Ibo Aslan vs. Anton Turkalj prediction | UFC on ESPN 54 1

Ibo “The Last Ottoman” Aslan, 27, has an impressive 12-1 record with 12 knockout wins. He showcased his violence on DWCS with another 1st round knockout in August of 2023. Saturday will be his UFC debut, but not the first time he’s faced his opponent.

Anton “The Pleasure Man” Turkalj handed Aslan his first and only loss via 2nd round submission under the Brave banner in 2020. Since, Turkalj has joined the UFC but has gone 0-3 with 2 finish losses. Overall, “The Pleasure Man” is 8-3 with 7 finishes himself.

Betting Odds

This fight has hovered around pick’em all week and remains there still.

Fight Breakdown

Aslan is an exceptionally powerful kickboxer with heavy and fast leg kicks and an aggressive style that often ends the fight quickly. On DWCS, Aslan fought an undersized and under-athletic ex-heavyweight who helped accentuate Aslan’s impressive combination of speed and power.

Make no mistake about it, though, despite getting an advantageous matchup on the hardest job interview in the world, Aslan’s danger factor is truly impressive. He’s patient on the feet, calf kicks early to create openings, and then explodes in an instant with fight ending power.

However, Aslan has 2 questions that are still unanswered. First, how long can Alsan sustain his explosive striking at the UFC level? Until now, most of his fights have ended inside of 5 minutes; and, outside of his loss to Turkalj, he’s never been pressured or tested as the nail. Second, how well can Alsan grapple or get up if taken down? Again, most of his opponents can’t safely get inside of his kickboxing range to get ahold of Aslan. But when Turkalj did it in their previous matchup, Aslan was submitted.

Turkalj is an exciting fighter with a tendency to ignore defense in favor of his wild offense. However, he seems best suited to fight as a full mixed martial artist, mixing up striking and grappling, rather than as a barroom brawler. 0-3 in the UFC, Turkalj has yet to prove he is capable of following a game plan that puts him in a position to win.

However, he has fought 3 difficult opponents. He lost his debut to Jailton Almeida, currently ranked #7 in the HW division. Then he lost in an exciting back-and-forth fight to Vitor Petrino, currently ranked #15 in the LHW division. Finally, Turalkj was KO’d in his last fight against a slick and experienced kickboxer in Tyson Pedro, granted it was a fight that Turkalj could have won.

Outside of the Almeida fight, Turkalj has shown chaotic striking, underappreciated and utilized grappling, and an ability to just keep coming forward. Everything he does, “The Pleasure Man,” does with aggression. This helps overwhelm opponents and find finishes. But, when he can’t overwhelm opponents, his aggression often puts him in dangerous spots to be hit and/or controlled often throughout a fight.

Basically, Turkalj hasn’t had an easy path in the UFC so far, but he also doesn’t do himself any favors by engaging in brawls with a high chin and disregard for defense despite having striking power and grappling strength.


This fight comes down to Turkalj’s chin and Aslan’s cardio. If Turkalj can still take a heavy shot, as he did against Petrino in his debut, then he should be able to weather Aslan’s early barrage and test the “Last Ottoman’s” cardio. But if his chin is gone after his most recent knockout loss and years of treating defense and head movement as afterthoughts, then it’s just a matter of time before Aslan finds the off switch.

However, if Turkalj can still take a shot and Aslan fails the cardio test- likely given his size and style- Turkalj should be able to take over late. This is a bet on durability as much as it is on actual ability, but I like a small play on Turkalj here. I think this fight could go similarly to their first meeting: a firefight in round 1, and then Turkalj grapples an exhausted Aslan successfully in round 2 for the submission finish.

Best Bet: Turkalj to win (+105 at BetUS)

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