Former UFC light heavyweight title challenger, Volkan Oezdemir will return after over a year to face upcoming Russian prospect Magomed Ankalaev at UFC 267 this Saturday. After bull-rushing through the ranks with his signature KO power, Switzerland’s Oezdemir found himself defeating #4 ranked Jimi Manuwa in 2017, setting himself up for a title fight. Although the belt eluded his grasp, Oezdemir continued competing at the top of the division up until a fan-favorite scrap with Jiri Prochazka. Although losing this fight, Oezdemir continues to test himself against the best in the division and will be a step up for Ankalaev.
The same year Oezdemir was challenging for the belt, Magomed Ankaelev was first introducing himself to UFC fans. He would lose to Paul Craig in his debut but come back with a vengeance and a six-fight win streak up to now. Since falling short for the first time in 2018, Ankalaev has looked virtually unbeatable, but a step up in competition against Oezdemir will truly test if he can continue the tear he has started.
The UFC 267 fight card is a special non-pay-per-view numbered event and that means
Oezdmir vs. Ankalaev Betting Odds
The former title challenger will come in as a surprising +270 underdog against the rising contender. This means that a $100 bet on Oezdemir will return a win amount of $270.
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Oezdemir vs. Ankalaev Breakdown
Volkan Oezdemir is a very technically sound fighter. He does little wrong and the losses he does have in the octagon aren’t usually a product of him getting beaten over the fight soundly, rather more so being set up with one or two particularly good sequences. The exception being Daniel Cormier, however, few have the wrestling pedigree to make a comparable fight against Oezdemir.
Oezdemir fights with a lot of the tendencies of other Henri Hooft students, he likes to frame with his jab as a finder before blasting the power shots behind it in particular. He has some of the best one-punch KO power in the division, and it comes with very little unneeded movement. Oezdemir favors very short punches, in general, he uses as little movement as possible in most of what he does, whether it’s his short punches or the slightest of level changes needed to defend takedowns. This allows him to stay in position even when he misses.
His use of short strikes means he does need to get into range though, and for the most part he does this by using a steady but constant forward pressure, he does not explode in too much but moves forward consistently with a high guard and boxes his way in. His goal is typically to back his opponents into a corner and T-off with his short-range power. He also has a surprisingly varied attack for someone who favors their hands, he mixes up targets and angles and will even sneak in the jumping knee between combos. He has wicked kicks but seems to have fallen out of favour with them since moving to MMA as opposed to his kickboxing days.
Oezdemir has few technical weaknesses, however, the couple that are important to note is, while he is a good grappler, especially offensively, he has shown in the past to be over patient and possibly a lack of submission awareness. Against Anthony Smith, Oezdemir was winning the fight, the cardio was holding up but he just neglected to hand fight, instead relying on the positional battle, which led to Smith getting his forearm under the chin and ending the fight.
The other problem Oezdemir has run into is because he is so tight and sharp on the inside with his shots, the caveat is when he does miss he is still in range to be hit by his opponents. Often you will see Oezdemir whip a short left hook and be countered by a longer hook or a straight, and although for most of his career he has been able to eat them and make up the difference with a knockout later on, the upcoming talent like Ankalaev pose a very dangerous threat to play that game with.
Ankalaev actually demonstrates a lot of the attributes that could pose Oezdemir the most problems. He typically has two modes, the aggressive counter puncher and the fade-away sniper. The first, Anakalev with pressure forward aggressively and use feints to draw out his opponent’s strikes and either counter, usually with the dip right-lead left hook combo or time a reactionary takedown.
In the latter mode, Ankalaev likes to move backward, circle the perimeter of the octagon, and cut angles on overly aggressive opponents. This allows him to take full advantage of his particularly impressive accuracy, and his knockout power. Especially compared to Oezdemir, Ankalaev punches long and makes the most of it.
In terms of his grappling game, Ankalaev does not have the heavy pressure associated with many of his fellow Russian athletes who have come up in recent years. Although he has good top control, he does give up a little bit of space and leans a bit closer on the floating aspect of his top game than pressure compared to other fighters. However, because of this, the threat of him disengaging and sharpshooting punches is always present.
Oezdemir vs. Ankalaev Prediction
Oezdemir’s best chance is to find a way to put Ankalaev against the fence and stay in the pocket as much as possible. A lot of what Ankalaev likes to do requires some space, and his power shots typically seem to need that space to generate its max. For Oezdemir he can generate far more power in close and has the experience to flow better in range as well.
However, Ankalaev picks Oezdemir apart from outside and I think overall dictates range and cuts angles better so the area that Oezdemir needs to get to likely won’t be available for most of the fight. This is why I believe that Ankalaev will most likely win this match-up.
Prediction: Magomed Ankalaev via decision
Braeden Arbour is an aspiring journalist out of Ontario, Canada. He is a recent graduate of Trent University, with a black belt in Karate and a blue belt in Judo. He has also been an avid fan of MMA for the last decade.