Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight grinders Misha Cirkunov and Wellington Turman will battle this weekend (Sat., Feb. 26, 2022) at UFC Vegas 49 inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Cirkunov’s UFC career has kind of gone off the rails. After a perfect (4-0) start — all finishes — Cirkunov has since lost five of his last seven, including his two most recent bouts. A drop to 185 pounds has yet to revitalize his career, though he did make weight and perform well enough versus Krzysztof Jotko. Meanwhile, Turman has yet to really excel inside the Octagon, but he’s shown some potential nevertheless. He drew a tough debut on short-notice, taking Karl Roberson to a split decision. Since then, he’s evenly split his four fights inside the Octagon, meaning the Brazilian is still standing on shaky ground heading into his first co-main event slot.
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: Krzysztof Jotko (UFC Vegas 38), Johnny Walker (UFC 235), Volkan Oezdemir (UFC Fight Night 109), Glover Teixeira (UFC on FOX 26)
Keys to Victory: Cirkunov is genuinely a very skilled fighter. He’s got accolades in the wrestling and grappling department, and his kickboxing is not to be taken lightly. It’s unclear what exactly is holding back Cirkunov, but it appears that he’s been losing confidence when unable to score the takedown.
Fortunately, Turman is likely to engage him on the mat. The Brazilian is a decent enough striker, but his default game is to push for takedowns in the clinch. Given Cirkunov’s extensive background in Greco-Roman wrestling, that should fit his stylings just fine.
Cirkunov’s goal here should be to keep his foe wrestling. Likely, Turman will come in with the strategy of keeping his distance, but he’ll fall into old habits if Cirkunov is insistent. Provided Cirkunov doesn’t accept the kickboxing match, he’ll end up in the type of wrestling scrambles he desires.
The simple fact here is that Cirkunov is really damn skilled on the canvas. It wasn’t all that long ago that he strangled Jimmy Crute, and if he can force or bait Turman into playing his game, a similar outcome is likely.
Key Wins: Sam Alvey (UFC Vegas 35), Markus Perez (UFC Fight Night 164), Marcio Alexandre Jr. (Future FC 4)
Key Losses: Bruno Silva (UFC Vegas 29), Andrew Sanchez (UFC Vegas 6), Karl Roberson (UFC Fight Night 155)
Keys to Victory: Turman is a grinder. The jiu-jitsu black belt has solid wrestling skills to complement his grappling prowess, and if the takedown doesn’t work, he’s quite content to outhustle his opponent in the clinch. Unfortunately, defense has proven an issue, as he’s been stopped by strikes in his two most recent losses.
Hustle might just be the key here. On paper, Cirkunov appears the more skilled man in most every area, but the intangibles seeming to side with the Brazilian, who is nearly a decade younger and faces a less difficult weight cut.
Remember: winning ugly is still winning.
Turman has to try to grind and exhaust Cirkunov. I’d rather see him shoot for the legs then pursue the upper body clinch, but if he ends up there, that’s okay. As long as he’s constantly forcing Cirkunov to work — ideally while digging some body shots in the process — then he’s doing his job.
This isn’t exactly co-main quality ... whatever that means in UFC’s Apex era.
Nevertheless, it’s a highly important fight for the individual athletes. Cirkunov is very likely facing the chopping block if he were to lose his third straight bout and begin his Middleweight run with consecutive defeats. At the same time, a win buys him a bit of breathing room and helps establish his position at 185 pounds.
Turman is in a similarly uncertain situation. On one hand, he did win his last fight, which certainly helps his case. However, defeat here would make it three losses in four fights, and Turman has yet to score a highlight reel finish or dramatic win to really anchor his spot on the roster.
The safest bet would be to defeat Cirkunov and score the biggest win of his career.
At UFC Vegas 49, Misha Cirkunov and Wellington Turman will go to war in the co-main event. Which man has his hand raised?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 49 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN+) at 7 p.m. ET.
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