Misha Cirkunov leapfrogged Nikita Krylov in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s light heavyweight pecking order.
The Xtreme Couture MMA representative submitted Krylov with a first-round guillotine choke in the featured UFC 206 “Holloway vs. Pettis” prelim on Saturday at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. Cirkunov (13-2, 4-0 UFC) finished it 4:38 into Round 1, pushing his current winning streak to eight bouts.
Krylov (21-5, 6-3 UFC) was effective with his kicks and traded takedowns with the Canada-based Latvian. After they restarted on their feet, Cirkunov countered a kick with a crushing left hook that sat down the Ukrainian and left him vulnerable to the choke. He then sat back on the guillotine and forced the tapout.
Aubin-Mercier Choke Submits Dober
“The Ultimate Fighter Nations” finalist Olivier Aubin-Mercier submitted Drew Dober with a rear-naked choke in the second round of their preliminary lightweight tilt. Dober (17-8, 3-4 UFC) conceded defeat 2:57 into Round 2, his two-fight winning streak at an end.
Aubin-Mercier (9-2, 5-2 UFC) outstruck the Elevation Fight Team export throughout a surprisingly one-sided first round, as he bloodied his nose with a stiff right jab and dazed him with an overhand left. Dober rebounded early in the middle stanza, as he floored the judo black belt with a clean left hook. However, he elected to engage Aubin-Mercier on the ground. The Tristar Gym standout swept into top position under threat of a kneebar, advanced to the back and set the stage for the choke. Aubin-Mercier snaked his arms in place, tightened his squeeze and forced the tapout for his fifth win in six outings.
Undefeated Pereira Stuns Letourneau
Viviane Pereira kept her perfect professional record intact and made a successful Octagon debut, as she eked out a split decision over American Top Team’s Valerie Letourneau in a three-round undercard encounter at 115 pounds. All three judges scored it 29-28: Eric Colon and Cardo Urso for Pereira, Greg Jackson for Letourneau.
Neither woman created sufficient separation in what was a forgettable 15-minute pairing. Letourneau (8-6, 3-3 UFC) punched into a takedown in the first round, briefly achieved full mount and applied her ground-and-pound. However, she lost her momentum in Round 2, where she conceded a late takedown to the Brazilian prospect and spent much of the final minute stuck on the bottom. The third round was competitive, though Pereira (12-0, 1-0 UFC) -- who replaced Poliana Botelho on short notice -- initiated the clinch and appeared to be the busier of the two.
Letourneau, 33, has lost three fights in a row.
Lopez Denies Returning Gagnon
Grudge Training Center rep Matthew Lopez survived a near-finish to take a unanimous decision from Mitch Gagnon in a preliminary bantamweight confrontation. All three cageside judges sided with the once-beaten Lopez (9-1, 1-1 UFC): 29-28, 29-28 and 29-27.
In his first appearance since Dec. 20, 2014, Gagnon (12-4, 4-3 UFC) saw his best chance come and go. The 32-year-old Canadian cut down Lopez with a counter left hook midway through the first round and swarmed with punches and elbows before advancing to the back. Gagnon’s efforts did not net the desired stoppage. Lopez escaped to his feet, cleared his head and trudged forward. He overwhelmed Gagnon over the next 10 minutes, utilizing takedowns, slick guard passes and the constant threat of the submission to turn the tide.
Gagnon has suffered back-to-back defeats for the first time in his career.
Vannata Wheel Kick KOs Makdessi
Jackson-Wink MMA prospect Lando Vannata knocked out John Makdessi with a sensational wheel kick in the first round of their undercard pairing at 155 pounds. Vannata (9-1, 1-1 UFC) brought it to a close 1:40 into Round 1, putting his name in the running for “Knockout of the Year.”
Makdessi (14-6, 7-6 UFC) engaged the 24-year-old on the feet, working behind a sneaky jab. However, Vannata closed the distance with two sidekicks to the thigh, forced the Canadian to move to his right and clipped him on the chin with his heel. Makdessi hit the canvas unconscious. No follow-up shots were necessary.
Surging Khabilov Subdues Saggo
Takedowns, positional dominance and occasional ground-and-pound spurred Rustam Khabilov to a unanimous decision against Jason Saggo in a preliminary lightweight clash. Khabilov (21-3, 7-2 UFC) swept the scorecards with identical 30-27 marks from the judges.
Saggo (12-3, 3-2 UFC) could not stay upright. Khabilov struck for takedowns in all three rounds, successfully navigated the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt’s guard and methodically seized control of the bout. The 30-year-old Dagestani grappler also landed the most meaningful strikes on the feet, including a second-round volley of knees and punches that forced Saggo to retreat.
Khabilov has rattled off four consecutive victories.
Ortiz Upends Slumping Makovsky
Dustin Ortiz threw the brakes on a two-fight losing streak, as he claimed a split decision over former Bellator MMA and Resurrection Fighting Alliance champion Zach Makovsky in a three-round undercard scrap at 125 pounds. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28, two of them siding with Ortiz.
Ortiz (16-6, 5-4 UFC) outstruck and outgrappled his seasoned counterpart. The 27-year-old Goshen, Indiana, native corralled Makovsky in the clinch, executed takedowns and proved superior in a majority of the scrambles. Ortiz did some of his best work in the second round, where he advanced to the back, secured position with a body triangle and chewed up valuable time. Makovsky (19-8, 3-4 UFC) had his moments but too few of them to earn the decision.