The light heavyweight division seems to have a resurgence in 2019 as yet another high profile bout involving ranked contenders will take place in the coming months. That, plus the UFC has introduced another fighter, and you can read my thoughts about each of the news below in the current MMA odds and ends.
Ovince Saint-Preux vs. Misha Cirkunov, UFC 235
The UFC announced an interesting light heavyweight bout between top-15 rated contenders Ovince Saint-Preux and Misha Cirkunov will take place at UFC 235, heading down March 2 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Saint-Preux (23-12) is 11-7 overall in the UFC and has settled into the role of gatekeeper in the light heavyweight division. OSP lost a crystal clear choice to Dominick Reyes his out his time, but he filed Tyson Pedro in remarkable fashion his struggle before that. He’s not much removed from a three-fight win streak that included a KO over Corey Anderson and Von Flue chokes against Yushin Okami and Marcos Rogerio de Lima, although that streak may prove to be the high point of his MMA career. The Reyes battle was clearly a step backward, though, as was a submission defeat to Ilir Latifi that preceeded the Pedro win. OSP is a very solid gatekeeper, but his days as a title contender appear to be over.
Cirkunov (14-4) is 5-2 at the UFC and in his last outing submitted Patrick Cummins. He had been knocked out by Volkan Oezdemir and Glover Teixeira his two fights before that, but the win over Cummins place him back on track and reminded us why the Latvian-Canadian was this impressive prospect. Now that he’s living in Las Vegas, this will be a hometown fight of sorts for him. Although I’m worried about Cirkunov’s chin letting him down again, I still think he has what it takes to conquer OSP. I simply find OSP such a frustrating fighter to forecast how he is going to perform, while I believe Cirkunov is a bit more steady. I’d anticipate a competitive line, but with a slight lean towards the younger fighter in Cirkunov.
Craig White Cut, Signs With Cage Warriors
Former UFC welterweight Craig White has signed with Cage Warriors, the promotion announced. Obviously, this usually means the UFC lately cut on him. White (14-9) had a rough go at the UFC after leaving Cage Warriors as one of its best welterweight contenders. He made his Octagon debut on very short notice and was completed by top-10 rated Neil Magny, cutting upwards of 30lbs to create weight. The UFC gave him a favorable matchup against Diego Sanchez in his next fight, but it did not go his way. Despite entering this bout as a substantial favorite, White was dominated by an aging Sanchez and it was the kind of loss that created the UFC wish to decrease ties with White. However, he does have one saving grace here, and it is that Cage Warriors is on Fight Pass this past season. A couple of finishes for White and he could well be signed back into the UFC, though he may fare better as a middleweight heading forward. White’s opponent for his return to Cage Warriors hasn’t been declared yet, but he’ll struggle at Cage Warriors 102, which such as UFC 235 also occurs March.
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