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UFC Moncton: Volkan Oezdemir vs. Anthony Smith Toe-to-Toe Preview - A complete breakdown

Phil and David breakdown everything you need to know for Oezdemir vs. Smith for UFC Moncton, and everything you don’t about old Sega games.

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Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Volkan Oezdemir vs. Anthony Smith headlines UFC Moncton this October 27, 2018 at the Avenir Centre in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada.

One sentence summary

David: The 37 second moment we’ve all been waiting for!

Phil: The ultimate “are these guys actually... good?” question which probably can’t be answered by this fight

Stats

Record: Volkan Oezdemir 15-2 | Anthony Smith 30-13

Odds: Volkan Oezdemir -160 | Anthony Smith +150

History / Introduction to the fighters

David: Ethan Embry/Kelly Pavlik clone Volkan Oezdemir is not the fighter I expected to still be here. After getting neck cranked to death by Kelly Anundson in Bellator, he seemed like a quality fighter who deserved a UFC spot, but who would probably never make due to the UFC’s rigorous draft template and scouting system. I kid, obviously — unless you think reality shows make for a nice substitute that is anything other than a game of blackjack drunk darts. Where was I? Volkan! He’s a good fighter. This is — I think — a good action fight.

Phil: Volkan Oezdemir! Able to knock out Misha Cirkunov and Jimi Manuwa in weird ways! Able to outpoint Ovince Saint-Preux in a kickboxing match! Not able to beat Daniel Cormier! And thus an occupant of the vast no-man’s land between a P4P staple and two-division champion... and those other guys. Oezdemir may be pretty good or he may be horribly flawed, and it is hard to tell what the truth is. Light heavyweight is a weird division.

David: Speaking of fighters I didn’t think would amount to much and am quietly excited to be wrong about. Smith has been good. A loss to Cezar Ferreira had me convinced otherwise, but he had some modest wins at middleweight, including a hard-fought defeat to one-hitter-quitter Thiago Santos. And now he’s on a two-fight winning streak with faded legends in his fight cemetary. Shogun and Rashad were well past their expiration date, but expired or not, I gotta think even a corpse is hard to put down in under two minutes. So credit where credit’s due.

Phil: Oezdemir’s bizarre mirror is Anthony Smith. Oezdemir came out of nowhere to wreck some well-known fighters, but Smith is a well-known commodity: a veteran of 43 fights despite just being just 30. A tremendously unstable fighter, he’s oscillated between moments of incredible violence and utter collapse against fighters as varied as prospect-that-wasn’t Adlan Amagov and (career lightweight journeyman) Josh Neer. Recently he’s found some form up at light heavyweight, and has been living up to his Lionheart nickname a bit more by digging deep late. So the question: is this a young, talented fighter finally finding his confidence? Or is it just a brief, coincidental period of sustained success in a career defined by insecurity? I’m genuinely not sure which, although like you I would like to see him beat back his demons.

What’s at stake?

David: Way more than you ever would have expected from either one of these guys three years ago. The words ‘title shot’ might even direct whispers into Smith’s ear at some point. I mean, have we forgotten that Volak just fought for the title earlier this year, and at some point after Daniel Cormier publicly advocated for a fight with Shogun. Things change at lightweight faster than a coked-out hit and run.

Phil: There are still a few other fighters out there at light heavyweight who have built up decent streaks, with Latifi and Blachowicz being the notable ones, but it does feel like Smith in particular has built up some momentum. There’s something magnetic about his internal struggle and how that translates into brutal violence. It’s reminiscent of the Diaz bros, but even more competitively volatile.

Where do they want it?

David: Oezdemir has a style that would we could charitably call ‘simple.’ That doesn’t mean he lacks depth, or can’t adjust. It just means he knows he exactly who he is. He’s a top-down fighter, admitting to himself and others that his punches are how things get done (and dead), and thy will be done. Yes, he can kick and wrestle, but if he’s winning — or effective — it’s because he’s got Them Hands. He’s somewhat creative with his punches too. He prefers punching with an arc — probing with his fists the way that Sega Genesis hero used to do. Or the way velociraptors attack according to the hunter from Jurassic Park; the other hand...you didn’t even know were there. There’s nothing eccentric about how Volkan fights. He just covers all the angles with his fists. Everything else is just the country gravy on that bloody knuckle biscuit.

Phil: Oezdemir is one of the more puzzling Henry Hooft trained kickboxers that I’ve seen. Nothing about the way he fights mirrors many of the other former Blackzilians, with the exception of perhaps... Rumble? Like Anthony Johnson, he tends to fight out of more of a squared stance and prioritizes being able to hit from both hands with power over the more traditional Dutch-style combinations of a Johnson or a Soriano. Primarily he likes a dipping overhand to draw his opponent into left hook counters. Like Rumble, he can kick when he wants to, and I suspect this may be key against the front-foot heavy Smith. He’s dangerous in the clinch, and is even an underrated takedown threat. In general he’s a functional technician and an accurate puncher, but not a physically overwhelming force in any area. He’s tough, but doesn’t even have tremendous cardio.

David: Smith is a classic overachiever. There’s nothing granular you can look at and say ‘damn that kids’ going places.’ He’s been all around the world for more years than you assume, and he’s only just now starting to pull it together. Part of this is blind luck. And I don’t mean Smith’s success. As in, I think there is a small group of good journeymen outside the UFC who could probably be on a two fight win streak with fights against Shogun and Rashad as well. Ok, sorry to be harsh on the guy. He really is a solid fighter. He mixes a nice, violent blend of pressure kicks and long range strikes from range to be problematic for almost any fighter. In close, he’s also somewhat of a terror. The biggest knock on him is that he some defensive deficiencies, which you expect to be a problem against the hard hitters of light heavyweight.

Phil: Smith’s incredibly active career has had him fighting a massive array of styles, and has left him as something of a formless collection of violent weapons. He was a vast middleweight at 6’4, and so if he’s learned anything it’s how to effectively use his range to pin down his opponents. He likes a long jab, a high guard, and a selection of front kicks. Like Oezdemir, he’s a pretty accurate puncher (likely also an artefact from fighting much smaller, quicker fighters) and is a nasty collection of sharp elbows and knees in the clinch. Defensive responsibility is not really his thing, and while he’s gotten better at guarding himself from punches, and even angling off to land counter shots, he remains somewhat open pretty much everywhere. Leg kicks, head shots, and body strikes have all gotten serious play in recent fights.

Insight from past fights

David: I don’t think we learned much from Smith vs. Santos except that Smith is somewhat adept in a firefight. While he’s defensively porous, he’s got good survival reflexes. Not as good as Tony Ferguson’s Oh Shit Rollout, but still.

Phil: I think the most telling fight was perhaps Smith against Lombard. Not because Oezdemir is particularly stylistically comparable to Lombard, but because it showed just how vulnerable Smith’s range game was to getting his lead leg kicked out. Oezdemir is certainly technically capable of doing that, but is he temperamentally? I’m not sure. He hasn’t been much of a stylistic chameleon thus far in his UFC tenure.

X-Factors

David: Nothing. This is a light heavyweight fight. Which means, we’re only a weightclass below Chaos Reigns. That makes the division unstable on principle.

Phil: Smith is always a roiling mess of insecurity, but it’s difficult to really name “X-Factors” in a fight between two fighters as comparatively unproven as these two.

Prognostication

David: My thing with Smith is that he’ll get drawn into Oezdemir’s fight, and it’ll be hard for him to get out. Oezdemir’s style is like symbiotic goop for Smith, and he’ll have a harder time recovering from shots, trying to reset comfortably with Volkan’s power lathering him before the bell rings. At least it’ll be fun while it lasts. Volkan Oezdemir by TKO, round 1.

Phil: I’d like to see Smith win- I basically just find him a lot more interesting. That being said, his awful defense and general tendency to freak out make him hard to rely on. While I’m not sure if I can trust Oezdemir’s spotty gas tank to last a full five round fight, I’m not sure that Smith doesn’t get taken out before that gets a chance to happen. Volkan Oezdemir by TKO, round 2.