To say there is no love lost between Simon Marcus and Jason Wilnis would be an understatement. The two top middleweights nearly had their fight at the GLORY 40 COPENHAGEN weigh-ins, when they came face to face for the first time since their GLORY 33 NEW JERSEY match in September last year.
That last fight ended in the third round with Marcus on the canvas and the referee waving the fight off under the ‘three knockdown’ rule which governs GLORY fights and provides that a fight be ended if a participant suffers three knockdowns in a single round.
It was a galling, humiliating end to a fight for a championship-level athlete like Marcus, but in part he did it to himself with his insistence on arrogantly showboating in front of Wilnis, putting his hands down and his chin on offer. Wilnis accepted that offer and took him out, taking the belt from him in the process.
Wilnis debuted at GLORY 10 LOS ANGELES in an eight-man middleweight tournament and found himself eliminated by Artem Levin in the quarter-finals. There is no shame in that loss, but neither did it offer any clue as to what he would develop into later in his career. Mixed results came his way until GLORY 28 PARIS, when he came out the right side of a war with Filip Verlinden.
It was around then that a switch seemed to flip in his head. He surged with confidence instead of self-doubt and that was rewarded by a run of victories which culminated in his taking the belt phentermine from Marcus in New Jersey last fall. Over that same period Wilnis’ game elevated to a new level and he evolved into the ferocious power puncher who, until tonight, ruled the middleweight roost.
Marcus is notoriously macho and more than a little stubborn, traits which would suggest he would not learn the lessons of that loss to Wilnis. But he is also not stupid; he knew he would have to make adjustments and approach Wilnis with more respect than he treated him with six months ago.
And so instead of charging forwards recklessly in this GLORY 40 rematch, Marcus fought most of the fight moving backwards, allowing Wilnis to move forwards relentlessly as he does. Instead of trying to stubbornly check that forward momentum Marcus went with it, back-stepping around the ring and firing off counters as he did so.
That’s the right way to face a pressure-fighter like Wilnis; standing square with him is only going to invite unnecessary problems. Marcus’ tactic was essentially to go with Wilnis’ flow and at the same time use his bone-breaking left kick, the one he broke Dustin Jacoby’s right forearm with, as a counter every time Wilnis walked him down.
At the same time, Wilnis has a hair-trigger counter-punch arsenal which he fires off as soon as an opponent touches him. And so large portions of the fight would see Wilnis move forward and attack, Marcus counter the attack with a kick and then Wilnis counter the counter with a low kick or with venomous punches.
The two were closely matched in fitness and output; where Marcus edged ahead was with the cleanliness of his landing. Wilnis would often find his punches detonating on Marcus’ gloves whereas Marcus was able to place his shin directly on Wilnis’ exposed ribs and torso repeatedly throughout the fight.
In the later half of the five rounds Marcus’ gas tank looked like it was fading slightly and robbing him of some of his sharpness. Wilnis looked unchanged, but his punches started landing cleaner. Unbelievably, Marcus’ response to that in the fourth round was to drop his hands and commence exactly the kind of showboating which ended his night in New Jersey.
This time he got away with it, though he took some heavy blows that he did not need to and risked the fight’s outcome needlessly. But risk is part of a fighter’s make-up and if Marcus felt he needed to do that, who among us is accomplished enough to judge him for it?
Presumably it was intended as a piece of psychology to rattle Wilnis’ composure. If it was it didnt work; instead it just to Wilnis rattling his. Wilnis ratcheted up the level of violence in the fifth and final round, landing some of his best shots of the fight, but the extra effort seemed likely to be too little, too late.
Marcus seemed to have a clear lead from the first two rounds and the third also looked to be his; Wilnis taking the last two would not be enough. He needed a finish, but when that didn’t come he found himself going to the judges’ scorecards in a fight he was sure he was going to win even quicker than the last one they had.
The scoring was interesting and reflected the closeness of the bout. Two judges had it for Wilnis but three had it for Marcus, taking the belt from Wilnis and restoring it to its previous owner. Marcus is now 2-1 against Wilnis but won this latest encounter by the narrowest of margins and a fourth fight seems inevitable.
Marcus/Wilnis looks set to become a kickboxing saga and, with all three fights thus far being wars, fans are not likely to complain about that.
Simon Marcus def. Jason Wilnis, Split-Decision, R5 (48-47, 47-48, 49-46, 46-49, 48-47)