Nikita Krylov vs. Ryan Spann staff picks & predictions | UFC Vegas 71 1

The UFC is back with another UFC Fight Night event as they gear up to bring us UFC Vegas 71. The event is set to take place on March 3, 2023, in Las Vegas.

Fans of the sport are in for a treat as the card features some exciting matchups, including the rescheduled light heavyweight bout between Nikita Krylov and Ryan Spann.

Krylov vs. Spann promises to be an explosive bout between two experienced fighters, and our staff writers have given their predictions on how the fight will go down.

Read on to find out what our experts have to say about this exciting matchup.

Betting Odds

Braeden Arbour

Spann vs. Krylov is a very difficult fight to call as both men are so dangerous everywhere that at every moment a finish can occur. Although both come out of the gate swinging, It will be more on Krylov to survive the storm in the opening round. Spann will have the pure power advantage and at his best is the sharper striker. With a good 1-2 and a check left hook without any wind-up, he has the ability to touch Krylov’s chin between the Ukrainian’s wider hooks and overhands. Furthermore, Krylov does tend to keep his head a bit high in the air early on, depending more on his ability to force his opponent to move back than a slick defensive game.

In these opening exchanges, Spann has his best chances of slipping and intercepting Krylov’s shots with short boxing combinations. If he has Krylov hurt, he has to be mindful of getting taken down with a desperation shot, but the opportunities to manage range and keep hurting Krylov are there, as is a potential guillotine, which Spann has become known for.

At face value, it would seem that Krylov’s best bet is to drag Spann into deeper waters. He himself has never gone five rounds either and over his career, first-round finishes vastly dominate his record, but his wrestling-heavy attack is built to drain explosive fighters like Spann. Spann has slowed down over three rounds in the past, and when he is tired, hurt, or over excited has abandoned his sharpness and swung a bit too wild. If Krylov and Spann exchange on the feet and Krylov can get Spann to give ground, that’s when the kicking game of Krylov can pay off as he almost always ends his combinations with nice high kicks as he is moving forward. For Krylov’s game to work over a longer fight it is imperative for him to get to work with pressure and pace early, which requires him to take risks but getting to the clinch and avoiding Spann at his freshest is much safer.

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On the ground, an exhausted Spann could give up his back as he tries to wrestle to his feet and that’s exactly where Krylov wants to be. By hunting for a back take he can avoid Spann working his way into his own single or double leg, and the guillotine threat. Spann is a good submission wrestler himself which means he can very much take care of himself facing his opponent even on the bottom, but it is notable that the two submission losses on his record come by rear-naked choke.

In terms of betting, I lean ever so slightly towards Krylov surviving enough to drag Spann to the mat. However, not by much, floating around -170 may be a bit steeper than he should be as a favorite, which makes Ryan Spann the more valuable wager.

At the end of the day, whoever you bet on, take them within the distance to maximize your return. The best odds available have Krylov winning inside the distance at +100, and Spann inside the distance at +177.

With such a chaotic matchup, where both fighters are such offensive fighters and have shown holes where they can be finished I think a strong bet would be for the fight to end in under 4.5 rounds at -355 or even under 3.5 rounds at -260.

Pick: Fight to end inside 3.5 rounds (-260)

Michael Pounders

Nikita “The Miner” Krylov is only 30 years old yet has nearly 40 professional mixed martial arts fights. Krylov has been fighting in the UFC since 2013; and, while his game has stayed largely the same, his approach in the cage has evolved slightly. Early in his career, Krylov was a head hunter early in fights. He looked to pressure forward, land with power and end the fight as quickly as possible. His first 15 fights all ended inside the distance, only one of which made it to the 3rd round. Meanwhile, 4 of his last 6 UFC fights have all gone to decision. Krylov still carries fight ending power but he approaches fights more cautiously and predatorily than the early part of his career. Krylov is at his best when he strings his deceptively fast combinations together with consistent takedowns and dirty boxing in the clinch. “The Miner” moves slowly in the cage, walks his opponents down by pawing out a jab and landing periodic kicks. His strikes are untelegraphed, linear, and very rarely use any wasted movement. As he backs his opponents back with consistent volume, Krylov will then drop levels and look to engage the clinch against the cage. This position sometimes gets him in trouble. While he is a strong wrestler, good dirty boxer, and can secure his own submissions, Krylov tends to find himself in vulnerable positions in the clinch. Stronger wrestlers are able to reverse his position and better grapplers are able to find an opening for a submission of their own. Krylov is a dangerous fighter but can sometimes put himself in a position that he can’t rally out of. In fights where he avoids those positions and can find the finish, he tends to win emphatically.

While Krylov tends to do his best to avoid a mistake, Spann is at his best when he can take advantage of his opponent’s mistakes. Spann is a massive light heavyweight with incredible athleticism, a left hand that can stop a truck, and a suffocating guillotine choke. However, Spann has a shaky chin, concerningly low volume, and poor cardio. Typically, Spann looks to lull opponents to sleep with his slow approach and low volume. He prefers fighters to move into his range where we can counter with a heavy left hand. Spann is often happy to stand near the cage because it forces opponents to walk to him and allows him to drive his hips back against the cage when an opponent shoots for takedowns. In the cases where opponents shoot for a takedown, Spann is offensive in his defense. He is less concerned about digging underhooks to keep the fight standing; instead, “Superman” looks to almost sit against the cage to try and create space between his opponent’s neck and his own hips. If he can create that space, Spann can slink his arm under the neck and secure his killer guillotine. Whether striking or grappling, Spann is highly skilled at finding the smallest opening for a finish. Spann struggles, though, when an opponent doesn’t make that key mistake. Spann tends to strike with low volume and can be out landed significantly against volume and technical strikers. Furthermore, Spann has questionable cardio and struggles in fights where he can’t find the finish early. Still, he is as dangerous as they come for as long as the fight lasts.

Spann typically needs an opponent to make a mistake and capitalize on it to find a win. He is incredibly athletic, powerful, and has a wicked guillotine; so, Spann is more than adept at making an opponent pay for even the smallest mistake. The thing is, while Krylov does tend to make mistakes, he’s difficult to finish. Krylov has only been knocked out once in his career, in his debut, despite facing prolific strikers. More concerningly is Krylov’s tendency to expose his neck when in the clinch. If he keeps his chin tucked and wrestles intelligently, it will be difficult for Spann to find a mistake to expose. Krylov is the better striker, the more durable fighter, has better cardio, and can win a fight without needing an opponent to make a mistake. My best bet is Krylov to win. I also like Krylov inside the distance (-110) and a small sprinkle on Spann by submission (+510) as a hedge.

Pick: Kyrlov to win (-170)

Joe Pounders

Nikita Krylov may well be the most seasoned, veteran-like fighter on the UFC roster who is below their fight-age prime. What I mean by this is that Krylov has had 17 UFC fights and was still in his 20s this time last year. I want to emphasize that having this many UFC fights is not only impressive but when you add the fact that he is still this young, is extremely unique to the point it is hard to conceptualize.

Knowing Krylov has a plethora of UFC experience, it comes to little surprise to know he is a very well-rounded fighter who has been in the rankings for quite some time. While he has failed to truly crack into top contention status thus far, his two most recent performances may well in fact be his most impressive as a UFC fighter, as such, Krylov is likely just now entering his fight prime from a skill perspective, which is quite scary given he in-octagon success seen far earlier in his career.

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In his most recent fight, Krylov blended his well-rounded skills with extreme confidence to look the best he has. Moreover, this newfound confidence also came with him looking the most athletic he has in recent memory, a trait which will be needed in this fight given his opponent is one of the most physically gifted fighters on the roster from an athletic standpoint. Luckily, for Krylov, is that he demonstrated an understanding of footwork, strikes off angles, and an understanding of distance in his last fight which makes him a very dangerous striker for most to deal with in the division. Accompany his technical and well-arsenal attack on the feet with above-average wrestling, and he is one of the most well-rounded fighters in the division. While indeed well-rounded, he will need to show the ability to handle extreme athleticism coming at him in this fight as well as legitimate power being thrown back his way. If can he handle this test the same way he did against the explosive Johnny Walker back in 2020, then Krylov will earn himself top-5 contention and then, look to show his well-rounded game against the other top well-rounded fighters on the roster – most of whom sit in the top 5, contending status.

Putting together the fight-tool chest into one package is something Ryan Spann has seemingly finally been able to do, as he too is looking by far and away the best he has ever looked in his last few fights. Standing 6’5 and having a very sturdy build, Spann presents many of the same dangers as the new champion, Jamahall Hill. Specifically, Spann does an impeccable job combining bursts of hyper-athletic movements with electrifying power that can put just about anyone to sleep. This combination is very critical for Spann given many of his opponents look to close the distance early, clinch against the cage, and drag him to the mat; but, because he can explode at a moment’s notice, his opponents are becoming a bit more tentative to blindly rush in given a flying knee or jumping guillotine may be the end result.

While somewhat of a one-trick pony with throwing big, powerful shots early in the fight, this “one-trick” has been lethal for Spann and has allowed the new champion of Hill to quickly climb the rankings and eventually win the belt. The major difference between Spann and Hill is the massive growth Hill has made in the grappling department, as he has shown great takedown defense and an ability to get back to his feet if taken to the mat. Spann, on the other hand, has indeed shown an ability to find a submission victory if presented to him early in grappling exchanges and has even shown a greater ability to use his tall frame to posture up and make it hard for him to get taken to the mat, he has not shown the same skills as Hill if truly put in a compromised grappling situation. Come this fight, I expect Krylov to test Spann’s grappling growth, and if taken to the mat, Spann will need to show the ability to not only get off from his back but also, an ability to maintain his explosive movements beyond the first 1-2 rounds of the fight.

Ryan Spann is one of those fighters who has an uncanny ability to find the finish early in the fight which makes him incredibly threatening to deal with. While the case, and while he has every chance of finding his third-straight first-round finish in this fight, I am backing Krylov here. Not only do I trust the experience of the 17-fight UFC veteran to avoid the main threat of Spann – his right hand – early, but also, trust his ability to open up his own offense and find an angle to safely shoot a takedown where he has the demonstrated grappling skills to get the fight to the mat. Once there, I anticipate Krylov will elect to smother Spann contrary to searching for the finish given the more pressure he can keep on Spann, the less threat he will be once the fight gets back standing. But, knowing the somewhat new approach to a striker being taken down is to do whatever is needed to get back up as quickly as possible, Spann may give up his back where Krylov will look to secure the submission win. Because of this, a method is challenging, as such, I will simply elect to back the Krylov ML here.

Pick: Nikita Krylov ML (-165 Draft Kings)

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