Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight finishers Nikita Krylov and Ovince Saint Preux will battle once more this Saturday (April 13, 2019) at UFC 236 from State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.
It’s actually rather easy to forget the 2014 bout between these two Light Heavyweights ever happened. Krylov was looked at as something of a joke at the time, not yet showing his potential as he fell directly into a Von Flue choke. And while a finish via Von Flue is normally quite memorable, Saint Preux lands the rare submission with such incredible consistency that there are arguments to rename the choke after him.
Five years later, both men are at an interesting point in their careers. Krylov returned to the Octagon last year with a ton of momentum following a brutal run on the Russian scene, but he seemed to mentally fold when his opponent outlasted his flurry and gave up an easy choke. Saint Preux, on the other hand, entered 2018 on a win streak but ultimately ended up losing two of three and taking a lot of damage in the process.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Emanuel Newton (Fight Nights Global 77), Fabio Maldonado (Fight Nights Global 87), Walt Harris (UFC on FOX 10), Marcos Rogerio de Lima (UFC Fight Night 69)
Key Losses: Jan Blachowicz (UFC Fight Night 136), Misha Cirkunov (UFC 206), Ovince Saint Preux (UFC 171)
Keys to Victory: Krylov is a whirlwind of violence. “Miner” tends to charge at opponents with wild flurries of power kicks and hard punches. He may be a wild man, but Krylov can maintain his offensive assault for an impressively long time, and the Ukrainian athlete has some sneaky submission skills too.
There are a couple keys to victory for Krylov in this match up, and the main one seems to be mental. Krylov is completely comfortable eating heavy punches in a wild exchange — he’s happy in any type of chaos. However, when an opponent like Blachowicz forces Krylov into a more measured fight — putting him on his back helps — Krylov falls apart.
Saint Preux is not a measured technician like Blachowicz, but he does have the physical strength and technique to wrestle a bit. If grounded early, Krylov has to maintain his composure and stay smart, lest he fall into another Von Flue choke.
On the more technical side of things, Krylov has to set up his kicks a bit better. Whipping out hard high kicks with not setup is somewhat excusable: a powerful head kick is generally difficult to counter with a takedown. Running forward into obvious body or low kicks, however, produces an easy takedown for Saint Preux that could let him off the hook if Krylov is landing well.
Ovince Saint Preux
Key Wins: Mauricio Rua (UFC Fight Night 56), Corey Anderson (UFC 217), Tyson Pedro (UFC Fight Night 132), Patrick Cummins (UFC on FOX 15)
Key Losses: Ilir Latifi (UFC on FOX 28), Jimi Manuwa (UFC 204), Volkan Oezdemir (UFC Fight Night 104), Glover Teixeira (UFC Fight Night 73)
Keys to Victory: Saint Preux is a unique fighter, a bizarre mix of top-notch athleticism and some incredible powerful individual techniques without an overall game that makes a ton of sense. For years, “OSP” was known for his durability as well, but that attribute seems to be failing him a bit now, as Saint Preux has been dropped in each of his last three fights.
Scoring a takedown is the very obvious goal of Saint Preux here. He could exchange wild power shots with Krylov and potentially win, sure, but Krylov hits just as hard and is nearly 10 years younger. There’s no reason to take the risk when Saint Preux has such a major advantage from top position.
Saint Preux has to be wary of shooting for a conventional takedown — Krylov is underrated himself at snatching necks and defending takedowns — but a caught kick is an easy avenue to top position. Once there, Saint Preux’s strength and experience should prove suffocating and frustrating for “Miner.”
Historically, that’s when a submission opportunity opens up.
Bottom Line: Krylov is never in a boring fight, and Saint Preux has some extraordinary wins and losses on his record.
This is largely a gatekeeper vs. prospect fight. Saint Preux has certainly settled into the gate-keeping role firmly. Look at his last two fights: Dominick Reyes proved ready for the Top 10, whereas Tyson Pedro showed his potential but made some mistakes because of inexperience. “OSP” did his job perfectly against both and should probably continue to expect fights with younger Light Heavyweights in the future.
Meanwhile, it’s a second chance for Krylov to introduce himself to the rankings. Since it’s a rematch, this fight is also a great chance for Krylov to demonstrate his improvement. Perhaps more than anything else, the match up tests Krylov’s ability to remain composed. The Ukrainian has plenty of talent, but he’ll have to avoid any major mistakes to earn the win over a tough, opportunistic veteran in “OSP.”
At UFC 236, Nikita Krylov and Ovince Saint Preux will open the main card. Which man will have his hand raised?