Prior to each UFC fight card, Jay Primetown takes a look at some of the key contests at each event. In the latest installment, we look ahead to the main event of UFC Fight Night 138 as Volkan Oezdemir and Anthony Smith clash in a key light heavyweight clash.
Volkan Oezdemir (Record: 15-2, -170 Favorite, Power Ranking: B)
The former professional kickboxer turned MMA fighter returns after a 10-month layoff after his first ever UFC loss; an unsuccessful title challenge against Daniel Cormier. Prior to that bout, Oezdemir had won his first three bouts in the UFC to earn the title shot.
A complete unknown when he entered the UFC, Oezdemir surprised many when he squeaked out a decision victory over mainstay Ovince St. Preux. He followed up those victories with finishes over Misha Cirkunov and Jimi Manuwa. He was able to knockout both of those fighters in under a minutes’ time. As evidenced by his results in the UFC, Oezdemir is a fast starter. He has very good hand speed and throws with high volume landing 5.91 significant strikes per minute. He’s an aggressive striker that likes to work his way inside and land in combination. He’s a powerful puncher that when he lands he can put opponents away. In the Cormier fight, it became evident that he will struggle late in bouts as he tends to slow down after an action heavy opening round. That’s something to keep an eye as he continues to gain more experience in the UFC.
Anthony Smith (Record: 30-13, +140 Underdog, Power Ranking: C)
The 30-year-old veteran has been on the best run of form of his career winning five of his last six fights. Smith has earned consecutive victories over former UFC Light Heavyweight champions by knocking out both Rashad Evans and Mauricio Rua in back to back fights. If Smith beats Oezdemir, he will move into the conversation as potential title challengers.
The Factory X fighter has fought in many of North America’s biggest promotions prior to joining the UFC in 2016. Smith was a massive middleweight at 6’4” and a reach of over 77 inches. Smith utilized his size well to beat up on smaller fighters. He’s good on the feet with powerful hands and underrated technique. As he is a power puncher, his striking volume is rather low at just 3.35 significant strikes. Defensively, he is a big target and tends to get hit absorbing 3.95 significant strikes a minute. In the past, he had struggled with conditioning and tended to slow down after the opening round. He was a fighter that had a very good five minutes and regressed after that. He has shown improvements moving up to light heavyweight where he has been less drained after the weight cut. A major weakness in his game is grappling. His takedown defense is just 48% and he can be controlled there by a strong wrestler. Durability is another concern as he has been finished in 12 of his 13 losses albeit most of those losses coming early in his career.
On the first ever UFC event in Moncton, Canada, a battle of top ten light heavyweights headline the card as Swiss striker Volkan Oezdemir takes on Anthony “Lionheart” Smith. This is a really interesting bout as both fighters are aggressive strikers. Smith is the more diverse with use of both knee strikes and leg kicks, while Oezdemir’s success is more predicated with hand speed and volume. Durablity isn’t the strongest suit of each fighter and given the offensive striking prowess of each guy, I see the best bet on this card being the under. Despite the total being set at Under 1.5 round, I believe there’s an excellent chance this fight ends in round one. Oezdemir’s volume will give Smith a lot of problems and I think he’s going to hurt and finish him in round one. There’s also the possibility that Smith catches the Swiss light heavyweight coming in with a leg kick and knocks him out with a clean shot. Either way, the under is the best bet in this fight at -155 on Several Bookmakers.