The light heavyweight clash between Volkan Oezdemir and Ilir Latifi is one of the most exciting fights on UFC Stockholm. Both competitors have clear strengths and weaknesses, which makes this an intriguing match-up from a betting perspective.
Known as a supremely aggressive (bordering on reckless) striker with dynamite in his hands, Volkan Oezdemir is one of the scariest light heavyweights you could have standing in front of you – for the first round at least! It’s crazy how much power Oezdemir can generate in a short space – yet when he’s not able to land the kill shot early, he usually slows down.
Despite his reputation as a first round KO or bust kind of fighter, the man from Switzerland showed much better pacing in his most recent fight against Dominick Reyes (in my opinion, he should have walked away with the decision victory). He said he’s been working on rounding out his game and his wrestling did look better in that fight. Presumably he won’t want to take Latifi down, but this could be a good sign in terms of takedown defense.
While Oezdemir has looked comfortable in top position in the past, he’s shown vulnerabilities off his back. Additionally, I don’t think he’s entirely skilled at getting back to his feet after being taken down. When he gave up his back to Anthony Smith in round three, he was choked out shortly after.
Still, Oezdemir is 29-years-of-age and is still making improvements. His pressuring style and striking acumen will be useful against Ilir Latifi – who is heavily powered, but also older and more effective at fighting in bursts.
Standing only 5’10 at light heavyweight, Ilir Latifi is built like a tank. He possesses one punch knockout power and a wrestling background – both of which are useful when you’re commonly on the wrong side of the height and reach equation.
The Swedish fighter isn’t the most technical on the feet, but he’s still an effective striker. He has chopping low kicks and fires devastating flurries on the inside. Blessed with natural power, Latifi loads up a lot and is always looking for the knockout. It’s spectacular when he lands the bomb, but it drains his gas tank when it doesn’t.
I think wrestling would be Latifi’s path of least resistance, and it’s going to be interesting to see whether he can land takedowns. He’s shown a competent top game in the past and it wouldn’t surprise me if he rode out the rest of a round on the mat after one completed takedown.
The Swede invests a lot of energy into his takedowns, so he has to manage risk and reward. With too many failed shots, Latifi could become a sitting duck on the feet as he battles through exhaustion.
It’s absolutely conceivable Latifi lands a knockout blow or wrestles his way to victory, and if you got him at +170 I don’t think that was a bad bet at all. Personally, I’m inclined to believe Oezdemir will stuff takedown attempts, apply consistent pressure on the feet (in order to drain Latifi’s gas tank) and land the more eye-catching strikes.
At nearly pick ‘em odds, I’m siding with Volkan Oezdemir. If he paces himself intelligently (as he did against Dominick Reyes), there could also be some excellent value on Oezdemir by decision at +320.
Pick: Volkan Oezdemir -120
Check out my other betting predictions for UFC Stockholm.