Misha Cirkunov (11-2) went viral on February 6th after he took the back of a game Alex Nicholson and slid a forearm over his chin. The Latvian-born fighter clenched until an audible POP rung out, hastening the end of the contest. The sound of another man's jaw cracking under pressure provoked shudders in the MMA community, as well as shares in the form of Vines and Tweets.
UFC Seoul Video: Brutal Slam KO's Kim
The first fight of the night for UFC Seoul ended with a quite the knockout finish. After two rounds of fighting, Dominique Steele finished Dong Hyun Kim with a huge slam followed by nasty elbow from the top.
The submission victory earned Cirkunov his second straight stoppage win inside the UFC octagon, and sixth straight stoppage victory overall. Though listed by some as a neck crank, Cirkunov was eager to set the record straight.
"It's actually a choke," stated Cirkunov to Bloody Elbow. "A lot of people say it is a neck crank because of the outcome of the fight."
According to Cirkunov, had he been able to finish the move properly (without the action being stopped due to Nicholson's injury), many would have recognized that the hold he was using was a choke.
Cirkunov also set the record straight when asked if he knew that Nicholson was coming off of a recent jaw injury and whether he intentionally targeted the jaw. "No, not at all," said Cirkunov - emphatically.
Misha claimed he assumed Nicholson was healthy, due to the fact 'The Spartan' obviously passed his pre-fight medicals.
When asked if it felt uncomfortable to break his opponent's jaw, Cirkunov sighed, "It's... honestly, it's not something I look forward to doing."
"I don't like doing it," continued Cirkunov. "I don't like feeling it, because me, I'm the one who-- it's not like I just hear it, but I actually feel it, because once you do it, you kinda feel the vibration. It's not something I enjoy doing."
Though Cirkunov has great respect for his injured opponent's toughness, the Toronto-based fighter stops short of pitying his foe or feeling any regret for the incident.
"It is what it is," said Cirkunov. "It's a fight."
Cirkunov, a highly touted prospect, burst onto the UFC scene in 2015 with a KO win over Daniel Jolly at UFC Fight Night 74. The 28-year-old began his martial arts journey with karate and judo in his native Latvia. Cirkunov moved to Canada when he was twelve and soon after he began wrestling. Wrestling led Cirkunov to Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which in turn led to MMA.
Presently, Cirkunov is on the cusp of the UFC light heavyweight rankings. However, the current 205er is keeping a close watch on the middleweight division as well. Cirkunov claimed he can make 185 lbs easily and that he is considering all options.
Whichever weight-class he sticks with Cirkunov knows he is in the prime of his career and he is excited for the progress he believes he can make in 2016. As for who he fights next, Cirkunov is more than happy to have Joe Silva and the UFC brass decide that for him.
Cirkunov is aware that his stock is on the rise in the UFC and that some have labeled him 'one to watch' for the near future. He admitted that the attention is both good and bad, giving him confidence but also potentially adding unwanted pressure.
"You cannot look at those things," said Cirkunov, referring to any hype that may surround him. "You have to concentrate on your opponent and on his skills and what you're gonna do, everything else is kinda secondary."
Cirkunov is competing at a time where, more than ever, UFC fighters are being caught for the use of banned substances. Count Cirkunov as a fighter who is delighted to be competing in the USADA era.
"Oh my god," exclaimed Cirkunov when thinking about the heightened PED testing in the UFC. "It makes me very very happy."
"I've been seeing a lot of people get popped and I can't understand why people keep doing it," said Cirkunov. "You have to be crazy, I mean, why would you wanna cheat?"
Cirkunov, who calls fighting anywhere without USADA level testing dangerous, does not yet have another fight booked. The grappler - who claimed he is ready to surprise people with his striking - hopes to compete again this summer and possibly in Europe.
You can follow Misha Cirkunov on twitter @MishaC911