The light heavyweight division looks to have a resurgence in 2019 as yet another high-profile bout between ranked contenders will take place in the coming months. That, plus the UFC has released another fighter, and you can read my thoughts on all of the news below in today’s MMA odds and ends.
Ovince Saint-Preux vs. Misha Cirkunov, UFC 235
The UFC announced an intriguing light heavyweight bout between top-15 ranked contenders Ovince Saint-Preux and Misha Cirkunov will take place at UFC 235, going down March 2 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Saint-Preux (23-12) is 11-7 overall in the UFC and has settled into the role of gatekeeper in the light heavyweight division. OSP lost a clear decision to Dominick Reyes his last time out, but he submitted Tyson Pedro in impressive fashion his fight before that. He’s not far removed from a three-fight win streak that included a KO over Corey Anderson and Von Flue chokes against Yushin Okami and Marcos Rogerio de Lima, though that run may prove to be the high point of his MMA career. The Reyes fight was certainly a step backwards, though, as was a submission defeat to Ilir Latifi that preceeded the Pedro win. OSP is a very solid gatekeeper, but his days as a title contender appear to be over.
Cirkunov (14-4) is 5-2 in the UFC and in his last outing submitted Patrick Cummins. He was knocked out by Volkan Oezdemir and Glover Teixeira his two fights before that, but the win over Cummins put him back on track and reminded us all why the Latvian-Canadian was such an impressive prospect. Now that he’s living in Las Vegas, this will be a hometown fight of sorts for him. Although I am worried about Cirkunov’s chin letting him down again, I still think he has what it takes to beat OSP. I just find OSP such a frustrating fighter to predict how he’s going to perform, while I think Cirkunov is a bit more steady. I’d expect a competitive line, but with a slight lean towards the younger fighter in Cirkunov.
Craig White Cut, Signs With Cage Warriors
Former UFC welterweight Craig White has signed back with Cage Warriors, the promotion announced. Of course, this means the UFC recently cut him. White (14-9) had a rough go in the UFC after leaving Cage Warriors as one of its top welterweight contenders. He made his Octagon debut on very short notice and was finished by top-10 ranked Neil Magny, cutting upwards of 30lbs to make weight. The UFC gave him a favorable matchup against Diego Sanchez in his next fight, but it didn’t go his way. Despite entering that bout as a significant favorite, White was dominated by an aging Sanchez and it was the type of loss that made the UFC want to cut ties with White. However, he does have one saving grace here, and it’s that Cage Warriors is on Fight Pass this year. A couple of finishes for White and he could very well be signed back to the UFC, though he may fare better as a middleweight going forward. White’s opponent for his return to Cage Warriors hasn’t been announced yet, but he’ll fight at Cage Warriors 102, which like UFC 235 also takes place March.