Ilir Latifi — in the midst of a two-fight win streak — was motivated to inch closer to a potential 205-pound title shot in the New Year when he locked horns with No. 10-ranked Corey Anderson at UFC 232 tonight (Sat., Dec. 29, 2018) inside The Forum in Inglewood, California.
Unfortunately for “Sledgehammer,” Anderson — who was also on a two-fight win streak — had other plans, out-working and out-hustling Latifi en route to a very convincing unanimous decision.
The first minute of the bout was calm as both fighters trade to gauge distance, with Latifi peppering Anderson’s leg with thundering low kicks. Anderson broke the monotony with a flying knee that missed, which Latifi tried to use as an opportunity for a takedown, but it didn’t materialize. Anderson tried to put together a combination, but Latifi shucked him off and threw him to the canvas. Latifi landed a hard shot on the next exchange that appeared to stun Anderson, but he kept moving forward. Latifi later landed a nice hard left, but Anderson kept plodding forward. Anderson kept up a torrid pace in the final minute, popping off crisp jabs and keeping Latifi honest with his kicks.
Anderson got the action started in the second round with a hard kick to the ribs, looking to be the fresher and more active fighter early. Latifi landed a huge right hand, but it did not appear to affect Anderson ... at all. Latifi closed the distance and worked for a takedown along the cage, which Anderson defended expertly, landing a solid knee to the midsection on the break. Anderson continued to stalk Latifi, nailing Latifi with jabs and body shots, as well as using his feet to keep him off balance. Latifi tried to muster some offense, but he appeared to be out of gas, lowering his hands and gasping for air. Anderson couldn’t capitalize, though, as Latifi was able to make it back to his corner to get some rest.
Anderson came out for the third and final round with a spinning back kick, which caught nothing but air. Latifi, meanwhile, still appeared that he could not catch his breath. Latifi fired off another hard low kick and then moments later caught Anderson with another hard left hook on the break. But, again, Anderson ate it and would not let Latifi rest. Anderson was later able to corner Latifi and launch a flying knee, then a follow-up right hand, but Latifi was unfazed. Latifi responded with yet another hard shot, that once again Anderson walked right through. Anderson played keep away the final 30 seconds, while Latifi tried to goad him into exchanging.
Anderson, wisely, did not take the bait. And in doing so he went to the judges scorecards, where he had his hand raised, winning a hard-fought unanimous decision.
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