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Volkan Oezdemir: Knockout over Jimi Manuwa could steal Alexander Gustafsson’s title shot


MMA: UFC Fight Night-Oezdemir vs Cirkunov Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports

Swiss light heavyweight Volkan Oezdemir continues to fly under the radar despite dispatching two title contenders in as many trips to the Octagon this year.

A split-decision win over Ovince Saint Preux got his UFC tenure underway in February after stepping in on two weeks’ notice to replace Jan Blachowicz. In late May, he made an even bigger impression on the MMA universe when he finished highly touted prospect, Misha Cirkunov, in 28 seconds.

Oezdemir’s goal is to go from UFC debutant to champion inside his first twelve months with the promotion, and with a big statement against second-ranked Jimi Manuwa at UFC 214, he believes a title shot is within his grasp.

“Everything that’s happening to me at the moment sounds like a dream,” Oezdemir told

“There is a lot of work that people don’t see, though. I’ve been putting in a lot of work over the years. It’s finally coming together for me. The dream was always to be the UFC champion, and now that’s becoming a reality for me.”

Oezdemir feels validated coming off his emphatic showing against Cirkunov, so he’s not all that bothered by his chances of victory against the British knockout artist being written off. In fact, he expects it.

“People have doubted me since my first fight in the UFC, and then they doubted me against Misha. I expect them to doubt me again as I go on to face Manuwa. I’m glad because I feel like this will be the fight that changes peoples’ minds,” he said.

The watching world might not have noticed it during his performance in Sweden, but Oezdemir proved a lot to himself in the brief time that he spent in the Octagon with Cirkunov.

The Combat Club fighter made a name for himself for finishing fights in the first round while he was on his ascent — all but three of his 14 wins have gone beyond the opening five minutes.

After two decision wins on the bounce, his first-round finish of Cirkunov showed him that he was still capable of dramatic stoppages. Nevertheless, he was not blown away by his performance.

“I guess a lot has changed after that fight, but for me, the win over Cirkunov wasn’t really that impressive,” he explained.

“I’ve been finishing fights in the first round for a long time, so it’s not that special for me. In a lot of cases, my fights haven’t gone beyond the first minute. It’s hard to get excited about these things when I’ve been doing it for my whole career.

“I thought I had lost that version of myself for a few fights. When you look at some of my recent fights before my last one, I don’t think I was the same guy. OSP might have been a big win, but it wasn’t the kind of win I’m used to.

“I think I’ve found myself again,” he said. “I’m going for the kill again.”

Oezdemir believes that Manuwa is the right man to face to prove to the world that he is one of the greatest prospects in MMA.

“I want to fight for that belt as quickly as possible. I want to be the fastest rising prospect in the sport — maybe in history — who knows?

“I was fighting the sixth-ranked fighter in the division. After that, I fought the biggest prospect in the division. People were talking about him like he was two fights away from the title. Now I’m fighting the second-ranked guy. (A win) would be a huge accomplishment.”

Of course, with Gustafsson already at play in the title conversation, the 27-year-old knows that he will have to make a statement when he meets Manuwa on July 29.

“It needs to be a nice knockout or some kind of huge stoppage, but I think that could potentially open up a title shot. Right now, Gustafsson probably has more credit after coming off such a good performance against Glover Teixeira.

“Of course, (Manuwa) is really a dangerous guy and he’s a really good fighter — that’s why he’s No. 2.

“He’s respected in the game, but that’s nothing that affects me. I’m confident in my abilities and I know what I’m going to do to him. The only thing I want to do is knock him out.”

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