Unless you’re a hardcore MMA fan, chances are this coming weekend’s UFC event in Moncton (no, we hadn’t heard of the place, either) may have flown under your radar.
But fear not, we’re here to bring you up to speed, and Saturday night’s main event in Canada features a light-heavyweight matchup that, on paper at least, should deliver fireworks as Volkan “No Time” Oezdemir takes on Anthony “Lionheart” Smith.
Swiss contender Oezdemir burst into the UFC’s upper echelons with a pair of quickfire knockout victories.
After earning a split-decision win over seasoned campaigner Ovince Saint-Preux on his debut, Oezdemir starched fellow prospect Misha Cirkunov in just 28 seconds, then dispatched British knockout artist Jimi Manuwa in 42 seconds as he surged into title contention.
Unfortunately for Oezdemir, he was manhandled by world champ Daniel Cormier and finished in the second round of his title tilt, but he remains one of the top contenders in the division.
On Saturday night he’ll take on a man whose rise has become one of the most remarkable stories in the UFC. At the start of the year Smith was a journeyman middleweight who had just been finished by Thiago Santos in Belem, Brazil.
But a move up to light-heavyweight has seen Smith find his sweet spot. Incredibly, in the space of just two months he took on a pair of former UFC light-heavyweight champions and knocked them both out in the first round.
Rashad Evans was finished in a mere 53 seconds, while Brazilian legend “Shogun” was polished off in just 89 as Smith became an unlikely contender in a weight class that desperately needed new faces at the top.
Now he takes on fellow contender Oezdemir in a bout that will test his chin every bit as sternly as it will his title credentials.
Oezdemir hits hard, and has that sneaky sort of punch power that doesn’t appear obvious until you see his opponents crashing to the canvas. Smith, meanwhile, is as tough as they come, and has shown some prodigious power of his own, with each of his last five wins coming via KO or TKO.
1/2 to win
8/11 to win by KO/TKO
17/1 to win by submission
13/1 to win by decision
6/4 to win
2/1 to win by KO/TKO
17/1 to win by submission
14/1 to win by decision
A mere glance at Oezdemir’s career record shows that his best shot at victory is undoubtedly early. Twelve of his 15 career wins have come via first-round finish, and the Swiss knockout artist is 8/11 to add to that stat this weekend.
Smith hasn’t lost by a legitimate KO since 2011, however, and that came after he missed weight for the contest. “Lionheart” is in superb form and, if he can use the experience of his 43 previous contests to safely negotiate his way through the opening round, the fight may well swing in his favour. He’s in knockout form himself, and is 2/1 to win by KO.
The bout looks all set to be a toe-to-toe battle between two knockout artists, but it’s worth noting that Smith also has 10 wins by submission on his record. The price on him switching gears, taking Oezdemir to the mat and making it 11? A tasty 17/1.
Main Card (BT Sport, 2am GMT*)
Volkan Oezdemir vs Anthony Smith (light-heavyweight)
Michael Johnson vs Artem Lobov (featherweight)
Misha Cirkunov vs Patrick Cummins (light-heavyweight)
Andre Soukhamthath vs Jonathan Martinez (bantamweight)
Gian Villante vs Ed Herman (light-heavyweight)
Alex Garcia vs Court McGee (welterweight)
Preliminary Card (BT Sport, 1am BST)
Nordine Taleb vs Sean Strickland (welterweight)
Thibault Gouti vs Nasrat Haqparast (lightweight)
Calvin Kattar vs Chris Fishgold (featherweight)
Sarah Moras vs Talita Bernardo (women’s bantamweight)
Early Prelims (UFC Fight Pass, 11:30pm BST)
Te Edwards vs Don Madge (lightweight)
Arjan Bhullar vs Marcelo Golm (heavyweight)
Stevie Ray vs Jessin Ayari (lightweight)
* The clocks go back an hour at 2am on Saturday night as we switch from BST to GMT