Light Heavyweights#10 LHW | Aleksandar Rakic (12-1) vs. #8 LHW | Volkan Oezdemir (16-4)
ODDS: Rakic (-145), Oezdemir (+125)
It is still a stretch to call light heavyweight a particularly deep division, but this bout between fringe contenders is both relevant and fun—something that was rarely possible two or three years ago. Oezdemir’s 2017 campaign resulted in one of the crazier rises in recent memory. “No Time” started the year as a regional heavyweight prospect, but after getting a late-notice call at light heavyweight and earning an ugly decision win over Ovince St. Preux, the Switzerland native ran through Misha Cirkunov and Jimi Manuwa to become the division’s top contender. Oezdemir suffered a one-sided loss to then-champion Daniel Cormier, which started a three-fight skid, but it has been heartening to see him improve greatly over his last few bouts. Through 2018, Oezdemir’s finishing ability seemed to be a symptom of a limited gas tank. He knew he would be in trouble the longer the fight went, so he would try to end things early without much of a backup plan. In his two fights this year—a controversial decision loss to current top contender Dominick Reyes and a dominant win over Ilir Latifi—Oezdemir has been much more practiced, and the results have been outstanding. His recent losing streak means he still has a way to go to get back to a championship fight, but he has made the necessary improvements to make getting there a strong possibility. In order to do so, he needs to take out the next rising contender out of Eastern Europe: Austria’s Rakic.
Rakic has been a pleasant surprise, though his rise has mostly flown under the radar. When he was signed to the UFC in 2017, he did not look to be much more than a flier. There was not much footage out there against what looked like a weak slate of regional competition on paper. However, since making it to the Octagon, Rakic has done nothing but impress. His first two fights saw him avoid losing to a tricky neutralizer in Francimar Barroso, then absolutely dominate Justin Ledet. This has already been a breakout year for the Austrian thanks to his last bout—a highlight-reel knockout of Jimi Manuwa that took under a minute to accomplish—and with that win establishing Rakic as a prospect worthy of a ranking, it is time to see if he can make the jump to true contender.
Given that both men have proven to be quite durable, this should be 15 minutes of solid entertainment. Oezdemir has been able to establish himself as a much more efficient pressure fighter in his last few bouts, but he can still be hit. Latifi did not accomplish much on the feet as a squat power puncher, but Rakic’s long frame should make it much easier to hit leg kicks and other strikes as Oezdemir plods in. Rakic is not much of a defensive wizard, so Oezdemir still figures to have success causing some damage, backing up the Austrian and getting things to the clinch. However, he does not have quite the explosive ability to cover ground and stun Rakic to the point that he can clearly win rounds. This could wind up looking a lot like Oezdemir’s split decision loss to Reyes. Oezdemir might be able to dictate the terms of the fight, but Rakic figures to pick him apart and cause more damage over the course of three rounds. The pick is Rakic via decision.
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