MONCTON, N.B. — Anthony (Lionheart) Smith forced second-ranked Volkan (No Time) Oezdemir to tap out for the victory in the light heavyweight UFC main event in Moncton, N.B., on Saturday night.
Smith improved to 31-13-0 after his rear-naked choke caused Oezdemir (15-3-0) to submit at 4:26 of the third round.
"My name is Anthony Smith and I want a title shot," he told the crowd following the win.
"I've been fighting since I've been 17 years old, I've been chasing this dream, my career has been up and down, I've gone through so much adversity and all I wanted is to stand here in this octagon after a win and have the confidence to ask for a title shot," he said.
Smith, 30, moved up a weight class earlier this year. The six-foot-four American has won six of his last seven fights.
Both Smith and Oezdemir are known for finishing fights early. Between them they had some 30 first-round finishes heading into the match in Moncton.
In the co-main event, Michael (The Menace) Johnson (98-13) beat Artem Lobov (14-15-1) by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27) in a featherweight bout. Both men landed lots of punches and kicks in the hard-fought match.
Johnson, who fights out of Boca Raton, Fla., was a late replacement just a couple weeks ago. He replaced Zubaira Tukhugov, who is under investigation by the Nevada Athletic Commission for his part in a brawl that followed the main event at UFC 229 in Las Vegas between Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Lobov is a 32-year-old Russian, who is based Ireland, and is a training partner of McGregor.
"Artem has never been finished, so I had to think about that and take my shots," Johnson said. "It was an honour to fight him and I don't think you can get a tougher guy in there."
Johnson said he wants another fight soon.
"I'm a fighter and I want to fight," he said.
In other main-card action, No. 11-ranked Misha Cirkunov of Toronto improved his record to 14-4 by beating No. 14 Patrick Cummins (10-5) by submission in a battle between light heavyweights. The referee stopped the fight at 2:40 of the first round as the result of an arm-triangle.
Andre Soukhamthath (13-6) ruined Jonathan Martinez's UFC debut (9-2) in a scrappy bantamweight contest. Soukhamthath, 30, took the bout by unanimous decision (30-29, 29-28, 29-28).
Gian Villante (17-10), who fights out of Bellmore, N.Y., beat fellow American Ed Herman (24-14) in a split decision to win their light-heavyweight fight.
"I'm happy to walk away with the win, but I'm a little uglier for it," said the bloodied Villante.
Meanwhile, American Court McGee (20-6-1) used the mat to dominate Alex Garcia (15-5) in a welterweight match, (29-28, 29-28, 30-28) the first of the main card.
The Saturday night card was the UFC's New Brunswick debut. It was greeted by a loud and appreciative crowd at the Avenir Centre in Moncton right from the start of the preliminary bouts. Attendance was 6,282 and the gate was $692,000.
Sean Strickland of Corona, Calif., improved his record to 20-3-1 with a technical knockout of Nordine Taleb (14-6).
The referee stopped the welterweight bout at 3:10 of the second round. Taleb, who comes from France but fights out of Montreal, was a crowd favourite, resulting in loud boos from the crowd when the fight was stopped.
Nasrat Haqparast of Hamburg, Germany beat Thibault Gouti (12-5) of France by unanimous decision (29-27, 29-28, 30-26) in the lightweight division. The 23-year-old improves to 10-2.
Calvin Kattar (19-3) from Massachusetts had Chris Fishgold (17-2-1) of Liverpool, England, bloodied and took him to the mat with a flurry of punches before the referee moved in to call the TKO at 4:11 of the first round in a featherweight bout.
"Nothing better than a knockout finish in the first round, we don't get paid by the minute," said the 30-year-old Kattar, who has now won 10 of his last 11 fights.
Women's bantamweight Sarah (Cheesecake) Moras of Kelowna, B.C., (5-5) lost for the first time in Canada to Talita Bernardo (6-2) by judges' decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28).
In the early prelims, Don Madge (8-1) landed a right foot to the head of Te Edwards (6-2) for a TKO at 14 seconds into the second round in a lightweight fight.
Vancouver heavyweight Arjan Bhullar (8-1) landed repeated lefts to win a unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-27) over Marcelo Golm (6-2) of Brazil.
"I'm hungrier and more ferocious than him," Bhullar said after the bout. "You can't underestimate my resilience."
Stevie Ray (22-8), who fights out of Scotland, landed repeated high kicks to beat Jessin Ayari (16-4) of Germany in the lightweight division (29-28, 29-28, 30-27).
Fight of the night bonuses went to Gouti vs. Haqparast, while performance bonuses went to Smith and Madge.
The next big fight is Cormier vs. Lewis in UFC 230 in New York.