Kołecki triumphs in MMA battle of the giants after injury strikes down his opponent

Let battle commence. Mariusz Pudzianowski takes a blow to the chest. Grzegorz Michałowski/PAP

A packed crown of over 15,000 at Łodz’s Atlas Arena saw two heavyweights of Polish sport collide on Saturday night. Dubbed ‘the world’s strongest MMA bout’ the match between five-time World’s Strongest Man Mariusz Pudzianowski and Olympic weightlifting gold medallist Szymon Kołecki ended in brutal fashion.

The two were squaring off in an event organised by Konfontacja Szutk Walki (KSW), the leading mixed martial arts organisation in Poland.

Pudzianowski had a 14-kilogramme weight advantage and had fought in 11 more MMA bouts than Kołecki, five years his junior. Kołecki entered the ring with music from the Rocky movies blaring, as he embraced the role of plucky underdog.

The fight saw the former World’s Strongest Man take on an Olympic weightlifting gold medallist.Grzegorz Michałowski/PAP

The fight started slowly with the two behemoths clinching each other and exchanging knees to the thighs. Kołecki also inadvertently caught Pudzianowski with a low blow that led to a lengthy delay.

Once the fight resumed a few blows were exchanged and the older Pudzianowski began to tire. He threw a speculative teep kick but was caught in a clinch again.

The fight came to a dramatic end as Kołecki picked his opponent up to slam him down, Pudzianowski’s right foot got caught under his huge frame. His toes and ankle bent back awkwardly, visibly causing a reaction all the way up his leg. As the former strongman screamed out in agony he tapped out signalling the end of the match and most likely his MMA career.

Pudzianowski’s fight was over after he injured his leg.Grzegorz Michałowski/PAP

“The fight for KSW was in my plans from the very beginning,” Kołecki told TFN. “When I made the decision to take part in the MMA, I had a plan for my development and career, which I am implementing step by step. At the beginning I wanted to gain experience, prepare myself to start in a prestigious KSW federation that was at a high level.”

Transmitted in North America by major sports broadcaster DAZN, this event drew international attention due to the calibre of athletes on display. Three Olympic medallists, along with Kołecki, Satoshi Ishii a gold medallist in judo and Polish bronze medallist in Greco-Roman wrestling Damian Janikowski.

The injury could spell the end of his career.Grzegorz Michałowski/PAP

The event also saw light heavyweight champion Tomasz Narkun give up 12 kilograms against British-born heavyweight champion Phil De Fries in a champion vs champion fight. The Briton won by smothering his opponent from the top position. There were a couple of moments were the Pole, known as the ‘Giraffe’, looked like he might win but even though he was the overwhelming favourite Nakrun struggled to make an impression in the 25-minute fight.

The unanimous decision for 32 year old De Fries was his 3rd championship win in KSW. “Polish fans are the best in the world and the MMA scene is huge out here, KSW puts on world class events and the energy at the arenas is something special,” he told TFN.

Asked how much longer he planned to continue he revealed: “My plan is to go till I'm 40 if I'm injury free and manage to avoid too much damage.”

Kołecki says the fight was part of his MMA development.Grzegorz Michałowski/PAP

The only female match on the card saw two Łódź natives battle it out when Karolina Owczarz, 26, edged combat sports veteran Marta Chojnowska, 33 by split decision. Although Owczarz is quiet new to the MMA game she is a seasoned combat sports competitor having won gold at the Polish Women's Boxing Championships in 2011 and appeared on a Mexican reality TV program pitting a team of Mexican boxers against an international team.

In other fights Aleksandar Ilić improved his professional record to 11-2 against Damian Janikowski who fell to 3-2, while Northern Ireland’s Norman Parke beat Borys Mańkowski.

The opening bout of the night saw Łódż native Dawid Gralka square off against Paweł Polityło. Gralka missed the weight limit and was fined 30 percent of his earnings but worse than that he was pinned to the mat in the second round and suffered a hail of blows that forced the referee to step in and stop the bout. Polityło won by 2nd round TKO (technical knockout).