Misha Cirkunov is one of the most exciting Canadian UFC fighters of recent times. Following an era with the likes of Georges St-Pierre and Rory Macdonald, the Latvian-born judoka boasts an 84% finishing rate with only two fights going the distance. We look back at five of Cirkunov’s most memorable wins in MMA.
HKFC 41: Misha Cirkunov vs. Rodney Wallace - Jan. 30, 2015
After a 7-2 start on the regional scene, Cirkunov was offered his first and only light heavyweight title shot, taking on former UFC and Bellator veteran Rodney Wallace for Canadian Olympian Ari Taub’s Hard Knocks Fighting promotion. Wallace fought the likes of Phil Davis, Brian Stann and Mamed Khalidov, while also holding a win over top-10 ranked Ovince Saint Preux.
The fight starts with a quick striking exchange, and moves into the clinch as both fighters have experienced grappling backgrounds. After a failed trip attempt against the cage, Cirkunov and Wallace engage back in the center of the mat.
As Wallace attempts a lead hook to uppercut combination, Cirkunov changes levels to fake another takedown, leading Wallace to drop his hands. Cirkunov throws and lands a right hand behind Wallace’s ear, breaking down his equilibrium. With Wallace reeling backward, Cirkunov connects with a head kick, knocking Wallace out cold to become the HKFC light heavyweight champion.
UFC Fight Night Saskatoon: Misha Cirkunov vs. Daniel Jolly – Aug. 23, 2015
After an 80-second title defense in May 2015, Cirkunov signed a four-fight deal with the UFC. Originally scheduled to take on Sean O’Connell in his promotional debut, Cirkunov would face late-replacement, then undefeated, Daniel Jolly.
With both fighters swinging heavily at the bell, Cirkunov would close the distance and eventually take the fight to the ground, dominating majority of the grappling exchanges. Jolly would finally stand up and sweep Cirkunov from his back into bottom position, however Cirkunov would show flashes of his grappling prowess, holding Jolly in position with a rubber guard.
Jolly would eventually break free and get to his feet. Cirkunov, quick to realise he has an advantage on the ground, immediately closes the distance on Jolly, taking the fight back to the mat. Cirkunov would work his way to Jolly’s back, and finish him with punches, marking the Xtreme Couture product’s very first win in the Octagon.
UFC Fight Night Las Vegas: Misha Cirkunov vs. Alex Nicholson – Feb. 6, 2016
“I’m just really happy with the performance and especially, not just the submission, but I was able to break his jaw. I’m impressed.”
In a horrifying, Rory MacDonald-like, post-fight press conference quote, Cirkunov summed up his victory over Alex Nicholson in his sophomore UFC performance.
After pushing the pace throughout the first, Cirkunov would take the back of Nicholson just under a minute into the second round. As Cirkunov worked his punches, he would eventually slip his forearm over the chin of Nicholson. The Torontonian would transition his hands into a Gable Grip, and seconds later would be the beginning of the event’s viral video.
As Cirkunov would tighten his squeeze, an audible popping noise could be heard on the broadcast, in what we would learn later was the sound of Nicholson’s jaw breaking.
Nicholson would immediately tap to the submission, become Cirkunov’s next victim on his highlight reel.
UFC Fight Night Ottawa: Misha Cirkunov vs. Ion Cutelaba – June 18, 2016
The next challenge up for Cirkunov was promotional newcomer Ion Cutelaba, who was on a six-fight winning streak, all by knockout, with his fights averaging around 85 seconds.
The pro-Canadian crowd was on the side of Cirkunov, however Cirkunov showed vulnerabilities early on, getting dropped and mounted in the first round. Cirkunov would land his share of shots, but was unable to visibly hurt Cutelaba.
In the second round, Cirkunov would fight more conservatively, looking to pick his shots before going into grappling exchanges, to tire out Cutelaba and take away his power.
Heading into the third, Cirkunov’s team notice Cutelaba slowing down and urge their fighter to push the pace. Forty seconds into the final round, Cirkunov gets Cutelaba backing up close to the cage. Cirkunov explodes with a superman punch into a takedown. Cirkunov would immediately transition to side control and lock in an arm-triangle choke. Within seconds, Cutelaba taps and Cirkunov hops the cage to the chagrin of the Ottawa audience.
UFC 206: Misha Cirkunov vs. Nikita Krylov – Dec. 10, 2016
Under circumstances, usually for financial gain, a fighter will forgo contract renewal in order to put themselves in a better position for negotiations. Heading into his fight with Krylov, Cirkunov would be on the final fight of his UFC contract, and more notably, in Cirkunov’s backyard of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Krylov fought for the UFC in both the heavyweight and light heavyweight divisions, holding a, then, 6-2 record in the promotion.
Averting the striking risk, Cirkunov would push for clinches and takedowns early, showing success against Krylov. Krylov would continue scrambling with Cirkunov to get back to his feet.
Late in the first round, Cirkunov would slip a head kick and drop Krylov with a counter left up against the cage. Cirkunov would swarm in and catch Krylov in a deep guillotine choke. Krylov would tap and Cirkunov would celebrate with his home crowd.
After the fight, and into contract negotiations, UFC president Dana White would claim that the promotion was ‘done’ with Cirkunov, after alleging Cirkunov was ‘flaking out’ on a prior agreement.
Cooler heads would prevail, as Cirkunov would eventually sign a new six-fight deal with the UFC.