Jason Paglia @TheSportsKegCEO breaks downs the co-main event for UFC Fight Night: 153 between Ilir Latifi and Volkan Oezdemir.
<div><p>The co-main event for UFC Fight Night: 153 between Ilir Latifi and Volkan Oezdemir takes place Saturday afternoon under the lights of the Ericsson Globe in Stockholm, Sweden. Both fighters, currently ranked 7th and 9th in the UFC light heavyweight division respectively, need a win Saturday to propel themselves into the upper half of the top ten. The ‘Squared Up’ series has been dominant as of late, hitting 4 of our last 5 predictions but both fights are evenly matched and we have our work cut out for us this weekend. Let’s do this thing.</p><h2 style="text-align:center;">ILIR LATIFI (14-6) vs VOLKAN OEZDEMIR (15-4)</h2><h2>Ilir Latifi:</h2><p>Ilir Latifi who is currently ranked the 9th Light heavyweight fighter in the world started out as a wrestler. After becoming a two-time national champion, he decided to leave the sport and pursue a career in mixed martial arts in 2005. For most of the following decade, Latifi would come up through the regional MMA scene until finally in 2013 he joined the UFC. I have always thought of Ilir Latifi as a middling gatekeeper to the elite of the UFC light heavyweight division. The light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions have been the two weakest divisions in the promotion for years and while Latifi is the best of the rest, it’s worth noting that he comes into Saturdays fight winners of 5 of his last 7 fights.</p><p> </p><h2>STATS</h2><p>•Method of Victory •Significant Strikes (per/min) •Takedowns</p><p>▪5 wins by TKO ▪ 2.34 Landed ▪ 32.26% Accuracy</p><p>▪4 wins by Decision ▪ 2.66 Absorbed ▪ 100% Defended</p><p>▪5 wins by Submission</p><p> </p><h2>PROS</h2><p>• Power (Latifi is built like a truck and to the surprise of no one he hits like one too. While the power is significant, the power punches are usually flying at his opponents head one at a time.)</p><p>• Wrestling (He is a two-time national champion so it is a strength, however…. I think he should be using the tool more often. He reminds me of Kevin Lee in that regard, he finds himself kickboxing and striking way more than he should be. Use the tools that brought you to the dance.)</p><p>• Takedown Defense (If you search for Latifi’s stats in the database you will find that his takedown defense rate in the UFC is 100%..... mic drop.)</p><h2>CONS</h2><p>• Stamina (Fight after fight after fight, he takes the 3rd round off. He is jacked like a truck, but the problem is when you have muscles on top of muscles, they need more oxygen than fat does. It’s great to have that power but when you only have the energy to fight two of three rounds, what good are they?)</p><p>• Chin (In his six losses he has been knocked out three times. I am not sure if he is completely chinny but I felt you should know this before deciding. Getting TKO’d in 50% of your losses is not great.)</p><p>• Movement (I am probably being picky here, but his movement is not top tier. In his defense almost every light heavyweight fighter in the UFC not named Jon Jones doesn’t have top tier movement [including Oezdemir] )</p><p style="text-align:center;"><img alt src="https://usatmmajunkie.files.wordpress.com/2017/02/volkan-oezdemir-ufc-fight-night-104.jpg" style="width:800px;height:533px;" /></p><h2>Volkan Oezdemir:</h2><p>This is the problem I have with such a weak division. Oezdemir was on top of the world two years ago. He debuted at UFC Fight Night 104 when he was a last minute replacement against Ovince Saint Preux. He won that fight and instantly became the 5th ranked fighter in the world. He would go on to win the next two fights against Misha Cirkunov and Jimi Manuwa and three fights into his UFC career, he found himself ranked the #3 light heavyweight in UFC. Well Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Since his 3-0 start nothing has gone right for Volkan Oezdemir. He was submitted in the 3rd round against Anthony Smith, (a fight he was winning until the submission). It was his last fight though, where Oezdemir finally looked outclassed for the first time in the Octagon. Dominick Reyes was better everywhere against Oezdemir. He needs this one badly or its 0 for his last 3.</p><h2>STATS</h2><p>•Method of Victory •Significant Strikes (per/min) •Takedowns</p><p>▪11 win by TKO ▪ 4.73 Landed ▪ 22.22% Accuracy</p><p>▪3 wins by Decision ▪4.30 Absorbed ▪ 75% Defended</p><p>▪1 wins by Submission</p><h2>PROS</h2><p>• Striking (While Oezdemir has far from perfect technique, his pocket boxing has improved tremendously since his first UFC fight in 2017. He is the one fighter in this fight that throws combinations, that is HUGE.)</p><p>• Chin (That chin is no joke. It has to be made of iron… That is all.)</p><p>• The 1st Round (Oezdemir is a notoriously fast starter. Latifi will probably have to survive the first round, not the other way around. Volkan made Jimi Manuwa look stupid in the first round. It literally looked like he was fighting me.)</p><p>• Clinch / Power (Oezdemir’s clinch game is really strong. It comes from the ridiculous power he has in close range. That could be an issue for Latifi because his gameplan should be to get inside and work for a takedown. He will have to be cognizant of that when he is in Oezdemir’s clinch range.)</p><h2>CONS</h2><p>•Stamina (Both fighters are going to have this problem if the fight makes it to the 3rd round. The flip side to Volkan’s phenomenal fast starts is how bad he is capable of fading late in fights. Clearly, he has calculated that the risk is worth the reward but we are two-plus years into his UFC career and I expected the cardio to be better at this point.)</p><p>• Ground Game (I am a big fan of Henri Hooft BUT the 400 lbs gorilla in the room needs to be addressed. His stable of fighters the last 3 years have just looked awful on the mat. If his fighters are on their back, they are in trouble. Oezdemir is no different.)</p><h2>THE VERDICT</h2><p>This is a really tough fight to call. Would it surprise anyone if either fighter won this fight? I have doubted Latifi in the past and he has consistently proved me wrong. Despite his flaws he is still a fighter that has won 5 of his last 7 fights. At the other end of the spectrum, Oezdemir at times has looked like a serious problem from anyone in the Light heavyweight division not named Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier. In Oezdemir’s defense his last two fights were against a much better Anthony Smith at a new weight class, and what looks like a true contender in Dominick Reyes. Oezdemir was winning the Anthony Smith fight until he was submitted in the 3rd round. In the Reyes fight there were a lot of ppl that thought the fight was closer than the judges scored it but I didn’t really have a problem with the decision. The odds they are hanging on Volkan Oezdemir are very tempting at (1.83).</p><p>The other angle that might be worth a look is (Fight will not start round 3 at 2.10). Both these fighters start fast and throw hard punches with really bad intentions. The only potential problem I see is they both fade rapidly after round 1. I am less confidence that it will happen in round 2 but it is possible.</p><p>For all the power that Latifi has, he throws less than three strikes per minute. That isn’t great. He also absorbs more significant strikes in a minute than he throws. I have a problem backing fighters with that metric. The ace in the hole for Latifi is this, if he can use his wrestling and take Oezdemir down, he probably wins this fight. The risk is how hard and accurate Volkan is from the clinch distance. Add that with how chinny Latifi has been at times and I think I have to back Volkan Oezdemir here.</p><p>They have equally bad cardio so that’s a wash. So you’re basically betting that Latifi won’t takedown Oezdemir and I can live with that. Oezdemir’s takedown defense is 75% and Latifi has shown that while he can take fighters down he has a hard time keeping them on the mat. Like my last breakdown between Lee and RDA , I understood why people were on Lee even though I was on the other side. The same could be said for this matchup with Latifi and Oezdemir but at this price I am willing to back ‘The Volkanator’ one more time.</p><h2>THE PICK</h2><p><a href="https://www.oddsmarket.com/fighting/int/ultimate-fighting-championship/ilir-latifi-vs-volkan-oezdemir-3800375/?mtid=126" target="_blank"><strong>Volkan Oezdemir to win at 5/6 (1.83)</strong></a></p><p><strong>Best odds found at: <a href="https://a.oddsmarket.com/record/v?c=150&a=3e56a0bf-7bdf-4fe1-b9a6-d22c7cc3dd2c&f=1" target="_blank">BetWay</a>, <a href="https://a.oddsmarket.com/record/v?c=150&a=dcba5f2b-1dd5-4c29-82c4-99531abcc5db&f=1" target="_blank">Matchbook</a> & <a href="https://a.oddsmarket.com/record/v?c=150&a=bf7f64f4-cd67-4904-9b00-6ded1d41fd18&f=1" target="_blank">Bet365</a></strong></p></div>