Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight contenders Ovince Saint Preux and Ilir Latifi squared off last night (Feb. 24, 2018) at UFC on FOX 28 inside Amway Center in Orlando, Florida.
An early 2017 loss saw Saint Preux riding a three-fight losing streak, seemingly on his way out. Instead, “OSP” put together perhaps the best trio of victories in his career, re-establishing himself as a top fighter and threat to the title. Opposite Latifi, Saint Preux had a chance to really complete the resurgence by scoring another Top 10 win. Meanwhile, Latifi has been hanging among the Top 15 for a while now, but he’s been unable to make the final push into contention. Considering Saint Preux’s momentum and the general lack of contenders at 205 pounds, this was Latifi’s chance to change that.
The fighters exchanged low kicks early, with neither man all that eager to exchange punches. Latifi was more active and effective early, as Saint Preux spent much of his time getting a read on Latifi rather than actually throwing in the early portion of the round.
As Saint Preux hung back and picked with the occasional counter, Latifi was beginning to land. Latifi worked from the Southpaw stance, and Saint Preux switched as well in order to be in the opposite stance as his opponent. However, “OSP” is not as defensively sound from that stance, and a big left hand from Latifi sent him spiraling to the mat.
“The Sledgehammer” immediately chased the finish, running after Saint Preux and following up with heavy shots on the mat. Saint Preux regained his footing only to be blasted once more, and this time Latifi transitioned into a standing guillotine choke. “OSP” did not know where he was and did little to defend as a result, allowing Latifi to put him to sleep.
This was a stellar performance from Latifi. To be frank, I didn’t know Latifi had it in him. Wrestling his way passed Saint Preux was always an option, but I never expected Latifi to pick apart his opponent from range. That’s not what normal bulky wrestlers do to their lanky knockout artist foes. Latifi did everything correctly on the feet. At range, he jammed Saint Preux’s lead leg with straight and outside low kicks, the only strikes he could easily land. Building from those weapons, Latifi feinted his way inside and threw in combination, giving himself the best possible chance at connecting on his foe’s jawline.
He did just that, and Latifi has excellent finishing instinct.
After this win, Latifi is on the short-list of Light Heavyweight contenders. It’s unfortunate that he will not fight Alexander Gustafsson, as that fight makes the most sense, but perhaps he could trade with “Shogun” Rua? Saint Preux never really did anything in this fight. He was patient in finding his range but never enforced the distance, allowing Latifi to find his punches first. Latifi hits damn hard, and “OSP” learned that the hard way.
The best move for Saint Preux was to immediately slam power body kicks and snap kicks on his shorter foe. Those open kicks are the whole reason Saint Preux was so intent on being in the opposite stance of his opponent — you could watch him immediately switch whenever Latifi changed stances — but he didn’t actually throw many kicks! It was bizarre, as long range kicks can be thrown as a way to measure distance.
There was no benefit in waiting to kick, as it only allowed Latifi to find his way inside and work.
Last night, Ilir Latifi upset his opponent with a big left hand and nasty guillotine choke. Who should Latifi face next?
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