Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight finishers Misha Cirkunov and Ryan Spann will duel this weekend (Sat., March 6, 2021) at UFC Vegas 21 inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.
There was a distinct moment where Cirkunov appeared the future of the division, a well-rounded finisher who brutalized his first four opponents. That hot start gave way to struggles, as the Latvian athlete was stopped in three of his next four bouts. He’s coming off a strong performance though, and Cirkunov still has the skills to make a run if he can get consistent. Meanwhile, Spann is a quality pickup from “Contender Series” who already has advanced into the Top 15. “Superman” also won four straight bouts to start his Octagon career, but last time out, he came up short in a violent clash with Johnny Walker that sent him back to the drawing board.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Nikita Krylov (UFC 206), Jimmy Crute (UFC Fight Night 158), Ion Cutelaba (UFC Fight Night 89), Patrick Cummins (UFC Fight Night 138), Alex Nicholson (UFC Fight Night 82)
Key Losses: Johnny Walker (UFC 235), Volkan Oezdemir (UFC Fight Night 109), Glover Teixeira (UFC on FOX 26)
Keys to Victory: Cirkunov has the skills of a top-notch Light Heavyweight. In addition to a long and decorated background in Judo, Freestyle, and Greco-Roman wrestling, Cirkunov has some real power in his hands and a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. His last five victories came via strangle, and Cirkunov has submitted nine of his opponents overall.
This is one of those fights with two real clear outcomes. On one hand, Cirkunov is the far better wrestler/grappler, and Spann is not impossible to take down. Most of his opponents who really try, succeed. At the same time, Cirkunov has proven hittable, and Spann has an 81.5-inch reach and solid knockout power.
To avoid getting clocked, I’d like to see Cirkunov wrestling along the fence. Spann isn’t anywhere near as explosive as Walker, so Cirkunov may get touched a couple times, but pressuring his foe should only carry a small chance of something drastic landing. If Cirkunov can close the distance inside the small UFC APEX cage, he’ll likely score the takedown.
Once on top, Cirkunov can take his time and advance position. Controlling Spann from top position will wear him down, so there’s no reason to rush the finish — it’ll come.
Key Wins: Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (UFC 237), Devin Clark (UFC Fight Night 161), Luis Henrique (UFC Fight Night 137), Sam Alvey (UFC 249)
Key Losses: Johnny Walker (UFC Fight Night 178), Karl Roberson (DWTNCS 2017)
Keys To Victory: Spann is an interesting fighter. He’s got a great build for 205-pounds and definitely has power, but Spann falls into the “Jack of all trades, master of none” category. He’s a solid striker, wrestler, and grappler, but it’s hard to say anything really stands out especially strong besides a heavy one-two combination.
Fortunately, a hard one-two combination is the basis for many hugely successful fighters. Cirkunov has a defensive issue, one that allows opponents to land clean punches far more often than is healthy for a big man. From an outside perspective, it seems like Cirkunov’s rhythm and movement is a bit predictable, which allows foe’s to time him stepping forward.
Spann has the range and power to do just that, even if he doesn’t jump into a flying knee like Johnny Walker. Instead, Spann should be popping his jab and moving his feed, buying himself time to gather information while staying off the fence. If “Superman” can begin to get reads on his opponent’s timing, his cross should start finding a home.
That’s all it takes.
Both of these men are ranked just outside the Top 10 and are trying to break through those gates.
Will it happen with a win here? Maybe. For Cirkunov, victory extends his win streak to two, and he does hold a victory over Nikita Krylov, who’s ranked at No. 9. Spann will likely need at least one more win, but victory will bump him up a couple spots, which is still good progress. Ultimately, the victorious fighter is several bouts away from the title picture, as they’re both still in the momentum building process.
As for the defeated man, he’s unlikely to slide too far down the ranks. At the same time, he may be forced to defend his position against an unranked opponent next time.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 21 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET.
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At UFC Vegas 21, Misha Cirkunov and Ryan Spann will square off in the co-main event. Which man earns the victory?