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Nikita Krylov remains a flawed but intriguing talent for the Ultimate Fighting Championship in a post-Jon Jones light heavyweight division.
The offensive-minded Ukrainian will step into the Octagon for the first time in nearly a year when he meets Magomed Ankalaev in the UFC Fight Night 186 co-main event on Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Still just 28 years of age, Krylov has won 11 of his past 14 bouts—a stretch that includes victories over “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 3 finalist Ed Herman and former Bellator MMA champion Emanuel Newton. Krylov carries a 96% finish rate, with 11 knockouts and 15 submissions spread out across his 27 career wins.
As Krylov irons out the final details ahead of his showdown with Ankalaev, a look at some of the rivalries upon which he has built his reputation:
Cirkunov briefly leapfrogged Krylov in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s light heavyweight pecking order when he submitted “The Miner” with a guillotine choke in the first round of their featured UFC 206 prelim on Dec. 10, 2016 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. Krylov conceded defeat 4:38 into Round 1. Up until the finish, he was effective with his kicks and traded takedowns with Cirkunov. After a restart, the Xtreme Couture rep countered a kick with a crushing left hook that sat down Krylov and left him vulnerable to the choke. Cirkunov then sat back on the guillotine and forced the tapout.
Blachowicz continued his climb at 205 pounds when he submitted the returning Krylov with an arm-triangle choke in the second round of their UFC Fight Night 136 co-headliner on Sept. 15, 2018 at Olimpiysky Arena in Moscow. Nearing a state of unconsciousness, Krylov bowed out 2:41 into Round 2. Blachowicz conceded a takedown in the first round but escaped an ill-advised guillotine attempt from the former Fight Nights Global champion, moved into top position and used stifling positional control to turn the tide in his favor. He countered an ankle lock from Krylov in the second round, advanced to side control and caught the fight-ending choke when “The Miner” exposed his back. Krylov went back to the drawing board following his first UFC appearance in almost two years. Blachowicz went on to become UFC light heavyweight champion.
Patience paid, as Krylov dispatched “OSP” with a rear-naked choke in the second round of their UFC 236 rematch on April 13, 2019 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. The Ukrainian brought it to a close 2:30 into Round 2, avenging a 2014 defeat to St. Preux in which he was rendered unconscious by a Von Flue shoulder choke. Krylov withstood a takedown-centered assault from the Knoxville MMA rep in the first round, where he maintained his composure despite being mounted at one point. St. Preux’s efforts were effective but compromised his cardio, and at the start of middle stanza, Krylov was clearly the fresher man. He stuffed a St. Preux takedown, answered with one of his own and climbed to mount, forcing the former University of Tennessee linebacker to surrender his back. Krylov threaded his hooks, softened his counterpart with elbows to the side of the head and cinched the fight-ending choke.
They were thought to be on parallel tracks, until Krylov proved otherwise. “The Miner” rebounded from a contentious defeat to Glover Teixeira six months earlier and improved to 8-5 inside the Octagon, as he laid claim to a unanimous verdict over Walker in their UFC Fight Night 170 light heavyweight showcase on March 14, 2020 at Nilson Nelson Gymnasium in Brasilia, Brazil. All three judges sided with Krylov: 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28. He executed three takedowns in the first two rounds, then outstruck the hard-charging Walker by a 50-21 margin the third to win on points for the first time in his 34-fight career.
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