Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight knockout artists Volkan Oezdemir and Aleksandar Rakic will battle this Saturday (Dec. 21, 2019) at UFC Fight Night 165 from inside Sajik Arena in Busan, South Korea.
Oezdemir’s short UFC career has been a definite roller coaster. The Swiss athlete rose quickly up the ranks, securing a shot at the title after just three victories. Unfortunately, he came up short opposite Daniel Cormier and lost another two bouts. “No Time” recovered well in his last bout, however, showcasing a great deal of patience and maturity to return to the win column. Speaking of skyrocketing up the ranks, Rakic has dominated each of his four UFC opponents. The 27-year-old is currently riding a 12-fight win streak, is the perfect size for the division, and has plus skills everywhere — there’s a real chance he could fight for the title in the next couple years.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Ilir Latifi (UFC Fight Night 153), Misha Cirkunov (UFC Fight Night 109), Jimi Manuwa (UFC 214), Ovince Saint Preux (UFC Fight Night 104)
Key Losses: Daniel Cormier (UFC 220), Anthony Smith (UFC Fight Night 138), Dominick Reyes (UFC Fight Night 147)
Keys to Victory: Like many of the sport’s top European fighters, Oezdemir competed a bit in amateur and professional kickboxing before transitioning to mixed martial arts (MMA). Oezdemir does the fundamentals well, but what sets him apart from most is the punishing power in his hands.
Oezdemir has finished 12 foes via knockout.
This is a difficult fight to analyze largely because the two have similar styles on the feet. Both power-based kickboxers, Oezdemir seems to have a small edge in technique and overall experience, but it’s hard to deny Rakic’s explosiveness.
Based on Rakic’s recent knockout wins, the Austrian athlete like to have a good bit of room to really burst into his power strikes. As such, I’d like to see Oezdemir pressure Rakic — not recklessly —- and keep a slightly closer distance than usual. Oezdemir patiently pressured Latifi expertly, working the body well and countering when he Latifi over-swung.
It’s likely to be more difficult against a rangier man, but that still seems the best strategy. Oezdemir has proven his ability to create massive collisions when given a tiny amount of space, so operating from that distance likely favors him.
Key Wins: Jimi Manuwa (UFC Fight Night 153), Devin Clark (UFC 231), Justin Ledet (UFC Fight Night 134)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Remember what I said about Europeans and kickboxing? The same applies to Rakic, who accrued a good deal of experience in the ring before transitioning to the cage and has finished nine of his foes via submission.
I mostly talked kickboxing in the section above, because Oezdemir is pretty limited in his strategic approach: he only tries to strike, admittedly from different ranges depending on the fight. Rakic, however, has proven himself capable of mixing it up with sudden takedown attempts and dominating from top position.
Seems like a smart move against a man who struggles with being put on his back.
Whether or not the takedown works out, pace seems like it could be a weapon for Rakic, who is more proven in his ability to push for 15 minutes. Oezdemir seemed to manage his energy better last time out, but he was also in complete control. If the two are trading power shots and Oezdemir is also forced to defend takedowns, Rakic will likely take over late (assuming the fight lasts that long).
It’s a fun and relevant Light Heavyweight scrap.
Currently the eighth ranked contender at 205 pounds, Oezdemir is one of the few men in the Top 10 who has not yet been smacked down by Jon Jones. As such, he’s never really that far from a possible title shot. A second consecutive win pushes Oezdemir right back into the mix, likely one more win from a potential showdown with “Bones.”
Such is the Light Heavyweight division.
Though the spotlight is on Dominick Reyes right now, Rakic may be the division’s best young contender. This is a major step up in competition, an opportunity for the Austrian to prove he’s ready for the best at this very moment. This may not be a title eliminator itself, but it does carry significant divisional implications, and a win sets Rakic up well for his next bout.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 165 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+“Prelims” that are scheduled to begin at 2 a.m. ET, then the main card portion that will also stream on ESPN+ at 5 a.m. ET.
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At UFC Fight Night 165, Volkan Oezdemir and Aleksandar Rakic will duel in the co-main event. Which man will have his hand raised?