UFC on ESPN+ 60: Cirkunov vs Turman - Predictions - 2/26/22
Misha Cirkunov vs Wellington Turman
Misha Cirkunov (15-7) made his UFC debut back in 2015. The Latvian submission ace started his UFC career with 4 straight finishes via various methods of choke or KO. He was then finished brutally in 3 of his next 4. He generally either pulls off an impressive submission or gets caught with a shot that puts him out. That mantra was on full display with his peruvian necktie choke victory over Jimmy Crute and TKO loss to Ryan Spann in his most recent light heavyweight fights. The latter of which would prompt a drop to middleweight most recently where he would take on Krzysztof Jotko. Unfortunately for the Xtreme Couture fighter, he would drop a split decision. This would mark the first time in his UFC career where a fight saw the judges’ scorecards.
Wellington Turman (17-5) amassed an impressive 15-2 record on various Brazilian regional circuits before getting the call to the big show in 2019. His UFC tenure so far hasn’t been as successful as “The Prodigy” would alternate a debut loss and a sophomore win (both by decision) before getting brutally knocked out in his next two fights (Andrew Sandchez and Bruno Silva). He did manage to right the ship by giving Sam Alvey a 15 minute hug on the way to his second UFC victory last year.
Cirkunov will stand 3 inches taller and hold 5 inches of reach over the Brazilian. This fight is also contested at middleweight.
How They Match Up
I’m glad I researched Sam Alvey’s catalogue recently so the Turman fight is still fresh in my mind. If I had to watch that back again I’d be very sad. Turman’s game has always been to grind on you against the cage and then get you down where he can win rounds on top control. He has a black belt in BJJ so ideally he would like to get the submission when the fight hits the mat. He used to strike a little bit but after Andrew Sanchez knocked him out he really switched to being full court press takedowns. He only landed 1 strike against Bruno Silva on his next outing due to his dedication to grappling. He showed us that he has an active guard off of his back as well but sacrifices striking defense (which is how Silva sent him to the shadow realm). I can’t imagine sticking to Sam Alvey renewed his striking confidence so I expect more of the same against Cirkunov.
Cirkunov will hold a considerable athletic edge, even with being 9 years older than his opponent. But he also had that same edge over Jotko in his middleweight debut and he did absolutely nothing with it. Ended up with about a dozen takedown attempts stuffed (ufcstats gave him 5/17 but it really was only 1 successful attempt that led to a few quick repeated downs). He also got taken down himself at the end of the fight which was a bad look. In the striking realm, Cirkunov isn’t offering anything of note as he’s painfully slow even at the start of fights these days. It wasn't always this way, he used to be an absolute handful on the feet as evidenced by his Krylov and Cutelaba fights but suffering so many KO defeats seems to have sapped his confidence. His submission game however is where it’s at (also a BJJ black belt) as he has a wide range of chokes to pull from.
It pains me to say this but this is a very winnable fight for Turman. Both fighters’ shaky chins are probably safe since neither guy has much of a striking game so that will probably leave us with a terrible clinch game along the fence. That really should benefit Cirkunov with his Greco-Roman pedigree but he's been struggling to get that going lately. Sort of feels like a trap fight where Turman gets the better of him just based on youth despite Cirkunov being better on paper.
It’s also possible that both guys will have so much respect for their opponent’s submission game that it plays out as a kickboxing match and holy #$%^ that will also be bad. I'm hoping that surviving 3 rounds recently has restored a bit of Cirkunov's confidence but I know that's a stretch. Still, he has to feel good about Turman's lack of finishing prowess so I guess I'll side with Cirkunov here as I don't want to route for Turman in any way shape or form.