Two fights into his UFC light heavyweight career and things are going rather well for Anthony Smith.
He’s spent less than three total minutes of time in the cage while knocking out a pair of former champions in Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Rashad Evans.
On Saturday night at UFC Fight Night in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada, Smith faces arguably his toughest test to date at 205 pounds when he takes on former title challenger Volkan Oezdemir, who has suffered only one loss in the UFC and that came to champion Daniel Cormier in January.
While Smith was originally gunning for Alexander Gustafsson, he was happy to settle with Oezdemir because a win should provide him with the same outcome.
“He’s the measuring stick,” Smith said about Oezdemir when speaking to MMAWeekly. “He’s the guy that people remember Daniel [Cormier] fighting last other than Stipe. Daniel’s last fight at 205 was against him. If it looks similar to what Daniel did to him in terms of dominance, I just don’t see how you argue that.
“I’ve kind of kept to myself. I’m not calling for anything or demanding anything but after I go in there and do what I’m going to do to Volkan, I’m absolutely going to ask for my title shot. At this point in my career, I think it’s time and I’m ready.”
Considering the landscape at light heavyweight, it’s tough to argue with Smith’s logic.
A new champion at 205 pounds will be crowned in December when Jon Jones returns for a rematch against Gustafsson while Cormier is expected to be stripped of his title as a result. While it’s possible that Cormier could drop back down to light heavyweight to challenge the winner, that scenario seems less likely as he’s preparing to defend his heavyweight title on Nov. 3.
First things first, Smith has to get through Oezdemir and that’s not an easy task based on what the Swiss fighter did in his first three fights in the UFC.
Oezdemir took a short notice bout against former title contender Ovince Saint-Preux and earned a split decision victory before going out and obliterating Jimi Manuwa and Misha Cirkunov in back-to-back fights to earn the title shot.
While there’s no taking away from what Oezdemir did to earn his chance to fight for UFC gold, Smith can only give a brutally honest assessment of what he sees out of his upcoming opponent and he’s not been all that impressed.
“I’m preparing as if he’s the world champion but that never changes for me. That’s the same way for everybody. I’ll say this in the nicest way possible and I’m not trying to talk any trash about Volkan but I just don’t see anything that’s impressive,” Smith said. “I see a big puncher. The UFC’s packed with big punchers. ‘Shogun’ [Rua] was a big hitter. Hector Lombard was a big hitter. I guess I don’t see what all the hooplah’s about.
“He’s a big puncher but there are a lot of big punchers in the UFC.”
Perhaps the biggest glaring weakness in Oezdemir’s game was exposed when he faced Cormier and that was what happened to him once the fight hit the ground.
Now to his credit, Cormier is a two-time Olympic wrestler so there’s no shame in getting stuck underneath that guy and never getting out again. That said, Smith saw a lot of mistakes from Oezdemir that he will absolutely capitalize on if this fight hits the ground on Saturday night.
“Obviously, he’s got a big hole in his ground game. His ground game is clearly not world class,” Smith said. “I just don’t see anything. I don’t see a dominant wrestling game. I don’t see a jiu-jitsu game. I don’t see a super dynamic striking game either. I see a guy who sits down on his left hook and wants to counter and has no problem backing up. That’s what I see.”
Smith never wants to seem like he’s trashing an opponent just for the sake of hyping a fight but he promises that’s not what he’s doing by giving his assessment of Volkan Oezdemir.
Instead, Smith is just explaining what he’s seen out of Oezdemir and obviously it’s not that much.
“It’s going to sound real disrespectful to say I don’t see anything that impresses me but that’s the truth of it,” Smith said. “I don’t see anything spectacular.”