UFC 235 fight to watch: Cirkunov vs. Walker
There are times once or twice a year when we get treated to a card that is so stacked from top to bottom, that some cracking fights tend to go unnoticed.
This Saturday in Las Vegas is when exactly that kind of a card takes place and I am here to point your attention to a fight, that in my opinion could go under the radar but is most certainly a matchup that MMA fans should look out for. The light heavyweight bout between #14 ranked Misha Cirkunov (14-4) and #15 ranked Johnny Walker (16-3) is an exciting matchup that is hiding in the middle of the prelims and waiting to explode once both fighters enter the Octagon.
In addition to it being an intriguing matchup between a submission artist and a striker, this fight is also very much a momentum builder for both fighters as Walker tries to stamp down his arrival to the UFC and Cirkunov attempts to regain traction on his championship run after losing two out of his last three fights. Cirkunov was arguably very close to title contention after winning four fights in a row to begin his UFC career, but then tough back to back stoppage losses to Glover Teixeira and Volkan Oezdemir sent the Canadian back to the drawing board. On Saturday, he will step into the Octagon and try to claim his second consecutive win and reignite his run back up the light heavyweight rankings.
Cirkunov is (5-2) in the UFC, with four of his five wins coming via submission, labelling him as a submission specialist who is also a talented striker, as though his stand up is how he sets up many of his fight finishing positions. A perfect example of that is his most recent victory against Patrick Cummins, in which most of the work was done standing up before he locked in the arm triangle to bounce back from his losing slump.
The Brazilian prospect Johnny Walker has burst onto the scene straight out of Dana White’s Contender Series and wasted no time in making himself the fighter to watch in the light heavyweight division.
The 26-year-old is an unorthodox, energetic striker that gets people off their seats as soon as he steps into the Octagon. Since arriving in the UFC off the back of a decision win in DWCS, he is (2-0), winning both of his fights via first round knockouts, spending a total of 2 minutes and 12 seconds inside the Octagon and claiming two performance of the night bonuses. Not a bad start to say the least.
Walker, who will enter this fight on an eight-fight win streak, has also impressed with his bubbly personality and wit on the mic, looking exactly like the kind of marketable package that Dana White has a weakness for. A win against Cirkunov would be a huge statement for Walker that would likely push him straight into the top 10 of what has begun to look like a bit of a stagnant division.
Now, with the arrivals of the likes of Walker and fellow Brazilian Thiago Santos, the future of the 205-pound division looks brighter and Walker may not need many more wins before he is right up there in the light heavyweight rankings. Despite it being an affair that is taking place outside of the division’s top 10, a win here for either fighter could significantly shake up the division standings.
For Cirkunov, there is nothing that could bring more attention to his name than derailing a recently departed hype train. A win on Saturday will likely put him right back up there in the division and possibly set up some interesting rematches in and around the division’s top five. Cirkunov will arguably be the toughest test of Walker’s career. He is coming into this fight after having just fought less than a month ago and impressively winning inside 15 seconds. A win on Saturday, while still being fresh on people’s minds, would put him in a great position for another high-profile fight and potentially very close to a crack at the title.
However you may want to look at this fight, this matchup is a very intriguing one and a win in this fight would mean a great deal to either fighter. Both Cirkunov and Walker are finishers that go out there to put on a show and the fight could very well be over within the blink of an eye. A potential fight of the night contender that should be circled on everyone’s watchlists.
Sports journalist currently based in CA, USA.