KSW 81 Preview; Bartosiński vs Szczepaniak, Henry Fadipe Returns

KSW will enter a new market in Poland at the weekend, with all eyes on Tomaszów Mazowiecki. The town is located in central Poland, has a population of 65,500, is an hour from Łódź and two hours from Warsaw. Up to 10,000 people will pack out the Arena Lodowa (Ice Arena) on Saturday night. Ten fights are on deck, including one for an international KSW championship.

The KSW Welterweight Title will finally find a new owner in the main event. The belt has been vacant since Roberto Soldić transferred to One Championship and is the first time it’s been up for grabs since September 2021. Adrian Bartosiński (13-0) is the undefeated wrecking ball from Octopus Łódź. The 27-year-old earned his spot with four wins in a row, all within the distance. Three came via strikes and the fourth was a kneebar over the talented Andrzej Grzebyk. The Pole first came to prominence on the Tylko Jeden reality show, KSW’s version of TUF. He won both his fights, again within the distance, before pulling out of the finale via injury. The Rawa Mazowiecka man is from nearby so will have a good following backing his attempt for the gold. Nobody has been able to deal with his striking so far. Artur Szczepaniak (9-1) has had an exciting start to his KSW career. Debuting at KSW 69 in April 2022, he picked up a win via rear naked choke over Jivko Stoimenov in the first round. The Konin man followed that up with a highlight reel head kick knockout on Brian Hooi, also in the first round. The 26-year-old trains out of Genk in Belgium and is on a 5-fight win streak. Both men are hard hitting strikers so this should be fun.

Tomasz Sarara (1-1) returns to the cage following a defeat in an epic to Arkadiusz Wrzosek at KSW 73. The 37-year-old won his MMA debut to Filip Bradarić a year previous. The Kraków man is a high level kickboxer who held the FEN title to cap off an illustrious ten-year career in the big gloves. Errol Zimmerman (0-1) is a Muay Thai and kickboxing specialist who’s most notably fought in Glory. Whilst his only foray into MMA was in 2008 (an ill-advised bout against Japanese wrestler Ikuhisa Minowa who had 78 fights at that stage), this will be his second KSW appearance. The Dutchman lost due to knockdowns to Marcin Różalski in the promotion’s only ever kickboxing fight at KSW 71 last summer. The 36-year-old has fought a who’s who in the ring. Both guys are here to stand and bang.

Igor Michaliszyn (9-2) returns after a year out for his sophomore appearance. It didn’t take him long to win his debut, a first round knockout win over Idris Amizhaev. The Silesian Cage Club man is a talented all rounder and an aggressive finisher. There’s a very high level of Jiu Jitsu at the gym, and he spars with the likes of Artur “Kornik” Sowiński, so his striking is always sharp. Krystian Bielski (9-4) also opened his KSW account with a win, an impressive knockout over Ion Surdu in the second round back in August. Prior to then, he had a very successful stint in FEN. The Mława man has been mainly using his striking in the last few years.

Werlleson Martins (17-5) is looking to climb the bantamweight rankings and stake a claim for another title shot. The Brazilian picked up a decision win over SBG’s Paweł Polityło in September. The 27-year-old is a very good grappler with eight wins via submission. The Rio man can surprise you on the feet with good leg kicks and a heavy overhand. Patryk Surdyn (7-2) has won his last two and a win over his opponent might put him next in line to face champ Jakub Wikłacz (who defends against Zuriko Jojua at Colosseum 2). The Łomża man is a tough competitor who can put a gruelling grappling clinic on. Submission is his biggest threat, however decisions are more common. He’s a former Armia Fight Night champion, beating Cage Warriors contender Sylwester Miller with elbows.

Karolina Owczarz (5-2) won her last fight against Natalia Baczyńska-Krawiec in August. The Łódź native began her career as an amateur boxer. The 30-year-old has had more joy in the grappling department in her MMA career, and she’s put in hundreds of hours with top level BJJ player Gerard Łabiński. Her last fight was with a new head coach, Arbi Shamaev in WCA, so she’s been picking up tons of new information in the last year or so. A win would see her break the record for most female KSW wins. If you’re living in Poland, you may see her on TV from time to time as she’s also a broadcaster with TVN. Adrianna Kreft (4-0) debuted back in October with a win over Petra Částková in Nowy Sącz. The Tczew woman can do a bit of everything, a good kickboxer who mixes the grappling well and offers a submission threat. This is her hardest opponent to date.

Marcin Krakowiak (11-4) was another contestant on Tylko Jeden, losing in the final to Tomasz Romanowski. This is the first time we’ve seen the 29-year-old since October 2021, and “Krakus” is not one to take your eyes off. The Wolbórz man is another great striker from Octopus Łódź with a solid ground game to match. Finishes are where he’s built his reputation, he’ll brutalise you on the feet and if it’s not stopped there, he’ll may make you go for a sloppy takedown and hit his patented guillotine. Henry Fadipe (13-9-1) is Ireland’s interest on this card. The Fantom MMA man won the first fight on his four-fight deal with a spectacular Peruvian Necktie victory over Albert Odzimkowski in November. The Dubliner has been on a roll since returning to MMA in 2021 after five years away. It’s been four wins on the bounce since then, and he’s really benefited from training full time under Paweł Tomczyk. He can change the fight in an instant with his explosive striking and as seen last time, the man can shock you on the mat as well.

Kamil Gawryjołek (3-0), ironically nicknamed Mały (small), scored a first round TKO win against Marek Samociuk at KSW 76. The Puławy man earned his contract with a two-fight win streak in Strife MMA, finishing both of them by knockout as well. That’s the threat he carries. Oļegs Jemeļjanovs (11-3) is a new signing. The Latvian is also predominantly a striker. The 28-year-old hits hard and has a low centre of gravity, which helps in the grappling department. He’s faced Polish opposition before, a TKO loss to Adam Pałasz.

Sofiia Bagishvili (7-2) had a memorable victory on her debut in September against Anita Bekus, a scarf-hold armlock that resulted in an arm break. The Georgian is a grappling specialist and her armbar has proved to be very effective. The 24-year-old is looking to bounce back from a defeat to Aleksandra Toncheva in Oktagon last time. Maria Silva (8-1) is a formidable opponent. The Brazilian is looking to come back from a loss of her own, a decision to Viktoriya Dudakova on the Contender Series. The previous year she beat Kathryn Paprocki on the same show but didn’t win a UFC contract. Her last win was against Poland’s Ewelina Woźniak at ARES 4 with a rear naked choke. We should see some great grappling exchanges here.

Filip Stawowy (9-3) lost his debut in a close decision to Michal Martínek last June. The Glinno man is a big heavy hitter who’s won eight via knockout. The 26-year-old had a very successful stint in Babilon MMA. Marek Samociuk (4-3) was the first winner of the Wotore Vale Tudo tournaments. The Biała Podlaska man is 2-2 in KSW, with both wins via TKO over boxer Izu Ugonoh. The 26-year-old is a strong wrestler and that’s likely where he’ll want to take this fight.

Jonatan Kujawa (1-0) is making his first KSW appearance and comes in from Cave MMA. The Wrocław man is a karate specialist and his win was by decision. Josef Štummer (2-0) will also be appearing for the first time. The Czech man carries more of a submission threat, and beat his last opponent with a scarf-hold. The Liberec native also has wins by rear naked choke and guillotine on his amateur record. The land of opportunity awaits.

KSW 81 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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