UFC on ESPN+ 16: Cowboy vs. Gaethje is almost upon us and with a surprisingly rich card from top to bottom; there are many exciting bouts that could be profiled. With four Canucks featured in the promotion’s return to Vancouver, let’s have a look into what each fighter has to offer and how they slot on the card.
Kyle Prepolec (12-6) – Windsor, Ontario
The first Canadian competing on Saturday’s card will be Windsor’s Kyle “Killshot” Prepolec who’s looking for his first UFC win in his second contest with the promotion. With a career that began in 2008, Prepolec was able to carve out a respectable regional career with losses to future UFC talent Kevin Lee and Alessandro Ricci, all while picking up 10 finish wins (seven KO/TKO, three SUB).
While his short notice promotional debut in May against then 10-fight UFC vet Nordine Taleb didn’t produce a win, Prepolec will look to rebound against Elevation Fight Team’s Austin Hubbard (10-3) kicking off the card’s prelim portion. Hubbard’s path to the UFC, oddly similar to Prepolec’s, saw the former LFA lightweight champ drop a decision to then four-fight UFC vet Davi Ramos (10-3) in a short notice spot this May.
Brad Katona (8-1) – Winnipeg, Manitoba
Winnipeg’s “Superman” joined the promotion following a tremendous nine-fight win streak (three amateur, six pro), punching his ticket to an appearance on The Ultimate Fighter 27. In the first episode of the season, and with first pick in round six, captain Daniel Cormier chose Katona who would go on to earn wins over Kyler Phillips and Bryce Mitchell before defeating Jay Cucciniello in the featherweight division finals.
Katona will be looking to rebound from his first career loss in the fourth prelim on the card, after dropping a one-sided decision to Merab Dvalishvili (9-4) at UFC Ottawa in May. The SBG product has drawn a highly touted UFC debutant in Hunter Azure (7-0) on Saturday; with Azure’s last win a blowout, contract earning decision over Chris Ocon which saw Azure out-strike his opponent 91-32 in total as well as landing 4/11 takedown attempts.
Cole Smith (7-0) – Squamish, British Columbia
Hometown hero Cole Smith is set to make the walk to the Octagon in the second to last fight before the night’s main card in just his second promotional appearance. Representing ‘The Sound Martial Arts’ in Squamish, Smith is looking to continue to build on a three-year unbeaten run that’s included four first round finishes. In his UFC debut in May, Ottawa fans were able to witness a masterclass with Smith pushing the pace against long-time UFC-vet Mitch Gagnon (12-5), hitting 2/4 takedowns and striking at a 43% clip.
Surprisingly enough Smith’s been paired with fellow unbeaten bantamweight prospect Miles Johns (9-0), making his promotional debut, who earned his contract with a decision win over Richie Santiago on week two of this past season of Dana White’s Contender Series. Johns, a -1000 favourite pre-fight, was able to land an incredible 119/178 total strikes and 3/4 takedowns with 11:21 of top control.
Misha Cirkunov (14-5) – Toronto, Ontario
The lone Canadian participant on the night’s main card, Misha Cirkunov is looking to right the ship once more in Vancouver. Beginning his promotional tenure on a four-fight finish streak of Daniel Jolly, Alex Nicholson, Ion Cutelaba and Nikita Krylov, Cirkunov has stalled of late going 1-3 in the past two years with losses to Volkan Oezdemir, Glover Teixeira and Johnny Walker and all via first round KO/TKO. Cirkunov’s 4:08 average fight time puts him in second place among active UFC light heavyweights, behind only Marcos Rogerio de Lima (3:18).
Cirkunov pairs with unbeaten Australian Jimmy Crute (11-0) on Saturday, with Crute having finished his last three opponents going back to last summer’s DWCS. Albeit a short sample size for Crute, the striking metrics between the two, via UFCStats, run parallel, however; Cirkunov has a distinct wrestling prowess that shows in his 4.45 takedown attempts per 15 minutes when compared to Crute’s 0.68.
UFC on ESPN+ 16: Cowboy vs. Gaethje can be found on TSN 4 in Canada, Sept. 14 with the prelims beginning at 6 pm EST and main card slated for 9 pm EST. For event predictions and previews, be sure to check out Fight Night Picks on YouTube!