Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight contenders Volkan Oezdemir and Misha Cirkunov will collide this Sunday (May 28, 2017) at UFC Fight Night 109 inside Ericsson Globe in Stockholm, Sweden.
Just a few months back, Volkan Oezdemir was nearly a complete unknown to most American fans. However, a short-notice win over Ovince Saint Preux at the start of the year shot him immediately into the Top 10 … and he’s received another big match up as a result. Misha Cirkunov has proven to be a very bad man. He’s also the high-quality prospect for which the 205 pound-division has been looking, as Cirkunov has blitzed through four straight foes and earned a spot in the rankings quickly.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Ovince St. Preux (UFC Fight Night 104)
Key Losses: Kelly Anundson (Bellator 115)
Keys to Victory: Heading into Oezdemir’s Octagon debut, it was hard to get a good read on the Swiss athlete. The only available footage of him came from a mediocre 2014 run in Bellator, but “Cousin” quickly proved his growth in his UFC debut.
Oezdemir is an aggressive kickboxer, and his takedown defense has come a long way.
In this match up, Oezdemir would be wise to maintain a healthy amount of distance between himself and his opponent. Each of Cirkunov’s four UFC opponents have come after him with an unnecessary amount of aggression — sacrificing any distance control — and the result has not been good for any of them.
To avoid a similar fate, Oezdemir must take advantage of his size and kicking skill. If he can keep the center of the Octagon, Oezdemir should be the cleaner striker, able to set up good combinations. Additionally, if Oezdemir is kickboxing tactically, he should be able to pin Cirkunov to the fence, a position where he did big damage to “OSP.”
Key Wins: Nikita Krylov (UFC 206), Ion Cutelaba (UFC Fight Night 89), Alex Nicholson (UFC Fight Night 82)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Cirkunov is a remarkably well-rounded fighter. The Judoka has the appearance of grappling specialist — which is definitely fair — but he’s also shown some smart boxing, sharp counter punches, and unexpected composure in each area of the fight game.
Nevertheless, takedowns are the name of the game here.
Cirkunov has the boxing technique to get inside, and that’s what matters in this match up. He may not be able to win a kickboxing battle with Oezdemir, but the Canadian can force his foe to respect counter punches and get inside.
In Oezdemir’s most recent loss, he was eventually overwhelmed by Kelly Anunderson’s constant takedown attempts. He showed improvement in that area opposite “OSP,” but Cirkunov has proven to be dynamic against the fence and ironclad from top position. If he can score a single takedown, he has all the tools to make Oezdemir exhausted and miserable.
Bottom Line: This match is nearly as important for the Light Heavyweight division as the main event.
In his UFC debut, Oezdemir proved to be a well-rounded and fully sized Light Heavyweight. At this point, that’s enough to score him the No. 5 spot in the division. it may be quick, but he’s an automatic contender, and handing Cirkunov his first UFC loss would push him even further.
Cirkunov is damn close to earning a title shot himself. Ignoring the main event — which may produce a title contender — Cirkunov would be on a five-fight UFC win streak that finished off with a Top 5 win. That’s a serious accomplishment at any weight class, but it’s especially major considering the division’s current state.
Meanwhile, a loss for either man sets him back without removing him from the Top 10. Both Oezdemir and Cirkunov are highly regarded, as well as young enough that they should have plenty of time to compete with the best at Light Heavyweight. Indeed, the number of true contenders at 205 pounds is disappointing, so neither fighter will drop in the rankings all that much.
At UFC Fight Night 109, Volkan Oezdemir and Misha Cirkunov will square off in the co-main event. Which man will have his hand raised?