It’s a new year, so Combat Press is taking a look back at the best of MMA in 2017. Throughout the next few weeks, Combat Press will announce its award winners in multiple categories, covering everything from the action in the cage to the biggest stories surrounding the sport.
The term “Breakout Fighter of the Year” conjures up the idea of a fighter going from relative unknown to championship status. Combat Press 2016 award winner Cody Garbrandt took this path. In 2017, it was Volkan Oezdemir’s turn.
With the exception of the aforementioned Garbrandt, you’d be hard pressed to find another fighter who has ever had a better calendar year than Oezdemir did in 2017.
“No Time” made his UFC debut in February against an always tough Ovince St. Preux. His performance wasn’t his best, but nonetheless he took away a split-decision win.
In May, the rising light heavyweight prospect needed only 28 seconds to upset the oddsmakers as he delivered one of the more surprising knockouts of the year against Misha Cirkunov.
Just two months later, the Swiss slugger faced his toughest opponent to date, Jimi Manuwa. Well, most people thought it would be Oezdemir’s steepest challenge to date anyway. Instead, he only needed 22 seconds to blitz the unsuspecting Manuwa with a barrage of punches that ended the Brit’s night early.
The names on Oezdemir’s UFC resume are not always the most eye-opening. However, the manner in which he has beaten these men is the truly remarkable thing. Most fighters would be lucky to score a knockout in the first minute of a fight, let alone do so in two fights. And to have it happen in back-to-back fights against top-15 guys? Are you kidding?
Like Garbrandt before him, Oezdemir has proved that it is possible to go from zero to hero in a calendar year. UFC 220, where Oezdemir will challenge Daniel Cormier for the UFC crown, is just 11 months removed from Oezdemir’s UFC debut. It’s very possible “No Time” could become the light heavyweight champion of the world within that 12-month span. That’s more than enough to earn Oezdemir the honor of Combat Press “Breakout Fighter of the Year.”
Other finalists: Francis Ngannou, Rose Namajunas
Make sure you check out the rest of the Combat Press 2017 MMA Award winners.