With losses in three of his previous four Octagon appearances, the hype had cooled considerably on Misha Cirkunov heading into UFC Fight Night 158.
The 32-year-old Latvian fighter earned a significant victory in Vancouver on Saturday, submitting highly-regarded Contender Series alum Jim Crute with a Peruvian necktie at the 3:38 mark of Round 1 in a featured light heavyweight tilt. The submission, which was just the second of its kind in UFC history, came just moments after Cirkunov appeared to be on his way to being stopped by a barrage of Crute ground-and-pound.
“Feels amazing to be back in the win column,” Cirkunov said. “I dedicated my entire summer for this moment, for all these fans, for UFC, I worked like a dog. From now on, every fight, every time I come to the UFC and I say I’m going to fight, I’m going to do the exact same thing. Please don’t give up on me, I know I have a bright future in UFC, I know it’s just a matter of time until I’m in the top 5. Remember I said that, that day will come.”
Cirkunov seemed to be well on his way to becoming a top light heavyweight contender when he began his promotional tenure with four consecutive finishes. However, Cirkunov’s star faded following KO/TKO losses against Volkan Oezdemir, Glover Teixeira and Johnny Walker. Things are looking up again for Cirkunov, who has won two of three and could easily make progress in what remains a shallow division.
“Taking out someone like Crute is proof to myself and UFC fans to not count me out,” Cirkunov said. “I know I’ve lost some fights quickly, but don’t count me out. I’m working very hard, it’s a rough business, but I know I’ll end up on top just like all of the other sports I’ve competed in. Just give me some time, I’ll be there.”