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Fighter on Fighter: Breaking down UFC Fight Night 138’s Volkan Oezdemir

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Former professional kickboxer, Volkan Oezdemir, will battle aggressive Muay Thai fighter, Anthony Smith, this Saturday (Oct. 27, 2018) at UFC Fight Night 138 inside Avenir Centre in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada.

Oezdemir burst onto the scene in pretty dramatic fashion, a new face in a division that desperately needed one. On short-notice, Oezdemir defeated the inconsistent-but-dangerous “OSP” in his debut, following that up with two shockingly quick knockout wins over high-level competition. Knockouts and hype are often the key to securing a title shot, but Oezdemir was unprepared for Daniel Cormier’s offense, losing fairly quickly. Some are ready to write off “No Time” as a result, but he is just four fights into his UFC career, so there’s certainly time for the Swiss athlete to improve further.

Let’s take a closer look at his skill set:

Striking

5-0 as a professional kickboxer — though the level of competition is anyone’s guess — Oezdemir is a dangerous striker with eleven knockout wins to his name. His overall style is still a bit hard to get a full read on, as it varies a bit from fight-to-fight and he’s still quite new to the UFC.

On the whole, though, Oezdemir has shown a rather educated lead hand. That’s not to say he has a boxer’s jab, but Oezdemir definitely does a better job of most at sticking his opponent with the strike. Better yet, Oezdemir is willing to double up and often mixes jabs to the body.

It definitely goes a long way in setting up the right hand.

Opposite Daniel Cormier, Oezdemir’s game plan did not work out all that well, but I would blame that more on defensive wrestling and too much aggression early. From a striking stand point, Oezdemir’s whole strategy involved capitalizing on Cormier’s habit of ducking to his left side: precisely the flaw that saw him eat head kicks from Jon Jones and Anthony Johnson.

Unlike those two, Oezdemir did not focus on the left kick, although he did flick a couple up the middle. Instead, he repeatedly feinted with his right hand, getting Cormier to duck down. Immediately, Oezdemir would fire a left hook or shovel punch into Cormier’s ducked position. He also mixed the left hook in with his jabs, and altogether, his strategy of setting up the left hook/shovel punch as Cormier slipped over was successful.

Getting tired and taken down prevented Oezdemir from any chance at building on that success.

If there’s one thing I’d like to see more of from the professional kickboxer, it’s kicks! Oezdemir is willing to tack on the occasional high or body kick to end a combination — particularly when his foe is against the fence — but he kicks too hard to throw them so infrequently. He only low kicked Cormier a couple times in their title clash, but each time he was able to dislodge the lead leg from its stance.

All the above is easy enough to explain, but it’s Oezdemir’s unique ability to generate massive power from close distance that makes him unique. Opposite both Misha Cirkunov and Jimi Manuwa, Oezdemir was able to score brutal knockouts with punches that seemed fairly innocuous.

In the first example, Cirkunov lasted less than 30 seconds. Early on, Oezdemir was active with his lead hand, looking to jab and hook the Southpaw on the way in. Cirkunov didn’t like it and pressured behind a combination, likely looking for a chance to shoot or tie up. Instead, Oezdemir took a small angle and placed a right hand behind the ear, instantly ending his night.

It was a small, clubbing blow (GIF).

Next up, Manuwa lasted a mere 42 seconds with “No Time.” Often, Manuwa likes to muscle his opponent around in the clinch and knee the thigh, a usually safe way to slow down his opponents. Instead, Oezdemir was able to create a bit of space and slam home uppercuts and hooks, stunning the Englishman. When Manuwa stumbled back, Oezdemir ran straight at him with hard shots.

It’s very rare to see a knockout from punches inside the clinch, let alone by the man with his back to the fence (GIF).

Wrestling

I have yet to see Oezdemir attempt a takedown at any point, so that’s a major question mark.

Defensively, Oezdemir did a few things well against Cormier. First and foremost, his ability to punch with power, but shoot his hips back when Cormier shot is promising. Beyond that, Oezdemir did a nice job of framing the face and getting his hips back when Cormier moved to grab the clinch, denying him a fair number of times.

Unfortunately, it takes truly elite wrestling to deny Cormier’s shot once he’s in on the leg. It’s understandable that Oezdemir was dragged down by the Olympian, but his defensive scrambling looked pretty mediocre. Cormier utterly dominated him the second the fight hit the mat, basically finishing him twice.

Getting dominated by a world-class wrestler is one thing, but Oezdemir’s 2014 loss to Kelly Anunderson was troublingly similar. Anunderson won that fight with consistent grinding takedowns, eventually convincing Oezdemir to turn his back and give up the neck.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

I don’t have much to say about Oezdemir’s grappling, either. Outside of a kimura victory in 2012, Oezdemir hasn’t won a fight via tapout nor attempted a submission inside the Octagon. Defensively, Oezdemir’s losses to Cormier and Anunderson did not show much in the way of offensive jiu-jitsu from his back. He was more trying to survive and get back up. As mentioned, giving up the back in an attempt to stand is a legitimate strategy, but it’s not one that has historically worked well for the Swiss fighter.

Conclusion

Oezdemir has been a UFC fighter for less than two years. As the above minimal sections on his grappling show, there’s still a lot to learn about “No Time.” It’s hard to say whether his fight with Smith is likely to hit the ground at any point, but at the very least, it’ll be another chance for Oezdemir to display his kickboxing prowess.


Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, is a professional fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport’s most elite fighters.