For the first time in UFC history, the Octagon will be set up in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada with a battle in the light heavyweight division as No. 2 Volkan “No Time” Oezdemir faces No. 10 Anthony “Lionheart” Smith. This is the first fight for Oezdemir since his UFC 220 loss to Daniel Cormier and he is a -185 favorite, while Smith eyes his third straight first-round finish as he comes back at +150. I have a breakdown and pick for each fight on the main card for UFC Fight Night: Volkan vs Smith.
|Straight Up||Picking Favorites||Picking Underdogs|
Volkan Oezdemir vs Anthony Smith
This is the first time Smith is an underdog since he made the jump from middleweight to light heavyweight at UFC 225. Lionheart was favored in each of his two fights in his new weight division and had his hand raised in both of those bouts, winning by knockout in each. But now he stands toe to toe with Volkan, who has been an underdog through his first four fights in the UFC in which he has a 3-1 record, with his only loss coming in his light heavyweight title fight vs Daniel Cormier at UFC 220.
Oezdemir (-185) began his UFC career at UFC Fight Night: Bermudez vs Korean Zombie in February of 2017 when he edged Ovince Saint Preux in a split decision with Volkan outstriking OSP 103-79. The Switzerland native then rattled off two more wins over Misha Cirkunov and Jimi Manuwa, both by knockout, needing a combined one minute and 10 seconds to dispose of both competitors, earning him the nickname No Time. The 29-year-old had taken the division by storm before taking on Cormier at UFC 220, when he was finished via TKO in the second round.
Smith (+150) has had six straight fights that have ended via knockout, with his hand being raised in five of those bouts. Lionheart’s lone loss was his last at middleweight before moving up to light heavyweight. The 30-year-old has needed just two minutes and 22 seconds to beat two former champions in Rashad Evans and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Overall, Smith has 27 finishes through his 30 career victories, with 17 coming via knockout and 10 coming by submission, but he has also been knocked out eight times.
When these two enter the Octagon in the main event, that would not be the time to grab a snack as this fight may not last a minute with these two aggressive knockout artists colliding. Volkan has devastating power from within the clinch and short-ranged strikes and Smith can punish his foes with strong elbows and knees from close range as well.
Prediction: Volkan Oezdemir (-185) via knockout
Michael Johnson vs Artem Lobov
Johnson (-650) is looking for his first win streak since he won four in a row between 2013 and 2015, having dropped five of his last seven fights while he was competing in the stacked lightweight division. The Menace fought a murderers’ row during his rough stretch, opposing the likes of Nate Diaz, Justin Gaethje and Khabib Nurmagomedov, while earning a win over Dustin Poirier.
The 32-year-old dropped to featherweight but was submitted in his debut in his new weight class by Darren Elkins, but got back in the win column with a split-decision triumph over Andre Fili. Eight of Johnson’s 18 wins have come via knockout, while eight of his 13 losses came via submission.
Lobov (+425) has gone to the judges’ scorecards in each of his six career UFC fights, with his hand being raised in just two of those scraps, and he has lost his last two bouts. The Russian Hammer has a good chin, having only been knocked out once in his career, in just his fifth professional fight. The 32-year-old likes to throw hands with his opponents, landing 3.38 significant strikes per minute, but he also absorbs 4.55 significant strikes per minute.
Lobov was set to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov’s teammate Zubaira Tukhogov for this fight but after the post-UFC 229 brawl, Tukhogov was removed from this card and Michael Johnson stepped up on late notice. Johnson simply outclasses Lobov and has much more experience and time inside the Octagon. I don’t anticipate this fight to be close at all.
Prediction: Michael Johnson (-650) via decision
Misha Cirkunov vs Patrick Cummins
Cirkunov (-500) looks to put his two-fight losing streak to an end after back-to-back T/KO defeats to knockout specialists Glover Teixeira and Volkan Oezdemir. This is the first trip to the Octagon for the 31-year-old since December of last year when he lost to Teixeira. Prior to those losses, Cirkunov had won four straight fights in the UFC, three via submission and one via T/KO. The Latvia native is well-rounded, outstriking his opponents in five of his six UFC bouts, while also landing 4.44 takedowns per 15 minutes.
Cummins (+350) has gone the distance in each of his last three fights, winning two of those scraps, while losing his last bout vs Corey Anderson, a fight in which he was taken down 12 times and outstruck 99-44. The Pennsylvania native has a tremendous heart and pushes the pace, willing to slug it out or hit the mat and work the grappling game. Cummins lands 42 percent of his takedown attempts, averaging 4.62 takedowns per 15 minutes. In the standup game, he averages 4.28 significant strikes per minute while absorbing just 3.34 significant strikes per minute.
This is a battle between two experienced and well-rounded fighters. Both men are coming off defeats and will be chomping at the bit to get back in the win column. Cirkunov’s takedown game may take over in this fight as Cummins was dragged to the mat 12 times against Corey Anderson and if he hasn’t worked on stuffing those shots, he could be in store for another long night.
Prediction: Misha Cirkunov (-500) via submission
Andre Soukhamthath vs Jonathan Martinez
Soukhamthath (-185) has dropped three of his four fights in the UFC, including his most recent loss at UFC 222 against rising star Sean O’Malley. The Asian Sensation’s lone win in the Octagon came in his fight prior to O’Malley, when he knocked out Luke Sanders at UFC Fight Night: Swanson vs Ortega in December 2017. The 30-year-old has been outstruck by double digits in each of his last three fights and only lands 2.62 significant strikes per minute while absorbing 3.64 significant strikes per minute. When the Rhode Island native hits his opponents, though, it’s usually bad news as eight of his 12 career wins have come via T/KO.
Martinez (+150) is making his Octagon debut as he puts his two-fight winning streak on the line. Dragon only has one loss through his first 10 professional bouts and that defeat came on an illegal knee thrown on the ground. Five of Martinez’s nine career wins have come via T/KO, but his last two victories came from first-round armbars, showing an evolution to his game from his first five professional fights that he won all by knockout.
Soukhamthath is known for his boxing but hasn’t been able to put it together in his UFC career and now he has a game opponent in Martinez who likes to stand and trade as well. The Asian Sensation is making his fifth trip to the Octagon so experience will be on his side over Dragon, who is making his debut. This is also Martinez’s first fight since September of last year.
Prediction: Jonathan Martinez (+150) via decision
Gian Villante vs Ed Herman
Villante (-260) has been involved in three straight split decisions, ending up on the wrong side of the judges’ scorecards in two of those bouts. The New York native has a brawler approach to his scraps, defending 82 percent of takedown attempts and electing to keep the fight standing so he can trade hands with his opponents. However, this approach hasn’t exactly worked in his favor as he is just 3-5 in his last eight fights and he lands 4.15 significant strikes per minute while absorbing 5.29 significant strikes per minute.
Herman (+200) enters the Octagon for the first time since July of last year and is looking to avoid a three-fight losing streak. Short Fuse was knocked out by Nikita Krylov at UFC 201 and lost in a unanimous decision to C.B. Dollaway last year. The 38-year-old likes to close the distance in his fights and get to the mat where he can unload his vicious ground and pound. Of Herman’s 23 professional victories, 13 have come via submission, with six wins coming by knockout and four by decision.
This is a classic striker vs grappler bout in which Villante will want to keep the fight standing while Herman will do everything he can to get this bout to the ground. Villante’s takedown defense may be the difference maker in this scrap that can swing the momentum in his favor.
Prediction: Gian Villante (-260) via decision
Alex Garcia vs Court McGee
Garcia (-190) has been on a win-one, lose-one streak over his last eight fights and is coming off a unanimous-decision loss to Ryan LaFlare at UFC Fight Night: Barboza vs Lee in April. The Dominican Nightmare has a good ground game, averaging 4.12 takedowns per 15 minutes, landing 54 percent of his attempts. Once on the mat, the 31-year-old has a good ground and pound and can either finish the fight via TKO or submission. He has six wins by each in his career.
McGee (+155) is looking to avoid his first-ever three-fight losing streak as he fights for the first time in nearly a year. The 33-year-old has gone the distance in 10 of his last 11 fights, and he has a 5-6 record over that span, with the only scrap that was finished being a knockout loss to Santiago Ponzinibbio in 2016. The former Ultimate Fighter Sportsbook has the ability to fight anywhere but mostly has a strong ground game and seven of his 18 wins have come via submission.
This fight should be a battle on the ground with two talented grapplers looking for submissions. Although Garcia has good skills on the mat, he may elect to keep the fight standing at first to give McGee something to think about before going for the takedown. I expect this to be one of the closest fights on the card and only a mistake will result in this bout being finished.
Prediction: Alex Garcia (-190) via decision
Here’s a look at all the odds for the entire UFC Fight Night: Smith vs Oezdemir card: