Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight hitters Volkan Oezdemir and Ilir Latifi will square off this Saturday (June 1, 2019) at UFC Fight Night 153 from inside Ericsson Globe in Stockholm, Sweden.
It’s wild to consider Oezdemir’s ridiculously fast rise-and-fall inside the Octagon. “No Time” debuted and picked up three straight wins in 2017, earning himself a title shot. Since then, Oezdemir has dropped a trio of fights, leaving the Swiss athlete in an odd position at 205 pounds. Meanwhile, Latifi won five of six in the best string of performances throughout his career, showcasing more composure and his ever-dangerous explosiveness. Unfortunately, the length and conditioning of Corey Anderson proved a frustrating challenge for Latifi, who saw his chance to rise into the title mix slip away last time out.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Jimi Manuwa (UFC 214), Misha Cirkunov (UFC Fight Night 109), Ovince Saint Preux (UFC Fight Night 104)
Key Losses: Daniel Cormier (UFC 220), Anthony Smith (UFC Fight Night 138), Dominick Reyes (UFC Fight Night 147)
Keys to Victory: Loss streak or no, it cannot be denied that Oezdemir’s strikes land with a punishing thud. The kickboxer mixes up his kicks and punches quite well, and it only takes one clean connection to wobble an opponent’s knees.
For Oezdemir, like his foe, problems arise when his lungs struggle to keep up with his power punches.
Against Latifi, Oezdemir seemingly has a favorable match up on his hands. On the feet, Latifi has improved quite a bit, but the same problems persist: Latifi is vulnerable to kicks at range, and his stature means he must make dramatic movements to close the distance before even having a chance at landing. Being a tall fighter with solid kicks, there’s absolutely no reason Oezdemir should not be trying to slam home kicks to the mid-section.
At some point, Latifi will drop down to wrestle, which is a dangerous opportunity for Oezdemir. He has to first defend the takedown — which is very important — but after the shot is stopped, Latifi will land in a close quarters exchange, which is precisely where Oezdemir tends to knock opponents out.
Record: 14-6 (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), Corey Anderson (UFC 232), Jan Blachowicz (UFC Fight Night 53, Gegard Mousasi (UFC on Fuel TV 9)
Keys to Victory: Latifi is one of his division’s strongest fighters, compact and muscular enough to lift his opponents with ease. Destroying an opponent from top position remains his forte, but Latifi has done a nice job of better disguising his blitzes and combinations on the feet in recent years.
Against Oezdemir, I’d like to see Latifi fully commit to his wrestling. Generally, Latifi manages his energy carefully, relaxing between explosions and attempting to catch his opponent off-guard with a sudden burst of speed, be it takedown or heavy right hand.
Could it work against “No Time?” Sure, but all that time between bursts is likely time that Oezdemir will spend kicking Latifi or stalking him with power shots — any of which could bring about a sudden end to the fight.
Instead, Latifi needs to take a shot and commit to it. Grind Oezdemir into the fence in a never-ending wrestling transition, one that will surely fatigue both the Swiss and Swedish athlete. Once both are tired, Latifi is the more trustworthy fighter, able to stick to his script and still wrestle somewhat effectively.
Oezdemir, on the other hand, tends to fall apart when tired.
Bottom Line: The winner has a chance to get back into the mix.
This is a battle of No. 7-ranked contender opposite No. 9, so both men are in fairly similar positions. Each is a top Light Heavyweight, but there’s still a hurdle to overcome to consistently defeat top opposition. Frankly, it’s a matter of consistency for both, as each man tends to struggle in the latter half of fights.
The winner gets a chance to fix that issue and try again opposite the Top 5. As for the defeated man, he doesn’t lose much ground in the rankings. However, it really does chance his immediate future from potential contender to gatekeeper to the division’s upper echelon.
At UFC Fight Night 153, Volkan Oezdemir and Ilir Latifi will go to war in the co-main event. Which man will have his hand raised?