Anthony Smith made a strong argument for a title shot at UFC Moncton, submitting Volkan Oezdemir in the first round. First, however, he wants a little down time to spend with his family and be a father.
Moncton, NB — If the crowd in Moncton wasn’t the biggest for a UFC card, their boisterous response to the main event getting underway belied that. They roared for Anthony Smith. Volkan Oezdemir, let’s say got a mixed reaction. Still, it was a strong start to the UFC Moncton main event. A headliner that did not disappoint.
As the two light heavyweights touched gloves and faced off, it felt like a fight that would be over in ‘No Time,’ pun fully intended. Who would have the upper hand was less clear. Smith perhaps took some by surprise by shooting for a takedown early, but unable to complete, that, it instead led to a clinch along the cage. An exchange of knees followed. Oezdemir, breaking free, landed a few punches, backing Smith up. Smith changed levels briefly, but again, no dice. Still, he’d recovered enough. Only now, a change in game plan. Sideways movement. More kicks. The fight was far from over, but Smith had tasted Oezdemir’s power.
Not long after, Oezdemir would taste Smith’s. And just when ‘Lionheart’ had an opening, an apparent eye poke by Smith paused the action. When they were back underway, Volkan connected almost immediately. Smith was on his heels. Volkan pounced, but his would-be victim escaped with ease. He’d attack again as the round wore down, cornering Smith, but they’d finish the round. Perhaps that was the biggest surprise to that point.
In the second, Oezdemir continued to land leg kicks, each hitting home with a crack. Smith then powered forward, throwing, and put Oezdemir on his heels. Volkan was bloodied. Smith had gone from hunted to hunter. Now it was Oezdemir looking for a takedown, hoping to buy time, and he got it. Smith then looked for a leg lock. For a moment, it felt like he might have something, but Oezdemir turned, and stepped over his opponent to safety.
Heading into UFC Moncton, Oezdemir had spoken of Smith finding out what it was like at the top of the division. To that point, Smith had held up his end — but Oezdemir soon had his back. He’d stay in that position for minutes, looking for a choke, unable to find it but winning back the round.
The great equalizer in MMA, you start each round on the feet. Smith looked rejuvenated in round three, and nearly caught Oezdemir early with what wound up being a glancing blow. Smith suddenly looked the fresher fighter. Volkan was moving back, covering up at times. Then the next surprise — Smith landed the takedown, and soon took the back. Much like Oezdemir earlier in the fight, but Smith made no mistake. He locked in a body triangle, and sunk in a rear-naked choke. Slick with sweat and blood, Oezdemir fought it off. Broke open Smith’s hands. Bought himself time. Smith readjusted. Then readjusted again. By the third try, he had it. Oezdemir, who at times looked like he might go out, tapped.
A third straight win, three for three after moving north to light heavyweight, for Smith. A third straight finish in the 205lb weight class. Backstage following the fight, Smith claimed indifference to silencing the doubters. “Sh*t, I don’t even care, honestly,” he told Cageside Press. “I would say that the top three criticisms I get are people talking about that I don’t have a chin, which I think I silenced that. I think I took a couple clean Volkan Oezdemir shots that a lot of guys in the division didn’t take.” That he did. “I think that I was able to do that,” he suggested.
“Another one was that I wasn’t able to hang with the guys at the top of the division, I think I disproved that,” Smith continued. No argument there. If your complaint was that Smith had been beating fighters long in the tooth, well, Oezdemir’s last fight was for the title.
“And people say I don’t have a ground game, and I think I just silenced that,” Smith said of the submission win. Still, he knows that “no matter what, people are going to talk. That’s just how it is at this point.”
That said, gold is on his mind. “I think I did a pretty damn good job of solidifying myself a title shot, so they can say whatever they want.” There’s just one caveat: time off first.
One of these things is not like the other – Anthony Smith's knee following #UFCMoncton pic.twitter.com/FraoSQKwbj
— Jay Anderson (@CageSideJay) October 28, 2018
Asked whether he’d take another fight, or sit for the shot, Smith said “here’s the deal I’m going to go ahead and get this out here now. I’ve said that I’ll fight anyone, any time, any place. But I also said that need a break.”
“My hand’s pretty banged up, we’re definitely going to need an X-ray. My leg’s pretty banged up,” he said of injuries he’d sustained during the bout. “So I don’t want any of these idiot 205’ers that are ranked in the division like you’re— nothing against Dominick Reyes, but I can see it now, as soon as I get home on Monday, they’re going to be calling for a fight. I already said that I needed a break, they’re going to use this as an opportunity to say that I’m turning fights down.”
“I’m telling you guys right now, I’m taking a f*cking break. I need a goddamn break.”
A lot of that goes back to Smith being a family man. “This is my fourth fight this year, this is my third in five months. I’ve got three young daughters that I promised I was going to spend the whole Summer with, and I ended up fighting twice,” he said of his hectic 2018. “I need a break, I need time with my family, I need to be a dad. I haven’t been able to do that for a while consistently. It’s not fun being a dad on the weekends.”
When he comes back from that break, there could be a title shot waiting. Who it might be against, however, remains to be seen.