Misha Cirkunov has made quite the impact in the light heavyweight division. Starting his UFC career with 4 straight finishes, he will look to add another one when he takes on 5th ranked Volkan Oezdemir in the co-main event of UFC Stockholm.
In a division that’s desperate for a fresh face, Cirkunov may just be that guy. Despite only competing 4 times under the UFC banner, he feels a finish over Oezdemir would put him in top contention for a shot at gold.
“I look at other divisions, for example Cody “No Love” in his 6th fight he already fought for the belt because of all the fights that he had by stoppage,” Cirkunov said. “So far I have 4 stoppages so maybe if I can finish my next fight that would be 5 stoppages and then I think I’m definitely going to be on the radar, a top 5 guy then we’ll see.”
Currently ranked at number 7, there aren’t many guys ahead of Cirkunov who disagrees with the mass opinion on the fading light heavyweight division. He feels that current champion Daniel Cormier is one of the best pound for pound fighters which legitimizes the division.
“I think its crazy talk that there’s nobody to fight at 205,” Cirkunov said. “Daniel Cormier cleaned out the heavyweight division, he’s been slamming everyone on the head and now he’s at 205 so the heavyweight guys couldn’t beat him and now he’s fighting at 205.”
“He’s a very good champion, he’s a very tough guy and there are also guys like Glover Teixeira and Alex Gustafsson. In my opinion it’s a very tough division and if people think otherwise, they’re more than welcome to give me a challenge.”
After struggling with contract negotiations, Cirkunov has signed a new 6 fight deal with the UFC. He expressed interest in fighting a legend or a big name and although Oezdemir doesn’t exactly fit the bill, he is not overlooking him.
“I’m extremely happy with the match-up,” Cirkunov said. “Volkan is a very tough guy and of course I want to fight somebody with a big name and down the road I’m pretty sure I will but it’s not really up to me. I’ve never turned down a fight and I’m very excited to go to Sweden. I’m going to be a co-main event and I’m extremely happy with that as well. Slowly I’m getting the recognition that I think I deserve and it’s going to be a great show in Sweden.”
Oezdemir made his UFC debut back in February when he outpointed Ovince St. Preux on route to a decision. Although Cirkunov thought OSP won the fight, he was still impressed with Oezdemir’s performance.
“He has a very impressive record, 13-1 and his last fight he had a very stiff challenge in OSP,” Cirkunov explained. “He’s a great kick boxer, he has really heavy hands and he’s hard to take down. He’s just a tough guy, he’s a hungry, young up and comer that everyone should watch out for as well and I’m not taking him lightly. I’m just expecting a really tough war and I’m planning on coming out victorious.”
Cirkunov is coming off a first round submission win over Nikita Krylov at UFC 206 and has finished all 4 of his UFC fights, 3 by the way of submission. He believes his strong ground game will allow him to compete with the top of the division.
“My wrestling matches up pretty well against anybody in the division and I think I have a little ace in my back pocket with my ground game. I’m a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and with my judo; I just don’t see that many high level experts in those fields in the division.”
With a pivotal light heavyweight match-up between Gustafsson and Teixeira headlining UFC Stockholm, Cormier versus Jones 2 rumoured for the summer and Jimi Manuwa looming, the light heavyweight picture is about to get a lot clearer.
There are many possibilities for the Canadian prospect and his dream of becoming UFC champion is only a few steps away. It starts on May 28th in Stockholm and Cirkunov is confident he’ll get the job done.
“He has great stand up so we’re going to exchange some punches, we’re going to see who the better striker is,” Cirkunov on the Oezdemir match-up. “I’m not going to be trying to take him down right away, I’m going to try to stand up with him a little bit, see how great his striking really is and then if things don’t work there I have other options. I have a great clinch game, takedowns and I have a great ground game so I feel like I can take the fight many different directions where I can finish the fight.”