UFC 171 fight card: Ovince St. Preux vs Nikita Krylov fight preview

USA TODAY Sports

On a card full of blockbuster match-ups, light heavyweights Ovince St. Preux and Nikita Krlyov will kick off the action at UFC 171 this Saturday night (March 15, 2014) from Dallas, Texas. How can each heavy-hitter pick up the win? Read our fight preview to find out!

This Saturday (March 15, 2014) Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) light heavyweights Ovince St. Preux and Nikita Krylov will face off on the main card of UFC 171, airing live on pay-per-view (PPV) from American Airlines Arena in Dallas, Texas.

Both fighters are looking to gain a Top 15 ranking spot, making this the biggest bout of their respective mixed martial arts (MMA) careers.

St. Preux was last seen knocking out Cody Donovan at UFC Fight Night 26, his second straight win in the Octagon.

"OSP" was supposed to fight Thiago Silva at UFC 171, but that fight quickly fell apart after Silva was arrested on attempted murder charges and subsequently released from UFC.

In stepped Krylov, who makes an incredibly quick turnaround to face St. Preux. After cutting down to light heavyweight, Krylov demolished Walt Harris with an emphatic headkick at January's UFC on FOX 10. The 22-year-old Ukrainian erased the bad memories of his uninspired debut at UFC 164, a technical knockout loss to Soa Palelei.

With only four out of St. Preux and Krylov's 30 total career wins coming by way of decision, this has the potential to be an explosive bout. Let's take a look at the keys to victory for St. Preux vs. Krylov:

Ovince St. Preux

Record: 14-5 overall, 2-0 UFC

Key Wins: Cody Donovan (UFC Fight Night 26), Gian Villante (UFC 159)

Key Losses: Gegard Mousasi (Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Masvidal)

Keys to Victory: Strikeforce vet St. Preux is a powerful light heavyweight who brings a ton of athleticism to the cage thanks to his background as an NCAA Division I football player.

St. Preux has largely preferred to defeat his foes with his dangerous striking. He'll be looking to utilize his 82-inch reach to keep Krylov on the outside, nailing him with a high volume of jabs and kicks. There's not much value in going to the ground with noted grappler Krylov, unless it's to finish the fight with a torrent of ground shots.

St. Preux's last submission was back in 2011, and that was due to punches.

"OSP" may look to end this fight with an early rush because Krylov showed he can be finished against Palelei. Krylov blamed much of that loss on fatigue from the long travel and Octagon jitters, so we could be seeing a rejuvenated version of him at UFC 171.

That means "OSP" can't get ahead of himself and leave an opening for "Al Capone" to finish the fight.

St. Preux also has a decent set of chokes, but expect him to keep this fight standing if it goes his way. Staying focused on Krylov, a significantly lesser name opponent than Silva was, will be paramount here. A big fight will await St. Preux if he takes care of business at UFC 171; he has to fight like he believes that.

Nikita Krylov

Record: 16-3 overall, 1-1 UFC

Key Wins: Walt Harris (UFC on FOX 10)

Key Losses: Soa Palelei (UFC 164)

Keys to Victory: Fighting in his native Ukraine, Krylov racked up 10 submission wins with a variety of lethal finishing holds. Possessing a black belt in Kyokushin karate, he has solid striking to match,

The talented prospect undoubtedly has a ton of potential, but he has his hands full with St. Preux.

Krylov needs to keep his emotions in check in Dallas. His nerves admittedly affected his performance against Palelei, but he looks much more at home at light heavyweight. "Al Capone's" striking power appeared to be amplified against Harris.

However, St. Preux has only been stopped by strikes one time throughout his career, making him a very tough target to take down. Still, Krylov is a proven finisher, and he'll be looking to make an impression on the UFC brass at UFC 171.

To do so, his best bet may be to drag this fight to the ground. St. Preux isn't exactly known for his mat prowess, and a ground battle should favor Krylov. St. Preux has never tapped out, but controlling him on the canvas will still be a much smarter gameplan than looking to win a slugfest.

Transitioning his strikes to takedowns early on will be crucial to negating St. Preux's reach advantage. If he can get inside and make this fight ugly, Krylov can score the biggest win of his young UFC career.

Bottom Line from Dallas: The bottom line here is that a very interesting prospect is going to emerge from this fight. With most of the 205-discussion centered on the potential Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson rematch, up-and-coming light heavyweights aren't getting much publicity.

St. Preux and Krylov can change that with an impressive showing this Saturday.

They both come to fight, and both are coming in off a big finish win. That translates into a hard-hitting bout that could easily produce a "Performance of the Night" bonus winner.

St. Preux is the massive favorite here, but Krylov simply can't be overlooked. He has the power of a heavyweight and looks to be settled in at 205 pounds. St. Preux has a very tough chin, making this bout an under-the-radar match that could get exciting quick.

Light heavyweight is quickly becoming one of the most discussed divisions in all of MMA, and we may just see a true player emerge in Dallas. Expect a ground war to favor the Ukrainian, while a kickboxing match tips the scales in St. Preux's favor.

Ovince St. Preux and Nikita Krylov are looking to make waves in the suddenly crowded light heavyweight division. Will the athletic "OSP" use his superior size and reach to keep Krylov at bay, or will "Al Capone" put the hit out on his second straight UFC opponent?

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