Ankalaev has been away from the Octagon for over a year. The Swiss star was last in action at UFC 251 last July. In Abu Dhabi, he welcomed promotional newcomer Jiří Procházka to the promotion. Less than a minute into the second round, “No Time” was brutally knocked out by “Denisa.” However, while he fell to his Czech counterpart, Oezdemir was successful in his two prior outings against fellow Europeans Aleksandar Rakić and Ilir Latifi.
With his place in the 205-pound top 10 still secure, Oezdemir will hope to return the win column and begin a pursuit for a second UFC championship opportunity against Ankalaev on October 30. The Russian, who’s ranked at #7 in the division, will ride a six-fight win streak that includes victories over Ion Cuțelaba and Nikita Krylov into his clash with the 32-year-old.
Ahead of the main card opener, Oezdemir spoke with MMA News’ James Lynch. When asked about the matchup, the former kickboxing practitioner suggested Ankalaev suits him better as an opponent than some of his previous foes. He also commented on the changing landscape of the light heavyweight weight class, which has seen him tumble from top of the mountain in terms of size, to bottom of the pile.
“I like him, I like his style, he’s maybe more like a normal type of guy when you compare him to Jiří or even Rakić. Those guys, even [Dominick] Reyes; some of my last opponents… [have] a different frame and stuff like that, you know, they’re big guys, really tall. And he’s [Ankalaev] pretty much my size.
“The division has changed a lot, now I’m actually one of the shortest guy in the division. I remember when I first came into the UFC, I was already a top 10 since my first fight, since I fought the #6 guy, and I was one of the tallest guys. Now I’m actually one of the shortest guys in the division. Ankalaev is pretty much my size. He’s a little bit bigger, but he’s actually kind of similar.”
Giving his prediction for the fight, Oezdemir suggested Ankalaev will avoid him and attempt to counter-strike. The Swiss contender used the analogy of a cat chasing a mouse to describe how he thinks his 10th UFC outing will play out.
“This fight, I think, is kind of going to be chasing, like a cat chasing the mouse. I think Ankalaev is a guy who’s gonna actually run away a lot. I think he’s going to try to make me miss, make me frustrated. He’s not the kind of guy that actually engages too much; he’s a counter-striker… I think his game is to make me out of my head, to [make me] engage a little too much, or to take me down. This is the stuff I need to watch out [and] stay in my game, stay composed, and obviously I need to bring the power. I think he is somebody who likes to be in his game, in his timing,” Oezdemir told MMA News.
Catch our full exclusive interview with Volkan Oezdemir ahead of UFC 267 below:
Who do you think will have their hand raised at UFC 267, Volkan Oezdemir or Magomed Ankalaev?