Are you a fan of Kickboxing? Muay Thai? ONE super series in general? Well, save the date, the first event of the ONE Fists of fury series will go down on February 26th with all the striking action one could need! In this piece, I will be looking at the co-main event, where ONE Kickboxing featherweight Grand Prix winner and Kickboxing icon, Giorgio Petrosyan will look to claim that all-important title bout, taking on ONE debutant and former Glory lightweight champ, Davit Kiria. The pair met 9 years ago with Petrosyan walking away with his hand raised, should we expect a different outcome this time? Well, let’s see.
Where should we even start with Giorgio Petrosyan, an anomaly, a true Kickboxing great, a man who, at the best of times has looked simply unstoppable, the true embodiment of a cerebral assassin. This is a guy who not only lays claim to a 42-fight win streak from 2007-2013, he has also taken on and defeated some of the biggest names in the sport. Currently, though, Giorgio finds himself on an 18-fight win streak, the last of those under the ONE banner being his monumental featherweight Grand Prix victory in 2019, seeing him take out guys like Samy Sana, Jo Nattawut, and even ONE Muay Thai featherweight king, Petchmorakot. Since then, he hasn’t competed in ONE, but considering the division is yet to have crowned an official champion, another win over an accomplished guy like Kiria could very well set him up for that all-important opportunity.
For Kiria, this is a huge opportunity, not only is he making his debut for ONE, but he’s making his debut against the consensus greatest of all time, a man who has already taken him out once before. Should he win? No doubt this would be a huge upset and you couldn’t really deny him a title shot, so it’s safe to say a lot is on the line. Prior to joining ONE, in recent times Kiria has been competing in Kunlun fight, he too not competing since 2019, winning the Kunlun fight world max 70kg tournament. His biggest achievement, as I mentioned earlier, was winning the Glory lightweight belt, in one of my favorite fights in recent memory. Who did he beat? Non other than the mystery that is Andy Ristie, one of the only two men who have defeated Petrosyan and the only one to knock him out. Without a doubt, one of the most spectacular comebacks in Kickboxing history, portraying just how durable and more so dangerous Kiria is, you can never count this man out.
Giorgio Petrosyan is one of, if not the most technically perfect kickboxers in the world, his versatility is one of the main tools that set him apart from the rest of the pack. He doesn’t fight any two opponents the same, adapting accordingly and drawing his opponent into his game.
The first tool of his I want to talk about is the step-in knee. Giorgio employs this technique particularly well against more aggressive opponents such as Kiria in the first fight, where he was willing to fight on the outside and be proactive on the counter. He uses the knee to intercept an oncoming flurry or surge from his opponent, creating a car crash on their midsection, not only damaging them more than it may seem but zapping the stamina tank to slowly break them down. This goes back to how versatile he is, he can sit back and counterpunch and play his game, but it’s these little explosions that ultimately add up and cause a larger effect in the long run.
The counter striking game of his is a staple of his game, although since joining ONE, Giorgio Petrosyan has displayed more of an aggressive and explosive approach. A tactic we often see him employ is a step back into that beautiful counter-right hook. The step back is almost an invitation for his opponent to come into range and welcome an attack, he reads this, leans back, and blindsides them with that whip of a right hand. He utilizes this in his bout with Ky Hollenbeck in GLORY, producing one of my favorite knockdowns in Kickboxing. Petrosyan steps back and slips, falling to one knee, obviously not intentional although it worked, as Hollenbeck saw this as an opportunity to lunge in with an attack, throwing a right hand before it was slipped and countered with a right hand on the get up to put him down. Sublime.
The key weapons for Giorgio Petrosyan, however, are his left kicks and more prominently, his left hand. Not only does his left hand pack a whole host of power, but it is also thrown with the precision of a surgeon, hence why he’s known as the doctor. The left hand is implemented into his attacks in many ways, whether it be following up kicks to punctuate a combo, or blasting down the barrel after being supported by that jab, it seems to be to the tool which puts most guys away. The left hand is also something Petrosyan often pairs with the right-handed frame he loves to implement, stalling the action and taking aim with the frame, and once the target and range are found, bombs away. The left kick compliments this, usually that lightning-fast switch kick to the body, aiding the aforementioned step-in knee to chip away at the mid-section and break guys down. His boxing is quite clearly his most effective skillset though, the fluidity of his combinations and the way he cuts angles often proves a nuisance for his opponents. With the aggressive hand-throwing style we have seen from him since joining ONE, we saw Jo Nattawut meet his demise from that big left hand and I can only imagine he will put them to work once again against Kiria.
Kiria likes to be aggressive so I think Giorgio Petrosyan will fight off the back foot and put that counter boxing to good use once again, slowing his advance with heavy leg kicks and capitalizing on the over aggressiveness of the Georgian to pick his shots and make him pay. But will it go as he plans? As history tells us, you can never count Kiria out.
Kiria wasn’t a GLORY champion for no reason, this guy has a legitimately dangerous and unpredictable skillset that definitely should not be overlooked. He may not have an amazing record but the toughness and warrior spirit that Kiria brings to the table is undoubted. He always brings the heat and he always entertains, part of this is because of how unique of a style he has.
On one side of his game, we have this pressure boxing style, walking people down, getting in their face and boxing hard and crisp on the inside, landing those big close-range shots to slug out a victory. On the other side, mixed in with this is the Kyokushin Karate Esque base, this is where Kiria is known to come out with a variety of unorthodox kicks and powerful momentum-based techniques such as the rolling thunder he has often attempted throughout his career.
This sort of skill set is very unique and can play to his advantage against the average opponent, but Giorgio is no average opponent. I think the mixing of these styles and the unorthodox nature really needs to be implemented to the fullest in this fight, Kiria can’t afford to just prioritize boxing or just prioritize kicking against Giorgio, because it simply won’t work. We know he’s tough and durable and he needs to use these qualities to control the range and pace, weather the inevitable storm and find a way round the ever-elusive Italian. I think the art of surprise could be key here, the fact that Giorgio has already fought him and beat him means that he knows what to expect, he will expect this pressure boxing heavy Kiria to come out and walk him around the ring.
If we look at the Andy Ristie vs Giorgio Petrosyan fight for example, it’s the only example out there of Giorgio actually being defeated in a clinical manner. The key to this victory was that Ristie never gave Giorgio space to breathe and didn’t come in with a one-dimensional attack, he constantly used stance switches and shifts, a mix of explosive single attacks and combinations. Granted, Kiria might not be the athlete that Ristie was but there is nothing stopping him from adapting his approach to this fight, being more active and illusive and proactively trying to be more unorthodox and not predictive.
Giorgio Thrives on patterns, he reads them like a children’s book and exploits them, Kiria can’t fall victim to this once more. He needs to dictate the pace, remain illusive and unorthodox and sprinkle a bit of explosiveness in there, use that Kyokushin base. He must constantly change the pace of the fight there and then, you want peaks and troughs in the pace and explosiveness department, not just one straight line as Giorgio will trace that until his heart is content.
Without a doubt this will be tough for Davit Kiria, it will seem like he’s trying to solve an enigma that’s almost unsolvable, but he must become an enigma himself, he must trick the trickster, only then will he break the run of perfection Giorgio Petrosyan finds himself on. Crafty, calm, and calculated, Giorgio will look to go out there and do what he does best, put a line through another name in his path to edge closer and closer to that divisional championship. Does Davit Kiria upset the world or does Giorgio Petrosyan continue his dominance? Tune in on the 26th to find out!
Promotional and Featured Images Credits to ONE Championship
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