The UFC returns to Stockholm, Sweden this Memorial Day weekend. The card may not have a ton of big names casual fans recognize but it will have massive implications on the Light heavyweight division. A number one contender shot is on the line, and a the supposed next big thing in the light heavyweight division are the most interesting storylines for this card. Fans will have to get their fight fix in early on Saturday as the main card will start around 1pm eastern standard time. I’ll breakdown the best two fights on the card and offer some fight predictions and hopefully help your bank accounts. Let’s get to the fights:
Notable Main Card Fights:
Volkan Oezdemir (5th) vs Misha Cirkunov (7th) (Light Heavyweight 205lbs)
Preview: Typically the fifth ranked fighter in a division with only a single career loss is not a four to 1 underdog against a lower ranked fighter. However, the hype around Misha Cirkunov is real and that is where the higher ranked Volkan Oezdemir finds himself, as the underdog. Oezdemir is no slouch himself, a Swiss fighter whose amassed a 13-1 record MMA record in his career. Oezdemir does a great job mixing his and well-rounded skill set allowing him to achieve the 5th rank in the division. His only fight with the UFC was a split-decision victory over a very tough Ovince Saint Preux. However, the top 5 ranking is more of a product of how shallow the talent pool is in the Light heavyweight division than it is Oezdemir’s record which he amassed mostly outside of the UFC. The biggest question for Oezdemir is how good is his takedown defense; because his opponent Misha Cirkunov is a monster on the mat if the fight goes there. The reason Cirkunov is such a lofty favorite despite being the lower ranked fighter is he has done nothing but deccimate his opponents since joining the UFC. Cirkunov is riding a 4 fight win streak heading into the Oezdemir fight, and has finished every single opponent he’s faced in the UFC. The last three of which have come via submission. Cirkunov is explosive and just a nightmare for his opponents if they find themselves on the mat with him. Cirkunov looks poised for a shot at a top 3 fighter if he can get past Oezdemir but that is not just a foregone conclusion. Cirkunov like Oezdemir has not seen a ton of top-level talent since joining the UFC. In fact Oezdemir’s win against OSP, is far better than any of Cirkunov’s wins when it comes to the talent of their opponents. Cirkunov has done everything asked of him against inferior competition but he’ll see a step up in competition against Oezdemir. If Oezdemir can manage to stuff Cirkunov’s takedowns, this fight could get really interesting, as Oezdemir can absolutely game and can win if this fight stays standing.If Cirkunov is in fact the next big thing as he’s been billed, he should make easy work of Oezdemir on the ground after maybe an early hiccup or two.
Odds: Cirkunov (-455) vs Oezdemir (+355)
Prediction: Obviously the oddsmakers are enamored with Cirkunov as the UFC is, by making him such a huge favorite. He has all the of the skills to be a title contender but I’m always wary on taking guys with huge odds who have not seen top competition yet and are stepping up in class for the first time. If Cirkunov was more of a reasonable favorite say -200 or -250 I’d say you lay the juice or go with a win by submission style bet to get better odds. However, with such ridiculously high odds for a guy whose best win is against Nikita Krylov I’m wary of taking such a high price. Oezdemir may not be a title contender, but he certainly is not a bum either. A win over OSP is a legit win. I like that I’m getting near 4 to 1 odds to take good unproven fighter vs a fighter whom people think could be great but is equally as unproven against top talent. Take a small piece of Oezdemir and root for the Swiss to score an upset. I also like under 2.5 rounds as a hedge if Cirkunov somehow steam rolls him you get the free roll on Oezdemir.
(Oezdemir via TKO (+355)) / (Bonus Play: Under 2.5 rounds)
Light Heavyweight Title Shot Fight
Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson (1st) vs Glover Teixeira (2nd) (Light Heavyweight 205lbs)
Preview: In what amounts to a de-facto title shot fight between Alexander Gustafsson and Glover Teixeira; fans will get to see who the winner of Jon Jones vs Daniel Cormier II will get in their next fight. It is hard not to root for Alexander Gustafsson who a few may argue is the best fighter in the Light Heavyweight division. This could sound preposterous to a person who only knows Jon Jones or Daniel Cormier, or quickly points out that Gustafsson lost to now retired Rumble Johnson, but upon closer examination a case can get made for him that’s not crazy. To date he is the only man to actually pummel Jon Jones, and there are people who believe he absolutely was the first man to beat Jon Jones even if he did not win a razor close split decision against him. He destroyed Jimi Manuwa and then lost another controversial razor-thin split decision to Daniel Cormier. His loss to Rumble Johnson was bad but I think stylistically Rumble was a worse matchup for him than Cormier and Jones, which is crazy to consider that he matches up better with the best two fighters in the division. Gustafsson has a monstrous reach for a light heavyweight and typically towers over most of his opponents at 205lbs. He’s come so close on two occasions at beating the best in the world and if you listen to people who’ve fought or sparred him, they’ll say he’s incredibly difficult to figure out due to his well-rounded skill set. This is the task for Glover Teixeria, another fighter who has gotten close so many times only to lose against the best in the world. Glover knows this is likely his last chance to get a title shot as he approaches 38 years old. He will have to take a page from Rumble’s playbook and look to stop Gustafsson with his powerful strikes in front of Gustafsson’s home country. I do not think Teixeria will get any favors done for him in what amounts to fighting in a ‘road game’ style venue. Every kick, punch, takedown from Gustafsson will get wild cheers from his adoring fans in Sweden. Teixeria’s corner already knows this fight cannot go to the scorecards if he wants to win this fight. I’d expect Teixeria to try to tire out Gustafsson early in the bout with some grappling and maybe a takedown if he can figure out how to get the massive Swede to the mat. This is easier said than down however, as Gustafsson is incredibly strong and has one of the better takedown defenses in the Light Heavyweight division. Gustafsson has stuffed 86% of all takedowns in his career. Gustafsson’s gameplan is little easier to implement as he has a huge 3 inch reach advantage over Teixeria and can mix up his punches and kicks while controlling the center of the octagon. Gustafsson knows he can win a decision or via knockout if he adheres to his game plan and does not get reckless.
Odds: Gustafsson (-280) vs Teixeira (+240)
Prediction: The odds have dropped in recent days as some money has come in on Teixeria, and he is definitely a live dog against a man who has been knocked out previously in career. However, if Gustafsson is healthy and focused I do not see him losing in front of his hometown fans. He’s younger, stronger, bigger, and more talented than Teixeria. He knows he could finally get the rematch with Jon Jones or Daniel Cormier both of whom he thought he beat once before if he wins this fight. I think he buzzes Teixeria early in the 1st round during a scramble and either finishes him or starts to beat him up leading to a later stoppage in rounds 2 or 3. Root for the Swede and take him to win even at the -280 odds.
(Gustafsson via KO (-280))
Prediction Record since 2016 to Date (47-39-1) (+$135.50)
-Record & predictions based on Win vs Loss predictions only. Unless specified otherwise I use increments of $100 (for + odds predictions)& $110 (for – odds bets) as hypothetical wagers for each prediction.
-Predictions & Records are for entertainment value only