This co-main event is sure to produce some fireworks, featuring two light heavyweight contenders who combine for 28 career finishes. Ryan “Superman” Spann is looking for a bounce-back win, following his first-round knockout loss to Johnny Walker last September. That loss snapped an eight-fight winning streak for Spann, and was his first loss in the UFC.
Misha Cirkunov is looking to start a winning streak of his own, following his first-round submission of Jimmy Crute back in September of 2019. After almost a year-and-a-half off, it will be interesting to see how the 34-year-old jiu jitsu black belt fares in his return against a young and hungry contender looking to climb the rankings.
Cirkunov is now 15-5 as a professional, with nine submissions and four knockouts. He started his UFC career 4-0, all finishes, including submissions of Ion Cutelaba and Nikita Krylov. His UFC losses have all been first-round knockouts, at the hands of Glover Teixeira, Volkan Oezdemir and the aforementioned Walker.
Cirkunov is a big and powerful southpaw with fast hands. He has good striking speed and throws every punch with intent. I mean this with a great deal of respect- he fights the way most people play the UFC 4 video game. He walks forward, pops his jab and follows it with overhand lefts, and when he gets into the pocket, he throws left after right after left until his opponent is backed up against the fence.
He is extremely aggressive and fights without fear. From space, he rips left kicks to the midsection and up top. He isn’t afraid to mix in a superman punch or take other somewhat questionable risks. What his striking is all leading into is his grappling, and he is as aggressive with his submission game as he is on his feet.
A large and powerful body for 205, Cirkunov has very good wrestling skills and usually holds a solid grappling advantage. He is always looking for guillotines and triangles, and shows very strong technique. He sinks in tight triangle body locks and makes it difficult for his opponents to move and breathe.
Cirknuov’s ground and pound is very strong, establishing dominant positions from half guard and looking to advance to side control. He throws some solid hammerfists to the side of the head while being sneaky about chasing arm triangles.
One of the drawbacks to Cirkunov’s style is that he can gas himself out easily. That being said, his opponent here isn’t exactly a decision fighter either, so conditioning very well may not come into play.
Ryan Spann is 4-1 in the UFC, following his LFA light heavyweight championship win by first-round knockout, and his win on Dana White’s Contender Series by first-round submission. His four UFC wins include decisions over Luis Henrique and Sam Alvey, as well as finishes of Antonio Rogério Noguiera and Devin Clark.
Spann is a tall, long and patient counter-striker, who looks to draw out his opponents attacks by backing them up with his jab. He doesn’t throw a lot of combinations, but rather looks to counter with one big shot, usually hooks or uppercuts.
He can expose himself to damage on his feet at times, but is, overall, an intelligent striker. He is very good at forcing his opponents to make the first move, and he counters with authority.
His takedown defense isn’t great, and he has proven to be vulnerable to grapplers with good timing on their level changes, and who drive their feet through their takedowns. He has found himself in some tough positions on the ground, but has defended himself intelligently and managed to reverse position, in most cases.
Spann has showcased some intelligent wrestling, and takes his opportunities to land vicious elbows on the ground. He’s a smart situational fighter with his grappling, and doesn’t tend to expose himself to a lot of damage on the canvas. He looks to have put on some size and muscle over the past few years, and has hung around on the ground with some of the better wrestlers in the light heavyweight division.
Simply put, these two fighters are too aggressive, too powerful, and both expose themselves to too much damage for this fight to make it to a decision. I imagine Cirkunov is going to come out throwing heavy shots, and Spann will throw back. Spann usually likes to fight a more measured pace, but starts throwing wildly when he feels his opponent is pulling ahead.
If the fight does end up on the ground early, it’ll likely be Cirkunov’s doing. He’s a stronger grappler than Spann, and has superior submission skills to Spann’s submission defense. Either Cirkunov finds a submission, or one of these fighters finds a knockout. I love this fight to end inside the distance, with a light hedge on Spann by decision. If it goes the distance, Spann has a much better gas tank and fights at a much better five-round pace.