating Badr Hari in Glory kickboxing. Not only does he have the skills, he’s fantastic at passing them into his teammates. His fights are filled with drama, emotion, passion and risk. The 31-year-old takes chances and has had some hairy moments in his MMA career so far, what matters is that he’s never been kept down. The Arek Wrzosek Show is one of the most entertaining spectacles on the scene. Ivan Vitasović (12-5-1) is the toughest test so far and comes in with a great MMA pedigree. The Croatian is the heavyweight champion in his homeland with FNC, including beating former KSW champion Michał Andryszak along the way. The 31-year-old has most of his success in the kickboxing game, although has never faced anyone of Arek’s level. He hits hard, has a great head kick and he punishes any mistake. Defensive BJJ is his Achilles heel, however it’s unlikely that there will be trouble on the night in that realm. An opening will present itself, it all comes down to whether he can take it and end it.

Arek’s teammate Radek Paczuski was meant to compete in the evening’s co-main event, however had to pull out due to injury. The replacement comes from within their own gym. The recently appointed head coach of Uniq Fight Club Bartosz Fabiński (16-5) fills in for his student to make his KSW debut. The 37-year-old is a legend of Polish MMA and has fought at the top level. The judoka is currently top-3 in UFC history for top position percentage and top-5 in takedown accuracy. Finishing isn’t really his specialty, decisions are his most likely method of victory. You still have to mind your Ps and Qs as he’s a solid veteran and has mean elbows in the clinch. Laïd Zerhouni (11-8) steps into the lion’s den. The Frenchman is a Bellator and UAE Warriors veteran and would love nothing more than to silence the baying audience. The 28-year-old is a submission specialist who’s won seven via that method, and he has a busy and unorthodox striking style where he’ll try and walk Bartosz down. His defensive BJJ has let him down in the past so he has to be so careful against his grappling heavy opponent. There’s no fear in him and he’ll have his eye on the Paris card in April. He’ll need to find his inner Jérôme Le Banner to cause the upset.

The next match-up features two gentlemen who are high level in their selected disciplines. Damian Stasiak (14-9) is a former UFC fighter. The 33-year-old began as a karate stylist, however he’s turned into an elite submission player. Eleven of his wins have come via tap, snap or nap. The Pole will give you hell and is consistently in ultra close fights, often being unlucky on the cards. Urgency is needed here, he needs to be at his meanest and ruthless best. Adam Soldaev (7-2) is looking to bounce back from defeat against Daniel Rutkowski at Colosseum 2. The WCA Fight Team man is a Warsaw local and is a big fan favourite. The 26-year-old glides around the cage with fantastic footwork. His kickboxing is very slick and he works the range incredibly. Once he finds the distance, you can’t keep him off you and the damage will pile up. His defensive wrestling is solid and he’ll want to keep it standing on Saturday night.

Ramzan Jembiev (5-1) has been winning the hearts and minds of KSW fans since signing on. The Frenchman made a name for himself as a street fighter with the King of the Streets organisation. The 24-year-old is a good friend of “Le Champ Champ” Salahdine Parnasse and is known for his spectacular knockouts, most famously his head kick KO over Murilo Delfino at KSW 79. He picked up his first submission win last time out, so he’s no one trick pony and he’ll be a big part of the Paris plans in April all going well. Isai Ramos (7-1) replaces an injured Dawid Smiełkowski on two weeks’ notice. The 22-year-old Venezuelan trains out of Brazil and is a submission expert, finishing six fights along the way. Armbars and rear naked chokes are his favourite go-tos. He’s never been knocked out and has never knocked anyone out in his MMA career to date. Big opportunity to make a massive splash for the young man.

Bantamweight is one of the most exciting weights in MMA. They retain the volume, cardio and speed of the lower weights, whilst adding a lot more finishing power. Werlleson Martins (18-5) is a former title contender working his way back to the top of the division. The Brazilian was scheduled for a shot at Jakub Wikłasz’s crown at Colosseum 2, however succumbed to injury ahead of the monumental event. The 28-year-old is well rounded and dangerous throughout, even if he’s down on the cards. He’s tricky in the submission game and an astute kickboxer who times his knees impeccably, as Patryk Surdyn found out at his peril at KSW 81. Oleksii Polischuck (11-4) has a simple goal, to put you on the flat of your back. The Ukrainian is a talented wrestler and once he is on top, he can hammer away on you like he’s trying to fix an old CRT television that’s gone out of tune. His favourite flavour of submissions are arm locks and he’s very adept at getting you into the positions he wants.

The Mad Queen has arrived in KSW to ascend to her throne. Ewelina Woźniak (7-2) is a former title challenger in ARES and has defeated a large number of Polish fighters throughout her amateur and pro career. The 30-year-old trains out of Czerwony Smok under the great Bartosz Jezierski. Wrestling is an integral part of training in the Poznań gym, and the 30-year-old is no slouch in that regard. The Pole is a good kickboxer and has a solid choke game. Aleksandra Toncheva (5-4-1) is aiming to ruin the coronation and commit regicide. The 32-year-old is no court jester and was a multi time gold medallist at IMMAF amateur level. The Bulgarian is tough and durable, with a decent submission game and competitive striking. Decisions are her bread and butter. The spicy record is a result of taking the toughest test at every step.

Next we go back to the exciting bantamweight division. Islam Djabrailov (9-5) trains out of Hannover in Germany and has a strong wrestling game. His submissions are very effective and he excels at armbars. If he gets you on the mat, he’s a demon with the ground and pound. Alfan Rocher-Labes (10-2) is a newcomer and another who has his sights set on the new Adidas Arena in Porte de la Chapelle in April. The 26-year-old is dangerous in the submission game, particularly capitalising on guillotines with great regularity. A competitive striker, the Frenchman is very good at securing decisions.

Marek Samociuk (4-4) is another member of the Uniq Fight Club crew fighting on the night. The 27-year-old was the first Wotore bare knuckle vale tudo tournament champion, winning three fights on the night. Wrestling is his strongest asset and he’s very heavy on top to the point where you’re not shifting him. Since beginning his training with the likes of Arek Wrzosek and Radek Paczuski, his striking has been improving at lightspeed. He’s an absolute gentleman outside of the cage and he’s worked extremely hard to level up his MMA skills the last few years. Oļegs Jemeļjanovs (11-4) is a man as tough as his name is to say for anglophones. The Latvian is a good boxer who’s won five by knockout. The 29-year-old can pepper you for all three rounds handy enough. There has been some gaps in his defensive wrestling and if they’re seen on the night, it’s going to play right into his opponents hands.

A couple of exciting newcomers arrive to make an impression. Gino van Steenis (4-0), brother of Bellator’s Costello, comes in with an impressive kickboxing style. A Glory veteran, the 25-year-old terrorises his opponents on the feet and once he smells blood, the kill isn’t far away. Like most Dutch kickboxers, he’s got that sneaky good submission game. Hugo Deux (2-0) is looking to evolve into Hugo Trois with a third professional win. The Frenchman has been training out of Warsaw under the tutelage of Robert Jocz and Krzystof Gutowski. He’s good all round, a competent striker and grappler, he can put a pace on you. First impressions are important and both of these gentlemen put their undefeated records on the line in search of victory.

Szymon Karolczyk (5-3) trains out of one of the nation’s premier gyms, Ankos MMA in Poznań. The 23-year-old has a very nice choke game, and can latch onto them in any position, proven by victories with a standing rear naked choke, anaconda and triangle. A durable fighter, he also has a competitive striking game. Artur Krawczyk (4-3) is the older of the two but has similar pro MMA experience. The 31-year-old is on a three-fight win streak and is a well rounded fighter. His guillotine is a good repellent to any sloppy takedowns and his striking is where he can really show what he’s made of. Power is important at this level and he has it in abundance.

KSW 90 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 (including the U.K.).

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.

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