Latvian-Canadian UFC veteran Misha Cirkunov will be looking to snap his three-fight losing streak this weekend against Alonzo Menifield. The alumni of 12 UFC bouts made his name by first earning four straight victories to start off his promotional career, however at the pinnacle of the sport, losing to future or former title challengers like Volkan Oezdemir and Glover Texiera began a span of mixed results. After his last win against an always tough Jimmy Crute in 2019 and three losses to Wellington Turman, Krystof Jotko and Ryan Spann, Cirkunov returns with a vengeance this Saturday.
His opponent, Menifield is a former winner on Dana White’s Contender Series and has since earned himself a UFC record of 5-3, with his biggest win over the likes of Paul Craig and hard-fought losses to Devin Clark and Ovince St. Preux. He is currently coming off of 1-1 in his last two, a loss to William Knight before TKO’ing Askar Mozharov with elbows in the first round of their June fight. A win over Cirkov would be a massive victory against one of his most experienced opponents to date and put him on a winning streak.
Menifield will come in as the substantial favorite over the Canadian.
At this point in his career, Cirkunov is quite the UFC veteran. There is a bit of stiffness to his movements at times; however, when he is on his game he is technical and methodical. He fights in a relatively upright stance which does not allow him to burst great distances however a good right jab and a high left guard allows him to creep into range and drift backwards in order to counter. Often it’s his right hook that catches this counter but because he lacks some smoothness in his head movement he may eat the initial punch before landing his own, causing some trading blows. However, textbook logic would suggest that it’s a mistake if Cirkunov decides to test his striking against Menifield early and for long chunks of time, regardless of their match of technical skill, Cirkunov is a tremendous grappler and Menifield can KO anyone if he catches them clean.
Cirkunov’s wrestling game is very effective against aggressive fighters, as his reactive level changes work best when opponents come crashing towards him. He also chains his trips and throws from the clinch should the level change fail. On the mat, he sticks to his opponent like they’re swamped in mud, he will effectively tie them up with his body lock and ride them, anchoring mat returns until a submission opportunity presents itself. In general Cirkunov does not want wild exchanges in any area, he isn’t as explosive and quick as Menifield so he doesn’t want a high footwork striking scenario and on the mat he will avoid scrambles by establishing a position and riding very heavy control with patience.
Alonzo Menifield is a physical problem to solve for a lot of guys. His athleticism and power are natural advantages he holds over a lot of fighters. He favors a peek-a-boo style of weaving into the pocket with heavy shots, coupled with an ability to explosively burst in and out of range. One of the best things he does is follow up his strikes moving forward with a ready counter as he exits, which adds more danger to those looking to draw out and counter.
In terms of his grappling, Menifield’s best asset is his takedown defense, which depends largely on the same explosiveness shown in his striking. Menifield has a great textbook sprawl, and strong basics allow him to emphasize his speed and strength when avoiding the takedown and getting back to his feet. If Cirkunov is able to take him down, don’t expect triangles to be thrown up, we will likely see some entertaining wrestling scenarios if he can create some space.
On one hand, Cirkunov’s veteran IQ and technical wrestling style should match up well with an explosive fighter like Menifield, who has also gassed in the past. However, Cirkunov is in a very difficult place in his career, he is on a three-fight skid, at 35 years old, having sustained knockouts in half of his last eight fights.
In order to make the most of his skills in this matchup, he has to walk through a hurricane in Menifield who will likely have an answer to the first few takedown attempts and couldn’t be more dangerous in early exchanges. Ultimately, the smart bet is on Menifield in this clash of Light Heavyweights.
Pick: Alonzo Menifield to win (-220 favorite at BetUS)