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After a brief hiatus, the UFC kicks off an epic run of autumn events this Saturday in Canada. While a frequent visitor to the Great White North, Fight Night Moncton will mark the promotion’s first ever visit to New Brunswick.
For the occasion, the matchmakers have put together a sneaky-great selection of fireworks, fisticuffs and feuds to celebrate our long-overdue province debut.
These are the reasons to watch Fight Night Moncton.
Heavy Hands in the Headliner
We caught up with @LionheartSmith at the @UFCPI to discuss his preparation for #UFCMoncton, what makes him a force at light heavyweight and more: pic.twitter.com/e3dOsbxnm5
— UFC News (@UFCNews) October 23, 2018
A main event usually consists of a few key ingredients: Highly entertaining, fan-favorite fighters, anticipation and perfect timing. The main event features all of that and more. Both Volkan Oezdemir and Anthony Smith possess power and know how to use it, combining for an astounding 28 first round finishes. At a minimum, Avenir Centre can expect fireworks.
While Oezdemir hasn’t competed in the Octagon since his title fight defeat against Daniel Cormier in January, Saturday’s bout will mark the fourth fight of 2018 for Smith. He is coming off two devastating knockouts of former champions Rashad Evans and Shogun Rua.
Smith’s momentum is something that has propelled him into what might be the best run of his career, and he owes it all to jumping up to his natural weight class. Well, that and his "anyone, anywhere" attitude.
“If I was the type of person that would give up or shy away from adversity, I wouldn’t be where I am now,” Smith says. “I just think I want it more than everyone else does.”
Oezdemir had a similar push in 2017 when he steamrolled his way through the 205lb division and earned himself a shot at the belt. It will be interesting to see if Smith can continue to capitalize on his momentum or if Oezdemir can bounce back and insert himself right back in the title conversation.
"Be sure I'm going to be next in line for the ."
A Hammer and a Menace
Michael Johnson steps in on short notice against Artem Lobov in the co-main, but is there really such a thing as a short notice fight against Johnson? The Missouri native has been known to skip traditional fight camps in favor of merely stay in fighting shape year-round. Detractors will point to some mixed results over the last few years, but few of those detractors will concede that the veteran faced a murderer’s row that featured the likes of Khabib Nurmagomedov, Nate Diaz and Justin Gaethje. “The Menace” sits at 1-1 since moving down to featherweight, and his still-speedy left hand helped him come away with the split decision victory over Andre Fili.
Fili was also Lobov’s last opponent, although he didn’t have the same fortune as Johnson. Still, as Conor McGregor’s preferred training partner, “The Russian Hammer” knows a thing or two about speedy left hands. Coupled with the fact he’s never been finished in his UFC career, and you have the ingredients for a full 15 minutes of mayhem.
Talkin' Cheesecake! @SarahCheesecake describes the origin of her nickname, and her favorite type of delicious dessert ahead of #UFCMoncton https://t.co/oru6QZ60bp pic.twitter.com/izBYEt8nUx
— UFC (@ufc) October 24, 2018
Three of Canada’s finest will grace the Moncton Octagon Saturday night, and all with a shared goal: to shake off a recent, frustrating loss.
There’s no shame in losing to a slugger like Lucie Pudilova, but British Columbia’s Sarah Moras doesn’t want to hear that. Training relentlessly in Las Vegas for Saturday’s tilt against Talita Bernardo, "Cheesecake" spends even her minimal downtime engaged in classes and activities that help advance her game. “I’ve got a limited amount of time to fight and to get good at fighting,” she told UFC.com. “I’m putting all of my energy into that.”
Getting caught in only the second omoplata in UFC history led to Canadian sensation Arjan’s Bhullar’s first loss in MMA. He’ll look to wield his storied wrestling prowess and right the ship against Marcelo Golm in Moncton’s FIGHT PASS prelims.
A French transplant who calls Montreal home, Nordine Taleb suffered his first finish loss since 2015 in Liverpool last May. He’ll look to wash away that bitter pill against Sean Strickland who is looking to avenge a similar storyline in his last bout.
UFC Fight Night: Volkan vs Smith airs live on FS1 at 10pm/7pm ETPT, with prelims getting underway at 8pm/5pm ETPT on FS2. FIGHT PASS subscribers get three exclusive prelims beginning at 6:30pm/3:30pm.
Steve Latrell and Gavin Porter are writers and producers for UFC.com. You can follow them on Twitter @TheUFSteve & @PorterUFCnews