KSW 93 Preview; Parnasse v Mircea, Ziółkowski v Varela

France says “Bienvenue” to KSW this Saturday night for the first time as the Polish juggernauts enter a new market. The Adidas Arena in Paris will host KSW 93. The venue was built for the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games and will see a range of events from wrestling to basketball take place there. 8,000 fans will christen this new gem in the Porte de la Chappelle area of the city, and they will be treated to nine fights under KSW mixed martial arts rules, including one for an international KSW championship.

The KSW Lightweight Championship is up for grabs in the fight of the night. The reigning, defending champion Salahdine Parnasse (18-2) is all set for his big homecoming show, growing up just fifteen minutes away from the arena in Aubervilliers. The Frenchman is “Le Champ Champ”, holding both the featherweight and lightweight straps. The 26-year-old is one of Europe’s top talents and is an absolute tour de force in the cage. “Le Phénomène” has that “je ne sais quoi”, has mesmerising footwork, elite management of range, perfect pacing and the cardio to drain your gas tank down to empty. Whilst he does a lot of damage with his striking, he generally overwhelms his foe on the feet, wearing them down and putting them to sleep with the rear naked choke. He attempted to win a third belt at welterweight last December, however came up just shy on the cards to Adrian Bartośinki. A knock on effect to that bout was the creation of an interim title at 155lbs, a belt that Valeriu Mircea (30-8-1) had wrapped around his waist following a submission victory over Leo Brichta in Liberec last February. The Moldovan is an explosive finisher who’s on a four-fight win streak, defeating a murderer’s row along the way. “The Solitary Wolf” has been training with the likes of Conor McGregor at SBG HQ in Ireland recently, and he’ll also have compatriot Ivan Vivat in his corner, the head coach at Team Fantom in Dublin’s Moore Street. The 30-year-old is a well travelled fighter who started his martial arts journey in the disciplines of wrestling and judo. Since then, the Chisinău native has developed a lethal kickboxing game where he can knock you clean out with his fists, or use any other point of the body to do damage with traditional shots, as well as jumping and spinning attacks. Parnasse is the ring general here and will be tough to beat, Mircea’s best chance is pouncing on a mistake, and we could be waiting a long while for the champ to make one.

The co-main event features probably the next challenger for the lightweight title. Marian Ziółkowski (25-8-1) is a man undefeated since 2020 and the previous holder of the belt. Disaster struck at Colosseum 2 last summer with “Golden Boy” getting injured in his warm up in preparation to fight Parnasse. The result was a devastating knee ligament injury, forcing him to relinquish his crown in front of 50,000 fans. Now back to health, the occasional KSW commentator will be keen to show why he stood at the top of the pile. The Pole is a fantastic all rounder and uses his long legs to excel in triangle chokes. The 33-year-old’s kickboxing game has developed very nicely and he can compete with the division’s top strikers. He’s built to go the distance and he works extremely hard, especially in the championship rounds. Wilson Varela (11-5) is on the best run of his career, winning the last five on the bounce. “The Prototype” was born in Cape Verde and trains out of Marseille in France. The 28-year-old has brought a particular kind of violence in his current KSW stint, scoring a hat trick of wins while putting on striking seminars for his opponents. The Frenchman does have a decent submission game, and is a particular threat with guillotine chokes, which will make you think twice when going for a takedown. His main threat in this fight is likely going to be his kicks and knees, the instruments of destruction which have paved the way for recent knockouts. Ziółkowski is the more experienced and will be the favourite on the night. Once he avoids the power, he should be able to manage his way to a decision.

Artur Szczepaniak (10-2) is one of the most exciting fighters in the promotion and an absolute buzzsaw at welterweight. The Pole now calls Genk, Belgium his home and it’s always good to see the young man on a card as you’re guaranteed excitement. The 27-year-old has a lights out kickboxing game, where if he hits you clean, you’ve got a one way ticket to never never land. “King Artur” isn’t afraid to use his Jiu Jitsu either, if he stuns you, he can clamp onto a choke or an arm and have you tapping before you’re napping or cracking. Madars Fleminas (12-5) is about as hardy as they come. The Latvian trains out of Grimsby in England, and you’ve got to be tough around those parts. The 35-year-old has a gruelling wrestling game in his arsenal and can make those fifteen minutes seem like they last forever. On top of that, his massive fists threaten to cause concussive blows with every shot in the standup exchanges. He’s looking to bounce back from defeat to Andrzej Grzybek in December, and will be itching to get his first KSW win. Szczepaniak will have the advantage on the feet, an area Fleminas loves to hang out in, however Madars has never been knocked out. Don’t be surprised if Artur switches to submission offence if he doesn’t score an early KO.

Michał Martinek (10-5) is a man who’s struggled to get into top gear in his KSW performances so far and could really use a win on Saturday night. The Contender Series and ACA veteran is known for his powerful striking game. The 33-year-old is looking to regain the form that got him a UFC call, putting the pedal to the metal and dominating his opponent. Prince Aounallah (18-11) comes in from Hexagone MMA and has won four on the bounce. “His Majesty” will have the crowd behind him as he’s based thirty minutes away in Aulnay-sous-Bois. The Frenchman is an explosive fighter on the feet and can stun you quicker than a rogue policeman. He’s powerful, and if you let him get you down and he gets top position, you’re not shifting him. Ground and pound will be incoming like precision missiles. Martinek is more polished and would be favoured to eke out a decision. Aounallah has the explosiveness to destroy that gameplan in an instant.

Boubacar Niakaté (9-5) trains out of the nearby Atch Academy with Parnasse. The 39-year-old makes his promotional debut and is known for his devastating, powerful kickboxing game. The Frenchman is a quick starter and a fast finisher. He’s aggressive and isn’t afraid to take one to give one and this will be his first contest since December 2021. Laïd Zerhouni (12-8) had a majestic debut with an upset twelve-second knockout victory over Polish stalwart Bartosz Fabiński back in January. The Frenchman hails from Montpellier, a city down in the south of the country. The 28-year-old is a Bellator and UAE Warriors veteran, and is an eclectic submission player with tricks for all occasions. He’s got a good staple rear naked choke, but can also attack the arms and legs which gives opponents something to think about. Zerhouni has been the most active of the two of late and that should be enough for him to come in as favourite. He’s got many avenues where he can win, whereas Niakaté will rely on his striking. This should be fun and I’d expect Zerhouni to come out on top.

Francisco Barrio (12-3) is a man very few people want to fight. The cheerful Argentinian is a highly qualified Greco Roman wrestler who will push you against the cage and grind on you until you’re tired enough to make a mistake, or until the final bell sounds. Now based in Croatia, he did have a spell at SBG Ireland back in the day. The 34-year-old had over 100 wins in his wrestling career and narrowly missed out on qualification to the 2012 Olympic Games. His finishing threat is in the submission game, always looking to take the back or snatch a neck. Aymard Guih (17-13-1) is another Bellator and Hexagone veteran, and another Marseille man competing on the card. The Frenchman has won five of his last six bouts, the best run of his career. The 35-year-old is a good wrestler with a lot of strength. He’s heavy on top and has a serious offensive submission threat. Where this match will be decided is his submission defence. Barrio is the more accomplished grappler and he can make life a misery for you, and I’d be surprised if he doesn’t take the back in the second or third round.

Alfan Rocher-Labes (10-3) jumps back on the horse following defeat in his debut to Islam Djabrailov in January, a man who he had defeated back in 2020. The Frenchman trains out of the south-eastern Parisian suburb of Villecresnes and he’s got a mean guillotine in his weapons chest. On the feet, he’s competitive and has a bit of power, with two knockout wins on his record. Kenji Bortoluzzi (11-5-1) is a newcomer and comes in from the PFL. The 34-year-old has a lethal guillotine of his own, so we may go all France 1792 on Saturday night. The Swiss is also a good wrestler with a great triangle game. Where things fall apart is in the striking defence. That’s where Rocher-Labes will target, and where he’ll be expected to have success.

Sandra Succar (3-0) is a hot prospect coming in off the back of a huge knockout win against Wiktoria Czyźewska last August. The Lebanese native had a good amateur career where she was submitting people left, right and centre. The 24-year-old has proven to be a lady of many hats as a pro, scoring a victory by every method already. Flore Hani (6-3) will strap on the KSW Overlord gloves for the first time. The French Polynesian trains over in California. The 37-year-old is an LFA and Invicta veteran, and is a tough decision fighter. She won a silver medal in amateur boxing at the 2023 Pacific Games. Youth is on Succar’s side, and she can finish a fight wherever it goes. Hani has more experience, which she’ll need to edge this out over fifteen minutes. She’s never been finished, so that will be Succar’s biggest challenge. Youth should prevail this time around.

El Hadji Ndiaye (5-2) is a character and comes in from Cage Warriors. The Senegalese trains in the city centre in Paris, and is known for his walkout attire. The 32-year-old is a good wrestler with heavy ground and pound. On the feet, he’s a bit on the wild side. He’ll put his head down and start swinging, hoping to catch a chin. Nicolae Bivol (3-0) comes in from Hexagone MMA. The Belgian born fighter is of Romanian heritage and trains out of Paris. He’s another eclectic young fighter who’s built a record with a knockout, submission and decision win in a short time frame. This is a late replacement situation, Ramzan Jembiev was the original opponent so there’s big shoes to fill here. Ndiaye has been fighting at a higher level so I’d expect him to secure takedowns and do damage on the ground. With it being short notice, I can see the match being finished in the second round after an early and spirited display by Bivol. Ndiaye should overcome some early scares and prevail using his cardio.

KSW 93 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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