Volkan Oezdemir: Jan Blachowicz matchup ‘logical,’ but I took Dominick Reyes’ soul

With a three-fight skid in the rearview mirror, UFC light heavyweight Volkan Oezdemir is ready to climb the ranks.

The onetime title challenger said a potential booking with Jan Blachowicz is the “most logical” next matchup and “the next step for the belt” after a second-round knockout of Ilir Latifi  (14-7 MMA, 7-5 UFC) at UFC on ESPN+ 14. But a rematch with Dominick Reyes is the fight he really wants after a split-decision loss to the fast-rising contender in his previous outing.

“Everybody knows I won that fight, and I feel the same,” Oezdemir (16-4 MMA, 4-3 UFC) said on the ESPN+ post-fight show for Saturday’s fight card in Montevideo, Uruguay. “I felt it during the fight, him getting weaker and losing all his confidence.

“It’s about damage and points. I think I took a lot of his soul and his will to fight in the fight. You score points by touching the guy, for me, it’s nothing. This is not boxing. This is a real fight. You need to smash the guy.”

Oezdemir attributed his losing streak to an advised effort to be more tactical in his approach. Against Reyes (11-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC), he wound up letting a win slip through his fingers.

“I tried to be too cautious, and I know now I’ll do stuff differently,” he said. “I have to have a good victory and finish him out cold.”

In just under three rounds, Oezdemir did just that against Latifi, whom he was scheduled to fight in June at UFC on ESPN+ 11 before “The Sledgehammer” was forced to withdraw.

Oezdemir rarely ceded control of the fight and dominated Latifi in the second round, landing strikes at will until a pair of left hooks put the Swede out for good.

“I realized, ah (expletive), this (expletive) is not me,” Oezdemir said of his previous approach. “I have to go back to my roots. But with Ilir, the game plan was to gas him out, because I know he gasses out quickly after the first round. But it was the same plan to get the finish.”

A reoccurring hand issue could keep Oezdemir from a quick return at September’s UFC on ESPN+ 18 in Denmark, the fight card closest to his native Switzerland. He said he’ll meet with specialists to determine whether he’ll be able to fight by then.

For the meantime, Reyes is off the table as an opponent. He’s set to face ex-middleweight champ Chris Weidman, who makes his debut at light heavyweight at UFC on ESPN 6 in October.

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