Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight bruisers Ilir Latifi and Tyson Pedro will throw down this Saturday (Sept. 9, 2017) at UFC 215 from inside Rogers Arena in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
It’s been just about a year since Latifi last stepped into the Octagon. He saw a three-fight win streak upended in that match, but the division has never been more wide open. On Saturday, Latifi will look to confirm his Top 10 ranking. Meanwhile, Pedro may just be the young prospect the division has been dying for. The 25-year-old is just six fights deep into his career, but Pedro has scored quick stoppages in all of them. Already a ranked Light Heavyweight, Pedro can advance into the Top 10 with another strong performance.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each man:
Record: 12-5 (1)
Key Wins: 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 a stocky wrestler with some insane strength. That results to some serious power — whether that’s lifting his opponent or smashing their face doesn’t matter — and Latifi actually keeps a better pace than one would expect.
In this bout, he’ll be at the end of a significant height and reach disadvantage. If he gets stranded on the outside, Latifi generally has few answers, and Pedro will make him suffer for his build.
Latifi has to pressure. Both his boxing and wrestling are only effective from within his range, but he’s nasty from that distance. If Latifi can cut off the cage and work inside, Pedro is reasonably hittable. Latifi hits hard enough to stun him, or at the very least open up a big takedown. However, it might actually be best for Latifi to shoot first. Latifi has a lot of drive behind his takedown, enough to run opponents into the fence. If Latifi can pin Pedro to the cage, he can also release him and swing away.
Key Wins: Khalil Rountree (UFC Fight Night 101), Paul Craig (UFC 209)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: With just about eight minutes of total UFC cage time under his belt, it’s impossible to get a full grasp of Pedro’s skill. At the same time, he’s been nothing short of excellent, showcasing promising grappling and violent kickboxing in those bouts..
At 6’3” with a 79-inch reach, Pedro also has great size for 205 pounds.
This bout will likely boil down to a few factors. Most importantly, Pedro has to be conditioned to fight three hard rounds. None of his physical advantages matter if Pedro fatigues and cannot throw effective punches or defend takedowns. Latifi pushes an ugly pace, and the Aussie better be prepared.
Aside from that, Pedro’s clinch offense will be a big factor. In his last fight, Paul Craig kept pushing into the clinch, but Pedro fed him knees until Craig fell apart. Against a shorter fighter in Latifi, those knees could be a game changer. Finally, Pedro needs to keep his back off the fence. This is another area where his clinch work could come into play, as Pedro really did a nice job of framing the face and turning his opponent last time around.
Bottom line: There aren’t many prospects at 205 lbs. to keep an eye on, but Craig is one of them.
It’s an important bout for Latifi as well. The chances of him ever evolving into a title contender seem incredibly slim, but he’s still a Top 10-ranked fighter in a weak division. If he can put a few wins together, he’s really not that far off. Alternatively, a loss to Pedro drops him down the rankings a bit, and his chances slim down even further.
For Pedro, it’s far and away the biggest fight of his career. Craig and Rountree certainly are tough fighters — Rountree especially is a great prospect — but they’re both new to the fight game. Latifi has been in the UFC for a few years now and seen it all. He’s a proven veteran, the type of fighter that Pedro must defeat to prove whether he’s ready for the best or if it’s too soon for the Aussie.
At UFC 215, Ilir Latifi and Tyson Pedro will duel in an important Light Heavyweight bout. Which man will have his hand raised?