The UFC returns to Canada this Saturday for a 12 fight card that includes a very exciting main event match-up between Donald Cerrone and Justin Gaethje. The main card starts at 8 pm EST with the event taking place in Vancouver. I will be taking an in-depth look at three noteworthy fights on the card in this article before giving my prediction for each fight.
Main Event Lightweight Fight: (4) Donald Cerrone vs. (5) Justin Gaethje
Overview: This is a massive fight in the Lightweight division as the 4th and 5th ranked fighters face off in a fight to determine who gets closer to a title shot. Donald Cerrone is 2-1 since re-joining the Lightweight division in 2019 with victories over Alexander Hernandez and Al Iaquinta followed by a June loss to Tony Ferguson. Cowboy looked terrific in the Hernandez and Iaquinta fight as his striking was excellent and he really dominated on the feet in both occasions including a knockout victory over Hernandez. The Tony Ferguson fight wasn't a bad performance by Cerrone but he simply got outclassed by Ferguson who was so quick with his striking and he damaged Cerrone enough by the end of the second round for the refs to call the fight. This will be Cowboy's 50th professional fight and the 36 year old is hoping to get one last opportunity at the Lightweight belt. He is currently 0-4 in title fights between the WEC and UFC with his last title fight coming in 2015 against Rafael dos Anjos where the Brazilian was able to finish him early in the first round. Justin Gaethje is a tough path to a title fight for Cerrone as the 30 year old has won consecutive fights by first round knockout with victories over James Vick and Edson Barboza. The former WSOF Lightweight Champion has bounced back nicely after going 1-2 in his first three UFC fights with knockout losses to Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier.
Striking: The striking match-up will be interesting and I expect we see the majority of this fight taking place on the feet. Donald Cerrone is a fantastic kick boxer with a great new gym and training coach under Joe Schilling. What is great about Cowboy's striking is how technical he is with his shots and his head kick holds legitimate power but he has been caught a few times in fire fights. Justin Gaethje is a wild man with his striking as he continues to push forward until he connects with the big shot and the volume in his boxing can be overwhelming to his opponents.
Grappling: Donald Cerrone is a dangerous fighter on the ground with 17 victories by submission but he doesn't seem to use his grappling much unless his opponent initiates the takedown. Justin Gaethje is a former Division 1 All-American wrestler but he hasn't really utilized his wrestling at all and he hasn't been forced to fight a wrestler. I doubt Gaethje will want to take this fight to the ground with Cowboy's Jiu-Jitsu game.
Prediction: Cowboy has been finished five times by knockout in his career and Gaethje is a knockout artist in the Lightweight division with 17 of his 20 victories by knockout. The pressure that Gaethje will push on Cowboy might be too much to handle as Cerrone likes to dictate the action in striking like in the Iaquinta and Hernandez fight. Fighters that push the pace and really attack with high volume like Tony Ferguson, Jorge Masvidal, Nate Diaz and Darren Till have given Cowboy a problem in the past. Donald can hurt Gaethje though with a head kick as Justin is moving into boxing range but stylistically I think this fight favours Justin and my head is saying to pick him but I really want to see Cerrone win. I'm going with Donald getting the knockout in the 3rd round after a wild back and forth fight.
Donald Cerrone wins by 3rd round TKO
Co-Main Light Heavyweight Fight: (9) Glover Teixeira vs. (13) Nikita Krylov
Overview: Glover Teixeira continues to find ways to win fights as the 39 year old is now 2-0 in 2019 with consecutive submission victories including a performance of the night finish during his last fight against Ion Cutelaba. Glover has had some tough defeats in the last few years with knockout losses to Anthony Johnson and Alexander Gustafsson but he seems to have found new life over his past two fights. I was really impressed with his performance against Cutelaba as the 25 year old was coming off consecutive 1st round knockout victories and Glover really looked good against the young fighter. Nikita Krylov is a finisher with all 25 of his victories coming by knockout or submission including his last fight in April where he submitted Ovince Saint Preux in the 2nd round. Krylov fought with the UFC from 2013 until 2016 where he collected a 6-3 record before being released from the company in a massive surprise, considering he was on a five fight winning streak before his submission loss in 2016 against Misha Cirkunov. The Ukrainian fighter made the most of his time off as he fought with Fight Nights Global promotion where he accumulated a 4-0 record while winning the FNG Light Heavyweight title before the UFC elected to offer him a contract late in 2018. He is 1-1 since returning to the UFC with a submission loss to Jan Blachowicz and his recent victory over Saint Preux.
Striking: Glover Teixeira has power striking and he has never backed down from a fire fight but unfortunately that has cost him in the past. His striking can be fairly predictable and he doesn't ever throw in leg kicks or a lot of volume. Nikita Krylov is a vicious striker as he lands his strikes at a pace of 5.32 significant strikes per minute while mixing it up beautifully with his karate background. Three of his last four victories have come by knockout and Krylov has a 0.80 knockdown rate in his 11 UFC appearances.
Grappling: Glover Teixeira is one of the best grapplers in the Light Heavyweight division as the veteran fighter has competed international in submission wrestling and he tends to push takedowns during fights. Nikita Krylov is a strong grappler with 15 submission victories but his submission defence has been questionable with five of his six losses coming by submission while Glover has never lost by submission.
Prediction: Glover is on a hot streak and if he plays this fight smart he will force Krylov into a grappling match where Teixeira usually has the upper hand. My concern for Glover is that Nikita has serious knockout power and Krylov has been known to pull off some sneaky attacks while on the ground. I think Krylov makes a statement victory over Teixeira by becoming the first fighter to ever submit the 39 year old.
Nikita Krylov wins by 2nd round submission
Underrated Fight of the event: Misha Cirkunov vs. Jimmy Crute
Overview: This Light Heavyweight fight should be exciting as the 32 year old Misha Cirkunov looks to rebound following a rough 1st round knockout in March as he takes on 23 year old Australian prospect Jimmy Crute on Saturday. This is almost a must win fight for Cirkunov who is 1-3 in his last four fights with all three losses coming by 1st round knockout. Misha excited a lot of fans when he first joined the UFC with four consecutive stoppage victories including an impressive first round submission win over Nikita Krylov. Since 2017 he has faced some tough times with knockout losses to Volkan Oezdemir, Glover Teixeira and Johnny Walker. His only victory during the past three years was his 2018 fight against Patrick Cummins where he won by 1st round submission and he became the first person to submit the 38 year old. Misha Cirkunov is an exciting grappler but he takes a lot of risks attempting to get the fight to the ground and as a result he hasn't went the distance in any of his UFC fights. Jim Crute is a guy that I have been waiting to watch again in the Octagon following his victory in February over Sam Alvey as the 23 year old is now 2-0 in the UFC with consecutive stoppage wins. He likes his chances against a submission specialist fighter as his first UFC victory was a submission victory against Paul Craig. I think Misha Cirkunov is a better grappler than Craig but Paul has 10 of his 11 victories coming by submission and Jimmy Crute is the only fighter to win against Craig by submission.
Striking: Misha Cirkunov hasn't really gained the respect of his opponents with his striking and like many other fighters that depend on their grappling, he just tries to use his striking to set up takedowns. Jim Crute has solid power in his striking as seen in his last fight against Sam Alvey and Crute definitely believes he has the advantage in this match-up.
Grappling: This is the world where Cirkunov always seems to find success and his submission grappling is legit with a gold medal in 2010 for the North American Championships. Jimmy Crute is a really good grappler and he trains out of a Jiu-Jitsu gym but he doesn't hold the advantage when facing a guy like Cirkunov.
Prediction: I really want to see Jimmy Crute find a way to win this fight but his one knockout victory over Sam Alvey doesn't give me enough confidence in his striking against Cirkunov. I think Misha takes this fight to the ground in the 1st round before submitting Crute.
Misha Cirkunov wins by 1st round submission