Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight bruisers Tyson Pedro and Ilir Latifi dueled last night (Sept. 9, 2017) at UFC 215 inside Rogers Arena in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Pedro came into this bout with more hype than experience. Still, it’s hard to argue with an undefeated professional record consisting of solely first round finishes. Against his biggest challenge to date, Pedro was looking to impress.
On the other hand, Latifi is an established vet who’s faced the UFC’s best. Coming off a year-long layoff, the powerful Swede was in position to bounce back against one of the division’s fastest rising stars.
Pedro opened the fight with long range kicks, while Latifi slowly inched forward and avoided them. About 90 seconds into the round, Latifi caught a low kick and converted it into a big double leg takedown. The Australian returned to his feet and began to land some strong kicks, but another takedown returned Pedro to the mat.
Latifi began to hunt for a north-south choke — his second attempt of the fight — and it allowed Pedro to scramble back up. Pedro broke free with just seconds remaining, though he wasn’t able to do much with the opportunity.
It was a close round, but the young Aussie was looking tired heading into the first second round of his career.
The paced slowed significantly in the second, as the fighters pretty much stood in front of each other and occasionally traded big shots. Latifi landed well with the random combination, but Pedro scored with some hard kicks and a clean uppercut.
At the midway point in the round, Latifi decided to switch things up and run his opponent into the fence. He landed a gigantic high-crotch slam, establishing top position in full guard. Pedro was able to scramble up along the fence, but Latifi made him pay with a few heavy right hands to the jaw.
Despite the stand up, Pedro was trapped along the fence until the end of the round.
Pedro opened with the same kicks as before, but without as much setup, Latifi was able to land counters as well. Both fighters were landing and doing damage, but Latifi changed it up one more time with a big double leg along the fence.
From the full guard, Latifi hunkered down on his opponent and landed the occasional hammer of a punch. He wasn’t incredibly active, but Latifi made his shots count. He also did a great job of working to pass whenever Pedro attempted to stand, which caused the Aussie to hesitate and return to guard.
Latifi finished a competitive fight with his strongest round, securing the decision victory.
Latifi doesn’t get enough credit for his technical game. He’s short and foot-slow, but Latifi makes the most of his attributes — namely strength, power punching, and wrestling — to make his opponents miserable.
Most importantly, Latifi is consistent, one of the most difficult things to be in an inconsistent sport. Despite his opponent’s athleticism and dangerous offense, Latifi stuck to the script of inching towards his opponent, picking his moment to throw combinations, and finally getting in on the hips.
As for Latifi’s next text, quite a few top 10 opponents would make sense. For example, Corey Anderson could use a bounce back fight after losing to Jimi Manuwa, and both are trying to rise into the top five.
Pedro showed a great deal of potential in this loss. He’s a great size for the division and has some really nasty weapons, but ultimately his full MMA game doesn’t make sense just yet. The sum is less than the parts, which is not uncommon for young fighters.
Luckily, Pedro already made a smart decision by moving to a great camp in the Jackson-Winkeljohn Academy. Combined with this learning experience, Pedro will very likely improvement regarding his ability to create offense and stop the takedown in his next bout.
Last night at UFC 215, Ilir Latifi returned to the cage after a year-long layoff to secure a big victory. What is next for the Swede?
For complete UFC 215 “Nunes vs. Shevchenko” results and play-by-play, click HERE!