VANCOUVER – UFC light heavyweight Jim Crute said he’s never taken more than one week off from training in the three years he’s been a pro MMA fighter. So when he didn’t immediately get his third UFC booking, he didn’t quite know what to do with himself.
“I was like, ‘Ah, this is so boring,’” Crute told MMA Junkie before a pivotal fight against Misha Cirkunov at UFC on ESPN+ 16, which takes place Saturday at Rogers Center. “It was like, put me in.”
To be clear, the Aussie native had asked for time off after his previous bout. Apparently, he didn’t know what he was getting himself into.
After lolling about for a while, Crute eventually discovered it wasn’t such a bad move after all.
“I just feel like I’m a different fighter than I was in February,” said Crute, who turned heads – including UFC President Dana White – by knocking out Sam Alvey in his second octagon outing in February.
For a guy who considered himself “a punching bag that punches back,” taking time off meant he could work on fight strategy. It meant working on technique, and healing from injuries. And it meant some well-deserved rest and relaxation in tropical Bali.
“I got really fat, which was nice,” he said. “I got to eat all the food and drink all the beer. It was hard coming back. But as soon as I hit my stride, I took off.”
Crute said he used his time to take his game to the next level. And when the UFC eventually came calling, he didn’t have to miss out on his other request: a ranked opponent.
Cirkunov, 32, currently resides in the promotion’s top-15, and Crute aims to crack the top-10 this year. He figures a win over the hyped Russian is enough to bring him marquee opponents. He stops short of a bout against the winner of Johnny Walker vs. Corey Anderson, but somewhere in that neighborhood.
At 23, Crute has more than enough time to go around. Maybe even time for a few more vacations.
“Johny Walker’s in his prime,” he said. “I’m still four years off my prime.”
The UFC makes its return to Canada on Saturday with UFC on ESPN+ 16, which takes place at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, with a card that streams entirely on ESPN+.
A massive matchup between lightweight contenders headlines the card. Fan favorites Donald Cerrone (36-12 MMA, 23-9 UFC) and Justin Gaethje (20-2 MMA, 3-2 UFC) are set to clash in a fight that will move the winner one step closer to challenging for 155-pound gold.
For more on the numbers behind the UFC’s return to Vancouver after more than three years, check below for 75 post-event facts to come out of UFC on ESPN+ 16.
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Cerrone has fought on Spike, Versus, FUEL TV, pay-per-view, FOX, FS1, UFC Fight Pass, ESPN and ESPN+ during his UFC tenure.
Cerrone competes in his 33rd UFC bout, tied with Jim Miller for the most appearances in company history.
Cerrone makes his 43rd UFC/WEC appearance, the most in combined organizational history.
Cerrone’s 43 appearances in UFC/WEC/PRIDE/Strikeforce competition are most in combined organizational history.
Cerrone’s 22 appearances since 2014 in UFC competition are most in the company.
Cerrone becomes the first fighter to make four UFC appearances in 2019.
Cerrone’s 23 victories in UFC competition are most in company history.
Cerrone’s 29 victories in UFC/WEC/PRIDE/Strikeforce competition are most in combined organization history.
Cerrone’s 17 victories in UFC lightweight competition are second most in divisional history behind Miller (19).
Cerrone is 2-1 since he returned to the UFC lightweight division in January.
Cerrone’s 16 stoppage victories in UFC competition are most in company history.
Cerrone’s 20 stoppage victories in UFC/WEC competition are the most in combined organizational history.
Cerrone’s 20 stoppage victories in UFC/WEC/PRIDE/Strikeforce competition are tied with Wanderlei Silva for second most in combined organizational history behind Mirko Filipovic (21).
Cerrone’s 10 stoppage victories in UFC lightweight competition are third most in divisional history behind Joe Lauzon (12) and Miller (12).
Cerrone’s seven knockout victories stemming from kicks in UFC competition are the most in company history. No one else has more than four.
Cerrone’s eight submission victories in UFC/WEC lightweight competition are tied for third most in combined divisional history behind Nate Diaz (nine) and Miller (nine).
Cerrone’s 20 knockdowns landed in UFC competition are most in company history.
Cerrone has landed 377 leg kicks in UFC competition, the second most in company history behind Thiago Alves (380).
Cerrone defends 90 percent of all opponent takedown attempts in UFC lightweight competition, the best rate among active fighters in the weight class and second highest in divisional history behind Gleison Tibau (92 percent).
Cerrone’s 23 fight-night bonuses in UFC/WEC bouts are the most in combined organizational history.
Cerrone’s 18 fight-night bonuses in UFC bouts are most in company history.
Gaethje is a former WSOF lightweight champion.
Gaethje had earned 18 of his 20 career victories by stoppage, including 17 knockouts.
Gaethje is the only fighter in UFC history to land 100 or more significant strikes in each of his first three UFC fights.
Gaethje lands 8.5 significant strikes per minute in UFC competition, the highest rate in company history.
Gaethje lands 2.9 leg kicks per minute in UFC competition, the highest rate in company history.
Gaethje lands 54.7 percent of significant strike attempts in UFC lightweight competition, the best rate in divisional history.
Gaethje is the only fighter in UFC history to win at least one fight-night bonus in each of his first five octagon appearances.
Gaethje has been awarded six fight-night bonuses in five UFC appearances.
Gaethje’s six UFC fight-night bonuses since 2017 are most of any fighter in the company.
Glover Teixeira’s (29-7 MMA, 12-5 UFC) 10 stoppage victories since 2012 in UFC light heavyweight competition are most among active fighters in the weight class.
Teixeira’s 10 stoppage victories in UFC light-heavyweight competition are tied with Jon Jones for most in divisional history.
Teixeira’s five submission victories in UFC light-heavyweight competition are tied with Jones for most in divisional history.
Teixeira has landed 86.3 percent of his significant strikes in UFC light-heavyweight competition to his opponent’s head, the largest proportion in divisional history.
Nikita Krylov (25-6 MMA, 7-4 UFC) is 1-1 since he returned to the UFC for a second stint in September 2018.
Krylov is 10-3 since he dropped to the light heavyweight division in March 2014.
Krylov has earned all of his 25 career victories by stoppage. He’s finished 20 of those wins in Round 1.
Krylov’s four submission victories in UFC light heavyweight competition are tied for third most in divisional history behind Jones (five) and Teixeira (five).
Krylov’s 25-second knockout at UFC on FOX 10 marked the fastest finish stemming from a head kick in UFC history.
Krylov lands 5.5 significant strikes per minute in UFC light heavyweight competition, the highest rate in divisional history.
Remaining main card
Todd Duffee (9-3 MMA, 3-3 UFC) returns to competition for the first time since July 2015. He has competed just twice since December 2012.
Duffee’s average fight time of 3:18 in UFC heavyweight competition is shortest in divisional history.
Duffee has earned all nine of his career victories by knockout. His three UFC wins have come in a total fight time of just two minutes and 44 seconds.
Duffee’s seven-second knockout of Tim Hague at UFC 102 stands as the fastest knockout in heavyweight history and is tied for the fourth fastest knockout overall in UFC history.
Duffee is one of four fighters in UFC heavyweight history to earn two knockouts in less than a minute each. Roy Nelson, Matt Mitrione and Stipe Miocic also accomplished the feat.
Duffee has defended 90 percent of all opponent takedown attempts in UFC heavyweight competition.
Antonio Carlos Junior (10-3 MMA, 7-3 UFC) is 6-2 (with one no contest) since he dropped to the UFC middleweight division in June 2015.
Carlos Junior’s five submission victories in UFC middleweight competition are tied with Thales Leites, Rousimar Palhares and Demian Maia for most in divisional history.
Carlos Junior’s five rear-naked choke wins in UFC competition are tied for third most in divisional history behind Maia (eight) and Kenny Florian (seven).
Carlos Junior absorbs just 1.66 significant strikes per minute in UFC middleweight competition, the best rate among active fighters in the weight class.
Uriah Hall (14-9 MMA, 7-7 UFC) has earned 12 of his 14 career victories by stoppage. That includes six of his seven UFC wins.
Hall is one of three fighters in UFC history to earn a knockout stemming from a spinning back kick to the head. Renan Barao and Magomed Mustafaev also accomplished the feat.
Misha Cirkunov (14-4 MMA, 5-2 UFC) is 1-3 in his past four fights dating back to May 2017.
Cirkunov’s average fight time of 4:13 in UFC light heavyweight competition is shortest among active fighters in the weight class.
Cirkunov has earned 12 of his 14 career victories by stoppage. That includes all five of his UFC wins.
Cirkunov’s four submission victories in UFC light heavyweight competition are tied for third most in divisional history behind Jones (five) and Teixeira (five).
Jim Crute’s (10-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC) victory at the 4:51 mark of Round 3 at UFC Fight Night 142 is the second latest finish in a three-round UFC light heavyweight fight behind Paul Craig over Magomed Ankalaev at 4:59 of Round 3 at UFC Fight Night 127.
Marcin Tybura (17-5 MMA, 4-4 UFC) fell to 1-3 in his past four fights dating back to June 2017.
Tybura defends 81.5 percent of all opponent takedown attempts in UFC heavyweight competition, tied with Alexander Volkov for the best rate in divisional history.
Andrew Sanchez (11-4 MMA, 4-2 UFC) has earned all four of his UFC victories by decision.
Sanchez lands 5.41 significant strikes per minute in UFC middleweight competition, the second best rate in divisional history behind Paulo Costa (8.43).
Sanchez and Ryan Janes combined for 255 significant strikes landed at The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale, the second most in a UFC middleweight bout behind Deron Winn vs. Eric Spicely (277) at UFC on ESPN+ 12.
Marvin Vettori (13-4 MMA, 3-2-1 UFC) defends 63.5 percent of all opponent significant strike attempts in UFC middleweight competition, the second highest rate among active fighters in the weight class behind Israel Adesanya (65.7 percent).
Brad Katona (8-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC) is the only Canadian to win a domestic version of “The Ultimate Fighter.”
Chas Skelly’s (17-4 MMA, 6-4 UFC) two UFC victories in a 14-day stretch between UFC Fight Night 49 and UFC Fight Night 50 stand as the shortest period between wins in modern UFC history.
Skelly’s four submission victories in UFC featherweight competition are second most in divisional history behind Charles Oliveira (six).
Skelly’s 19-second submission of Maximo Blanco at UFC Fight Night 94 stands as the fastest submission finish in UFC/WEC featherweight history.
Skelly’s 19-second submission of Blanco stands as the eighth fastest submission finish in UFC history.
Skelly’s 19-second submission of Blanco stands as the fastest technical submission finish in UFC history.
Skelly attempted seven submissions against Sean Soriano at UFC Fight Night 50, the most in a UFC featherweight bout.
Louis Smolka (15-6 MMA, 6-6 UFC) is 1-1 since he returned to the UFC for a second stint in November.
Smolka is 1-1 since he moved up to the UFC bantamweight division in November.
Smolka’s 18 submission attempts in UFC flyweight competition are most in divisional history.
Smolka’s seven submission attempts against Ben Nguyen at UFC Fight Night 91 stand as the single-fight record for a UFC flyweight bout.
We want your predictions for Saturday’s UFC on ESPN+ 16 event in Vancouver.
Our staff picks feature includes the consensus picks from MMA Junkie readers. Simply cast your vote for each bout below, and we’ll use the official tallies that are registered by Thursday at noon ET (9 a.m. PT).
Those MMA Junkie reader consensus picks will be part of the UFC on ESPN+ 16 event staff predictions we release Friday ahead of the event. UFC on ESPN+ 16 takes place Saturday at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The card streams on ESPN+.
(Editor’s note: Michel Pereira may remain on the main card against a new opponent, but as of publication time doesn’t have a new booking. If he gets a new opponent and their fight stays on the main card, this story will update.)
Make your picks for all five main-card fights inside:
Date: September 14, 2019
Venue: Rogers Arena in Vancouver, BC
TV: TSN/ESPN+/UFC Fight Pass
Tickets: Buy Tickets
155lbs- Donald Cerrone (36-12) vs. Justin Gaethje (20-2)
205lbs- Glover Teixeira (29-7) vs. Nikita Krylov (25-6)
185lbs- Antonio Carlos Junior (10-3) vs. Uriah Hall (14-9)
265lbs- Augusto Sakai (13-1-1) vs. Marcin Tybura (17-5)
185lbs- David Branch (22-6) vs. Andrew Sanchez (11-4)
205lbs- Misha Cirkunov (14-5) vs. Jim Crute (10-0)
135lbs- Cole Smith (7-0) vs. Miles Johns (9-0)
155lbs- Kyle Prepolec (12-6) vs. Austin Hubbard (8-2)
265lbs- Todd Duffee (9-3) vs. Jeff Hughes (10-2)
135lbs- Louis Smolka (15-6) vs. Ryan MacDonald (10-1)
A showdown between light heavyweight finishers has been added to UFC on ESPN+ 16.
UFC on ESPN+ 16 takes place Sept. 14 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia. Main-card fights stream on ESPN+.
A veteran of Dana White’s Contender Series, Crute defeated Chris Birchler on DWCS 14 in 2018. The Australian’s first-round finish impressed the UFC president, who offered the youngster a contract.
Since his signing, Crute has won back-to-back UFC appearances inside the distance. The 23-year-old submitted Paul Craig in his promotional debut, then stopped Sam Alvey with punches at UFC 234.
His opponent, Canada’s Cirkunov, will look to rebound from a brutal TKO loss to Johnny Walker at UFC 235 in March. After winning his first four UFC bouts inside the distance, Cirkunov has been finished in three of his past four fights.
With the addition, the latest UFC on ESPN+ 16 lineup now includes:
- Uriah Hall vs. Antonio Carlos Junior
- David Branch vs. Andrew Sanchez
- Jim Crute vs. Misha Cirkunov
UFC Fight Night 142 goes down live tonight from the Adelaide Entertainment Center in Adelaide, Australia. In the main event former Heavyweight Champion Junior dos Santos takes on rising start Tai Tuivasa. In the co-main event living legend Mauricio “Shogun” Rua takes on Tyson Pedro and Mark Hunt closes out his UFC contract when he meets Justin Willis.
Fans in Canada can catch the main card live on TSN2 beginning at 10pm et. The preliminary card airs live on The Fight Network at 8pm et with additional prelims streaming on UFC Fight Pass at 7pm et. Top MMA News will have all your live results right here as usual.
Junior dos Santos defeats Tai Tuivasa by TKO (Punches) in Round 2, 2:30
Shogun Rua defeats Tyson Pedro by TKO (Punches) in Round 3, 0:43
Justin Willis defeats Mark Hunt by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Tony Martin defeats Jake Matthews by Technical Submission (Anaconda Choke) in Round 3, 1:19
Sodiq Yusuff defeats Suman Mokhtarian by TKO (Punches) in Round 1, 2:14
Jim Crute submits Paul Craig by Kimura in Round 3, 4:51
Alexey Kunchenko defeats Yushin Okami by Unanimous Decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-27)
Wilson Reis defeats Ben Nguyen by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Keita Nakamura defeats Salim Touahri by Split Decision (30-27, 28-29, 29-28)
Kai Kara-France defeats Elias Garcia by Unanimous Decision (30-25, 30-25, 30-26)
Christos Giagos defeats Mizuto Hirota by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-27, 30-28)
Damir Ismagulov defeats Alex Gorgees by Unanimous Decision (30-25, 30-26, 30-26)