Ahead of Saturday night’s UFC 220 card in Boston, UFC light-heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier claimed that challenger Volkan Oezdemir just wasn’t on his level. In an interview on the Real Quick with Mike Swick podcast earlier this week, former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold, who is a longtime friend and training partner of Cormier but a recent gym-mate of Oezdemir, made a similar claim.
In the end, both Cormier and Rockhold were proven correct.
Oezdemir came out extremely aggressively right from the start of the fight – not exactly a surprising strategy from a guy who is nicknamed ‘No Time’, has twelve first-round finishes on his ledger and accounted for his two previous opponents in a combined 70 seconds. He put real pressure on the much shorter Cormier, who initially backtracked, ducked and dodged, but the Swiss challenger couldn’t land anything really significant on the champion. That frenetic early pace caught up with Oezdemir quickly too and as he slowed down, Cormier began to stand his ground more and find openings that he could exploit. Towards the end of the stanza, ‘DC’ wobbled Oezdemir with a big overhand right and again seconds later with a left hook. He then hauled Oezdemir to the ground and locked on a rear-naked choke, but the buzzer saved the challenger.
It wasn’t long, however, before Oezdemir found himself in peril once more. Cormier wasted no time in dragging the fight to the mat in the second round. He quickly progressed to mount and eventually the crucifix position. From there he landed blow after blow to the unprotected head of Oezdmir. They weren’t concussive shots but Oezdemir was trapped and defenceless, leaving referee Kevin MacDonald with little option but to call a halt to the fight.
That is classic Daniel Cormier ?
— UFC on BT Sport (@btsportufc) January 21, 2018
“[Cormier] proved exactly what he said leading into this fight – ‘There are levels to this thing and Volkan Oezdemir is not on my level.’ He was right,” said Joe Rogan on commentary.
After the result was officially announced, Cormier dropped to his knees and gave an emotional post-fight interview to Rogan.
“Joey, I’ve been through a lot. I go through a lot of stuff, man, and it’s because of my greatest rival,” said Cormier, referring to the man who knocked him out last July but was subsequently stripped of the win and the title after testing positive for a banned substance – Jon Jones. “But it feels good to get back in here and get a victory.”
“You know, I’ve lost twice to Jon Jones and as I came into this fight I said I felt as though I was fighting for a vacant title again because he beat me the last time. And I fought for a vacant title, and I got the job done, so I’m the UFC champion again.”
In a classy move, Cormier then backtracked slightly on his previous claims about the level of Oezdemir’s game.
“I proved that I’m worthy of being called champion but Volkan is on the level,” he said. “Every guy who makes it to this point is on the level. Volkan Oezdemir, I leave a piece of myself with every opponent and I’m glad you can take a piece back with you to Switzerland. You did a fantastic job young man.”
The win moves the 38-year-old Cormier to 20-1 with 1 no contest as a professional. Both blemishes on his otherwise pristine ledger came against the aforementioned Jones. The 28-year-old Oezdemir drops to 15-2 as a pro.