Poland’s premier MMA promotion brings another serving of violence, with KSW 57 going down December 19. For their last show of 2020, a clash of the titans will take place. At the top of the main card, heavyweights vie for gold as KSW heavyweight champion Phil De Fries takes on Michał Kita.
A growing force in Europe, KSW has always had a good stable of international talent, and the main event this Saturday will be no different. Looking to ascend to an untouchable status within KSW, heavyweight champ De Fries will battle for his fourth title defense. Considering the pressure of making promotional history for the defending champion, let’s take a closer look at the heavyweight headliner.
Poland’s Michal Kita (20-11-1) has expanded his wrestling base and is finding success on the feet similar to earlier in his career. Although his age remains a questionable factor — Kita is now 40 — his recent performances are hard to deny. Specifically, at KSW 54, he stopped Michał Andryszak with strikes in the first round. Prior to that, the heavyweight picked up a lightning-quick knockout over Igor Pokrajac in 37 seconds. With the amount of experience Kita has, the champion certainly has a tall order ahead of him. Although one hurdle that may stifle the forward momentum of the challenger is the discrepancy in reach advantage.
While admittedly suffering from some mental roadblocks earlier in his career, De Fries (18-6) has rebounded in a big way. Riding a six-fight win streak, the champ is on the best run of his career. In addition, the United Kingdom’s De Fries enters the bout with a five-inch reach advantage and is the physically bigger man. Along with the fact that he is over five years younger than Kita, it would serve De Fries well to push the pace of the fight and test the challenger’s cardio. Similar to Kita, De Fries is a versatile finisher too. He’s ended bouts with strikes, keylock submissions, and various chokes. The champion has a diverse toolbox to pull from come KSW 57 fight night, and told us ahead of the fight that he’s got a point to prove, and will be looking to end this one within five rounds.
KSW heavyweight champion Phil De Fries is bursting with confidence ahead of his return to action on Dec. 19, but the affable Englishman wasn’t always so sure of himself earlier in his career.
De Fries (18-6), who takes on Michal Kita in the main event of KSW 57 in Lodz, Poland, is in the best form of his top-level career and looking to register his fourth straight title defense since he captured the belt on his promotional debut back in April 2018. But, prior to his recent successes inside the cage, he faced personal issues that threatened to derail his career.
“I had a severe mental health problem through my entire career,” he explained. “I had irrational fears, that the slightest things could lead to terrible consequences, which isn’t how life is, you know? I got cut from the UFC and had a bad loss, and I hit the drink and stuff and had a bit of a mental breakdown, so I went to address my mental issues. I didn’t even know what anxiety was. … I was suffering from it so badly.”
De Fries saw a therapist and was subsequently put on a course of anti-depression medication that he says has been transformative, both for his wellbeing and his career. Now he’s riding a six-fight winning streak that stretches back to the fall of 2017 and the fighter who admitted to previously suffering from crippling pre-fight nerves now heads into his fights full of excitement and confidence.
“I saw a therapist and I got some pills for my anxiety and I haven’t lost a fight since,” he explained. “Backstage I used to have this unbelievable fear, but now, with the medication and the therapy and stuff, it’s like, ‘This is great! I can enjoy myself now!’”
That change has been reflected in his results. Wins in M-1 Global and Bellator earned him a contract, and an immediate title shot, with Polish organization KSW. He took that opportunity with both hands as he finished Michal Andryszak in the first round to capture the title at KSW 43. He then followed up with three straight title defenses over Karol Bedorf, Tomasz Narkun and Luis Henrique as he cemented his position as the promotion’s premier heavyweight.
KSW 57: Bruno Santos vs. Antun Račić – Breakdown
Riding a six-fight win streak, Račić (24-8-1) has been unbeaten since 2016. Although the champion hasn’t been the most active, remaining unbeaten for so long is a tall task. Certainly, live betting in Kenya sees value in the champion, but the fight could easily sway towards the challenger. The champion doesn’t get finishes too often, yet he still manages to control fights and win decisions. Undoubtedly, Račić is a tough opponent to look good against. For instance, at KSW 51: Croatia, Damian Stasiak put up a fight but ultimately lost a majority decision to the champion.
With only a single loss to his record, Santos enters the bout on a four-fight win streak. Picking up solid wins over Jhonatan Cieza and Isaias Simões demonstrated his conditioning. Conversely, Santos’s ability to finish also had a definite effect on the betting lines at live betting in Kenya. Also, the Brazilian-born fighter has four rear-naked choke submissions, adding to the multitude of attacks he may offer. On top of all that, Santos is only 24 years old with a high ceiling. Not only will KSW 57 offer Bruno Santos and Antun Račić but it will also serve up two more championship belts later in the night.
His next test comes in the form of Michal Kita, a 40-year-old veteran who blasted his way into contention with a first-round knockout of Andryszak at KSW 54 in August.
“He’s great,” admitted De Fries. “He’s a very methodical striker. He doesn’t put a lot of output out there, but what he does is quite smart work. But I feel that I’m better all over. I’m going in this camp in incredible shape. I think my athleticism, he won’t be able to deal with it, (and) especially my offensive wrestling – I don’t think he’ll have a counter to it.”
It’s clear that, after dealing with the issues that plagued him earlier in his career, De Fries is riding high and on top of his game as he heads into his latest title defense. Winning the title on his KSW debut was a huge confidence boost, as was his first title defense on home soil in London. Now he said he’s happy to shed the underdog tag and dominate the heavyweight division moving forward.
“When I won the belt I was a four-to-one underdog – nobody thought I was going to do it,” he recalled. “I was an underdog against Bedorf as well, but it was fantastic. Every time I win I grow in confidence, and I feel invincible now.”
KSW 57 takes place Saturday, Dec. 19 at Studio Klubu Wytwornia in Lodz, Poland. The event streams live via
KSW 50: Phil De Fries grinds out split decision to retain KSW heavyweight title in London
KSW 47 results: Phil De Fries keeps belt with decision over gritty fellow champ Tomasz Narkun
KSW 45 results: Phil De Fries taps out Karol Bedorf to keep heavyweight title