When we last left our heroes...What an unlikely pairing. This is probably a good matchup on paper, but as a clash of styles, probably an unpredictable one too.
If the two combatants have anything in common, it's that they've had to deal with expectations that are either lofty, or unjustified. Krylov is an interesting figure who is thankfully compared to Fedor in only the hidden, dark, membranous corners of the MMA netverse. Credit where credit is due though: his explanation for his nickname is the slickest and most concise you'll find in MMA.
Krylov is coming off a big win over Walt Harris at HW. What makes this bout interesting is that Krylov will be making his LHW debut, which will probably end up being better for his career. After all, he's not super fast or anything, so he didn't have any real dramatic advantages over the HW upper echelon. The product from YK Promotion boasts a 16-3 pro record.
For OSP, this fight will be about determining whether or not his career is a case of 'too much too soon' instead of 'too much, not enough'. He's a solid fighter with a diverse set of skills, but he hasn't had the opportunity to really gauge himself. In Strikeforce, instead of ascending anything close to a hierarchy he went from Joe Cason to Gegard Mousasi; exactly the kind of kentucky fried matchmaking that permeates the sport in general. Perhaps a consequence of promoters taking their cues from pro wrestling instead of actual sports?
Internal monologues aside, the Knoxville MMA protege will be looking to improve on his 14-5 record.
Here's our own Kid Nate, Dallas Winston and Connor Reubusch previewing this bout:
What both men can do: Although Krylov hasn't had a chance to show it in any of his UFC fights thus far, he's a capable submission fighter. His Sambo background is fairly minimal, but given his birthplace, we can safely assume he learned how to armbar before he learned how to mitosis.
Krylov has a diverse skillset though. His background in Kyokushin karate clearly served him well against Walt Harris. But he still has yet to face even middling competition. As a result, he's taken some unfair criticism from fans who still spend their social media time taking lunch money from M-1 proponents.
Until Harris, Krylov's opponents had a 20% winning percentage or something awful like that. But at 21, Krylov is still learning and capable of improving. He already does enough things well to compete in the UFC. Walt Harris is better than his fight with Krylov indicated, but Krylov executed a picture perfect kick that he delayed just long enough crack the side of Harris' head with.
OSP is similar to Krylov in that he's fairly dynamic. He's got heavy kicks from his southpaw stance, throws nice straight punches, and mixes it all up nicely with clean takedowns. He seems to have it all.
What both men can't do: The rub here is that OSP just isn't defensively sound. It's a byproduct of his aggressive approach. I hate using this example all the time, but it's strange to manage mount against Mousasi (who is an incredibly gifted grappler), yet never be able to set much offense up while being vulnerable to sweeps so easily. He simply tries to do too much.
Nonetheless, it's not a bad flaw, and that is certainly true of this bout. I've said it before and I'll say it again; for as good as Sambo is when it comes to MMA, Sambo practitioners tend to be defensively liable. Krylov is certainly that even if he's not a Sambo specialist. His head is kept relatively high when he's striking, and OSP will have the takedown available to him at all times if he's looking for it.
This is a very stiff test for Krylov; the kind I don't expect him to pass. OSP is simply the more dynamic fighter. He's also good in the grappling department, and could just as easily win via submission as on the feet.
X-Factor: Leg submissions should always be considered x-factors. They're high risk, high reward moves that fighters often don't expect, or don't train for. Krylov will go for them. Krylov only wins this fight if he's urgent, desperate, and creative.
In-Fight Soundtrack: Perhaps Krylov's obsession with Al Capone extends into his cinematic portrayals.
Prediction: Ovince St. Preux by TKO (mount), round 2.