Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight dark horses Ilir Latifi and Corey Anderson will scrap this Saturday (Dec. 29, 2018) at UFC 232 inside The Forum in Inglewood, California.
As someone who is already a fan of both men, these two really impressed in their respective last fights. On one hand, Latifi has historically struggled with rangy foes who can kick him hard — sounds like Ovince Saint Preux, right? Latifi put him on his butt in the first round with an overhand then slept him with a guillotine. Meanwhile, Anderson has struggled with foes who can stop his takedown and force him to trade punches. Glover Teixeira has spent the majority of a very long and success career sprawl-and-brawling his way to 17 knockout wins, but Anderson utterly dominated him in pretty much every area.
Safe to say, both men have come a long way, but now they look to officially jump into title contention.
Record: 14-5 (1)
Key Wins: Ovince Saint Preux (UFC on FOX 28), Tyson Pedro (UFC 215), Gian Villante (UFC 196), Sean O’Connell (UFC Fight Night 81), Cyrille Diabate (UFC Fight Night 37)
Key Losses: Ryan Bader (UFC Fight Night 93), Jan Blachowicz (UFC Fight Night 53, Gegard Mousasi (UFC on Fuel TV 9)
Keys to Victory: Latifi is one of the most musclebound men at 205 lbs., but he still has deceptively fast hands and solid conditioning. His background, however, lies on the mat, where he’s talented Greco-Roman wrestler with a dangerous grappling attack as well.
Once more, Latifi faces a lanky foe who will be difficult to take down. At the same time, Anderson is very different from “OSP,” a mutual foe. Anderson is the more technical striker and throws at a higher volume, but he’s also less of powerful athlete and is a bit easier to hurt.
Given the disparity in volume, Latifi has to make his shots count. Ideally, he’ll put Anderson down early and for good, but “Beastin’ 25/8” is tough and conditioned enough to fight his way back. If Latifi can maintain his own pace and not blow through too much energy in an attempt to finish, however, there’s no reason his powerful punches cannot carry him to a decision win as well.
Key Wins: Glover Teixeira (UFC Fight Night 134), Jan Blachowicz (UFC 191), Patrick Cummins (UFC Fight Night 128), Fabio Maldonado (UFC Fight Night 77)
Key Losses: Ovince Saint Preux (UFC 217), Jimi Manuwa (UFC Fight Night 107), Mauricio Rua (UFC 198), Gian Villante (UFC on FOX 15)
Keys to Victory: Anderson has definitely faced some growing pains inside the Octagon, but he genuinely looks better every fight. He pushes an absurdly high pace, moving actively and throwing lots of strikes on the feet but truly excelling once he’s able to force his chain wrestling attack.
The first five minutes will be extremely dangerous for “Overtime.” Anderson is not brilliant defensively, and “The Sledgehammer” can certainly live up to his name. At the same time, if Anderson can escape the first without being finished or mauled, his volume and youth advantages should really help him pull away late.
No matter what round it is, Anderson should always be all the way in or all the way out, avoiding that middle range where Latifi can drop bombs. At range, his jabs, counters and kicks should work well and only grow more effective over time. As Latifi pushes forward and tries to enter the pocket, Anderson needs to drop down and wrestle. Again, he may not secure early takedowns, but wrestling is exhausting and will help wear down Latifi’s explosiveness.
Later in the fight, those takedowns will come.
Bottom Line: After Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson settle their business in the main event, who’s next in line at 205 pounds? There’s hardly a clear answer, which should give both men extra motivation to put on an impressive performance on Saturday.
If Latifi defeats Anderson, he has the strongest argument for a title shot of anyone. Will that equate to a title shot in 2019 in the WME era? Who’s to say, but a win here would be his third consecutive victory over high-level competition in a division where alternating wins and losses seems the norm.
It’s no guarantee, but it’s definitely closer than “Latdog” has been before.
Realistically, Anderson needs at least a couple wins before he contends, but this is still a rather important fight for Anderson. Again, he’s suffered some tough losses inside the Octagon, losses that are held against the now 29-year-old combatant. Defeating Latifi would extend his win streak to three and likely introduce him to the top five, a pair of accomplishments that should prove Anderson has to be taken seriously as a contender moving forward.
At UFC 232, Ilir Latifi and Corey Anderson will throw down in a pivotal 205-pound clash. Which man will take another step closer to the title?