After knockout loss at UFC Vegas 21, what’s next for Misha Cirkunov?

This past Saturday at UFC Vegas 21, we saw a matchup of top fifteen light heavyweights in the co-main event of the evening. Veteran, Misha Cirkunov (15-6), was taking on the rising contender, Ryan Spann (19-6).

Going into this matchup, I really liked Cirkunov’s chances. I figured we would see these two primarily exchange in a grappling affair. Considering the track record of both men, I figured we’d see the two wrestle early on in the fight.

However, both seemed content with standing early in the first. The one knock on Cirkunov is that he’s been finished a few times by strikes in the first round. He needed to get this fight into a grappling exchange early and he didn’t do that.

Spann was able to catch Cirkunov with a huge right hand that sat him down. Cirkunov was able to get up, however, he didn’t stay there for long. Spann followed up with some big shots to get the TKO victory at UFC Vegas 21.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 21?

This was a tough loss for Misha Cirkunov and a crucial one considering where he stands in the UFC. While Cirkunov remains in the top 15, he’s now just 2-4 in his last six fights inside the octagon.

It’s not just the four losses, but it’s four losses by first round knockout. That’s not a great look for a guy who was looked at as a potential UFC title challenger just a few years ago. In 2016, Cirkunov was 13-2 after defeating Nikita Krylov.

He looked like he was surging towards a title shot before hitting this rough patch. So what should the UFC do with him next? Personally, I think he should be matched up with the loser of the eventual matchup between Paul Craig (14-4-1) and Jamahal Hill (8-0, 1 NC).

Both of these guys rank just below Cirkunov in the UFC rankings. They were supposed to fight recently, however, Hill came down with COVID and the fight is being rescheduled. The winner should move up and the loser should take on Cirkunov next.

UFC booking Paul Craig – Jamahal Hill

The UFC is finalizing a fantastic matchup in the light heavyweight division. MMA Junkie was first to report that the promotion is booking a matchup between Paul Craig (14-4-1) and Jamahal Hill (8-0, 1 NC).

The matchup between the two top fifteen contenders is expected to take place on March 20th. Craig will enter the octagon looking to pick up his third straight victory in the UFC. He hasn’t tasted defeat in his last four fights.

During that span, Craig has gone 3-0-1 with the draw coming against Shogun Rua. Craig was able to get that fight back at UFC 255 when he forced Shogun to tap out due to strikes.

Paul Craig has only tasted defeat twice since 2018 and those losses came to Alonzo Menifield and Jimmy Crute. Craig has some impressive wins including a last second triangle choke over rising contender, Magomed Ankalaev.

Craig has some decent overall skills, but he’s really known for his grappling ability. His triangle chokes are sensational especially considering he’s a light heavyweight. Half of his professional wins have come via triangle choke.

UFC Light Heavyweight Battle

Standing across from Craig on March 20th is one of the more exciting prospects in the UFC‘s light heavyweight division. There are many people in the promotion that are excited about Sweet Dreams, Jamahal Hill.

Hill will come into the contest on March 20th riding a ton of momentum. He would be coming into this fight on a two-fight knockout streak, however his knockout win over Klidson Abreu was overturned to a No Contest due to a positive drug test for marijuana.

However, I’m wondering if that might change. The UFC just announced that they will no longer punish fighters for positive tests for marijuana finally. Nevertheless, it stands as a No Contest for now.

Hill took on Ovince St. Preux back in December and he completely destroyed him. He picked up the second round TKO and put the light heavyweight division on notice. Paul Craig will be another big test for Hill. Should Hill win this one, the UFC’s light heavyweight division has a new and shiny contender.

UFC: Is it time for Shogun Rua to hang it up?

Shogun Rua

This past weekend at UFC 255, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (27-12-1) took on Paul Craig (14-4-1) on the main card. The two men had previously fought about a year ago in a fight that resulted in a split draw.

The fight on Saturday night didn’t go according to plan for the former UFC light heavyweight champion. Rua couldn’t keep Craig off of him for the most part in the fight. Shogun said that he actually sustained an elbow injury after Craig’s first takedown.

He had moments in the first and second round whenever the two were striking. Shogun was able to land a couple of really good straight shots, but he wasn’t throwing any leg kicks which I though would be key for a victory at UFC 255.

Conventional wisdom would say that he wasn’t throwing leg kicks to avoid the takedowns. However, he still wasn’t able to avoid the takedowns from Craig. Shogun looked slow and withered in the second round of the fight.

Craig was able to land a big takedown and take Shogun’s back. It wasn’t long after that, that Shogun found himself flattened out. After Craig landed a few big shots, Shogun tapped out due to the strikes giving Craig the TKO victory.

UFC future for Shogun Rua

The former UFC light heavyweight champion is going to be turning 39 years old this week. He looked like a shell of his former self on Saturday night and Dana White said that he believes he should be done in the post-fight press conference. 

In Rua’s Instagram post where he detailed his elbow injury, he said that he would talk to his family about his future. The former UFC light heavyweight champion has accomplished so much in his historic career.

He’s one of a few men to have captured titles in Pride and in the UFC. However, he hasn’t been able to compete at the top level for a very long time. He’s stayed competitive, but it’s clear that his career is on life support.

If Shogun was to compete again, I would only want the UFC to give him a fight that he could actually win. I personally wish he would have walked away after the trilogy with Nogueira because there is truly nothing left for the legend to prove in this sport.

UFC 255 Preview: Shogun Rua – Paul Craig 2

Shogun Rua

Kicking off the main card of UFC 255 tomorrow is a rematch in the light heavyweight division. Former light heavyweight champion, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (27-11-1), will be taking on Paul Craig (13-4-1). The fight is a rematch from last November.

The two men previously fought to a split draw last year. Since then the former UFC light heavyweight champion, Rua, fought back on Fight Island when he concluded his trilogy with Antonio Rogero Nogueira.

Rua won that fight by split decision. The former champion is now 2-0-1 in his last three fights, however, he hasn’t looked incredibly impressive in those performances. Shogun will head into tomorrow night as the 14th ranked light heavyweight in the UFC.

Craig on the other hand will come into the fight 15th. Paul Craig is known for one that and that is submitting his opponents. Out of his 13 professional wins, only one of them hasn’t been a submission. Craig has only gone the distance once in his professional career and that was against Shogun.

UFC 255 Prediction

This is such an interesting fight to think about. Both men are inside the top 15 of the UFC‘s light heavyweight division, however, both are in vastly different career positions. Shogun is clearly on his way out the door in his fighting career.

Meanwhile, Craig is looking to take another step forward to getting to fight top ten competition. I think that we are going to learn a lot about this fight in the opening round tomorrow night.

If the former UFC light heavyweight champion can establish his leg kicks early and maintain good striking distance, he’s got a great chance. Craig is the bigger man, but his striking isn’t anything to write home about.

While Shogun is a black belt in Jiu Jitsu, Craig wants to get this fight to the mat. He should have a big advantage on the mat and we have seen Shogun submitted before. Shogun’s cardio concerned me in his last fight, but we’ve only seen Craig go the distance once.

I’m honestly not sure who will have the cardio advantage. When making a prediction, I think that Craig is going to be able to get this fight to the ground. I think his strength on the ground will prevail and he will get the win over the former UFC champion.

Prediction: Paul Craig by Submission (Arm-Triangle Choke) – Round 2

Shogun Rua – Paul Craig 2 targeted for UFC 255

Shogun Rua

Looks like UFC 255 is going to get a key rematch in the light heavyweight division. Per ESPN’s Ariel Helwani, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (27-11-1) will be taking on Paul Craig (13-4-1) in November.

At the time of their rematch, it would be almost a year to the date from when they previously met at UFC Fight Night 164. In their first fight, the two men fought to a split draw.

Key UFC light heavyweight rematch

Both of these men rank just inside the top 15 of the UFC‘s light heavyweight division. Craig comes in at 15th while Shogun comes in at 14th. A win for either man would likely get them a shot against someone in or close to the top ten.

Shogun is coming off of a split decision win over Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC Fight Island 3. The fight was the final chapter in the two Brazilians’ trilogy. Shogun won all three fights, but the final one was razor close.

The fight was back and forth with Shogun getting rocked a few times. Despite this, he was able to do enough to earn the decision victory on two of the judges scorecards. Shogun is definitely nearing the end of the line in his historic career.

Earlier that evening, Craig fought and defeated Gadzhimurad Antigulov. Craig was able to secure the win via his signature triangle choke. The win was Craig’s seventh career win by triangle choke.

Both men are in very interesting spots in their UFC careers. For Shogun, it appears he’s only a couple of fights away from retirement. I don’t see another title run in him despite the fact that he’s 5-1-1 over the last five years.

For Craig, he needs that signature name that’ll get him back on track. He was once 9-0, but has gone 4-4-1 in his last nine fights. A win over Shogun would be two in a row and would get him closer to the top ten in the division.