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Canadian Misha Cirkunov suffers first-round KO on UFC Fight Night card

LAS VEGAS — Canadian mixed martial artists Misha Cirkunov and Gavin (Guv'Nor) Tucker had short, painful evenings Saturday.

LAS VEGAS — Canadian mixed martial artists Misha Cirkunov and Gavin (Guv'Nor) Tucker had short, painful evenings Saturday.

Ryan (Superman) Spann knocked out Cirkunov 71 seconds into the UFC Fight Night co-main event between light-heavyweight contenders. Cirkunov (15-6-0) is ranked 11th while Spann (19-6-0) is No. 13.

Tucker lasted just 22 seconds against Dan (50K) Ige, ranked ninth among featherweight contenders. It was the sixth-fastest KO in UFC featherweight history.

Spann and Ige each won US$50,000 performance of the night bonuses.

Canadian featherweight Charles (Air) Jourdain did win, scoring a third-round TKO over Argentina's Marcelo (Pitbull) Rojo on the undercard. 

The main event at the UFC's Apex production facility was stopped 18 seconds into the second round when 13th-ranked welterweight Belal (Remember The Name) Muhammad couldn't continue after a second accidental poke to the eye by No. 3 Leon (Rocky) Edwards of England. It was ruled a no-contest.

Referee Herb Dean had warned Edwards about eye pokes in the first round. Muhammad was in tears when the fight was called, his right eye red and almost closed as he exited the cage.

"I didn't mean to do it," said Edwards, who apologized to Muhammad afterwards.

Edwards, who last fought in July 2019, had won his eight previous fights. His original opponent, Khamzat Chimaev, was forced to drop out due to the lingering effects of COVID-19.

Earlier, the six-foot-five Spann was caught by a kick to the groin early in the first round but recovered quickly. Cirkunov connected with a punch but absorbed a right to the head in the exchange and crashed to the canvas.

Spann connected with a few more blows before letting Cirkunov get back to his feet. The Canadian was clearly still fuzzy and went down again after a left to the temple. This time he did not get back up with the fight called after 71 seconds.

The Las Vegas-based Cirkunov, a Toronto native by way of Latvia, had not fought in 18 months with a pair of injuries and the pandemic delaying his return.

He needed surgery after an injury in training in January 2020. The Spann fight was originally set for Dec. 19, but was pushed back when Cirkunov was hurt again in training. 

On the undercard, Jourdain came out swinging in the third round and overwhelmed Rojo.

The fight was stopped with 29 seconds remaining after the 25-year-old from Beloeil, Que., felled a battered Rojo for the second time in the round, cutting the Argentine down with a nasty body punch.

"Rojo was a big finisher also, a very dangerous opponent and I got it done," said Jourdain, who has yet to go the distance in a win.

All three judges gave the first round to Rojo (16-7-0) and the second to Jourdain (11-3-1). Rojo kept coming forward, throwing punches, while Jourdain used kicks to fend him off.

The third round was all Jourdain as he swarmed Rojo. A semifinalist on "The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America 3," Rojo was making his UFC debut as a fill-in for the injured Steve Garcia.

Ige (pronounced E-gay) was coming off a loss to Calvin (The Boston Finisher) Kattar that snapped a six-fight win streak in the UFC. And the Hawaiian wasted little time getting back in the win column.

Ige (14-3-0), who had a five-inch reach advantage, ended the fight with one punch — a right to the face.

Tucker, a 34-year-old from Ship Cove, N.L., who fights out of Halifax, had won four of his five previous UFC fights including the last three.

Saturday marked Cirkunov's 10th fight in the UFC. 

He won his first four bouts then lost three of his next four, albeit to elite opposition in Volkan (No Time) Oezdemir, Glover Teixeira and Johnny Walker. 

Cirkunov bounced back last time to submit unbeaten Jimmy (The Brute) Crute — via the rarely used Peruvian Necktie choke — in a frenetic three minutes 38 seconds on a Fight Night card in September 2019 in Vancouver.

Spann fought twice in 2020, defeating (Smile'n) Sam Alvey by split decision at UFC 249 to extend his win streak to eight before suffering a first-round knockout loss at the hands of Walker last September.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 13, 2021.

The Canadian Press