Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight bruisers Glover Teixeira and Misha Cirkunov will battle this Saturday (Dec. 16, 2017) at UFC on FOX 26 inside Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg, Canada.
Teixeira has fought tooth-and-nail, but the 38-year-old Brazilian has been relegated to gatekeeper status. A high-level gatekeeper to be sure, but two knockout losses in his previous three contests have left him in a difficult position. Meanwhile, Cirkunov was the division’s hottest prospect until he ran until the shockingly heavy hands of Volkan Oezdemir. It’s been six months since that defeat, and now the grappler will attempt to start a new run at the strap.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Ryan Bader (UFC 160), Rashad Evans (UFC on FOX 19), Ovince St. Preux (UFC Fight Night 73), Quinton Jackson (UFC on FOX 6)
Key Losses: Jon Jones (UFC 172), Alexander Gustafsson (UFC Fight Night 109), Anthony Johnson (UFC 202), Phil Davis (UFC 179)
Keys to Victory: Teixeira is an aggressive puncher with a nasty right hand. Knockouts are responsible for 15 of his victories, but Teixeira is also a very capable wrestler with a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt.
This is a really interesting match up, as both men are physical powerhouses who like to push forward. While Teixeira prefers to stalk and strike, his opponent generally uses his aggression to set up the takedown.
Teixeira’s takedown defense will be a major point of focus here. Cirkunov tends to overpower his opponents with double legs and strength, but that’s not really the usual way to drag Teixeira down. He struggles more with chained takedowns, meaning the Brazilian has a good chance to keep this standing. More than anything else, Teixeira should really focus on establishing his jab early. The jab will help interrupt Cirkunov’s charges and force him into exchanges, which should favor the man with massive punching power.
Key Wins: Nikita Krylov (UFC 206), Ion Cutelaba (UFC Fight Night 89), Alex Nicholson (UFC Fight Night 82)
Key Losses: Volkan Oezdemir (UFC Fight Night 109)
Keys to Victory: Cirkunov still has the looks of a future title challenger even after his recent loss. He utterly dominates on the mat, and Cirkunov transitions into his takedowns very well.
Cirkunov definitely hits hard, and Teixeira isn’t quite as durable as he was a few years back. That could add up to an unexpected knockout win for the Russian, but looking for the takedown is still Cirkunov’s smartest path to victory.
Last time out, Cirkunov rushed forward in a straight line directly into a counter punch that ended this night. Teixeira can punch hard as anyone, so a sloppy push forward could produce the same result. To avoid that fate, Cirkunov would be wise to feint and false start more often. Teixeira tends to pull the trigger on his right hand given the slightest reason, so feints should draw him out of position. If he wings his right hand too early, Cirkunov could follow up his feint with a real takedown.
Either way, Cirkunov wants his real blitz to be hidden and unexpected.
Bottom Line: It’s a pivotal match up at 205 pounds.
Unfortunately, Teixeira’s position is largely set in stone. Unless he’s able to string together a number of knockouts, he’s not going to get anywhere close to a title shot. Even a victory over a great up-and-comer in Cirkunov isn’t enough, although it’s definitely a solid start.
A loss drops him one rank lower and could see him move closer to retirement considering his age and long career.
As for Cirkunov, the stakes are really high. A victory pushes him into the top five, and it very likely sets him up for a title eliminator bout with Alexander Gustafsson. As a new face with serious skill, Cirkunov is not far off from the strap after just a single knockout loss.
A second though? That would make the mixed martial arts (MMA) world as a whole reconsider his position and potential.
At UFC on FOX 26, Glover Teixeira and Misha Cirkunov will open up the main card. Which fighter will have his hand raised?