Ovince Saint Preux vs. Ilir Latifi presents a best of the rest bout with potential title-fight implications in the near future. The two top #10 ranked light heavyweights will meet on February 24 at UFC on FOX 28.
Back on the rise
Championship implications apply more so to Saint Preux who looks to add to his current three-fight win streak that is comprised of three finishes. We last saw “OSP” at UFC 217 where his impressive head kick knockout of Corey Anderson may have been overshadowed by the brilliant performances on the pay-per-view card. Nonetheless, since a decision loss to Jon Jones back in April 2016 started a three-fight losing streak, Saint Preux has bounced back in a big way. He started his 2017 campaign with two rare Von Flue chokes.
What Saint Preux and Latifi have in common is they have only lost to upper echelon opponents. Four of Saint Preux’s last five losses have come against fighters who have either been UFC champions or have challenged for the title. Latifi, on the other hand, only has one loss in the last three years by way of Ryan Bader, the current Bellator Light Heavyweight champion.
This begs the question: Can Saint Preux and Latifi breakthrough against championship level competition?
Filling the void
The state of the light heavyweight division leaves many opportunities for the top-ranked competitors. With Jon Jones out indefinitely and Daniel Cormier challenging for the heavyweight strap, the next wave of title challengers are anyone’s guess. The consensus next man up would be Latifi’s training partner Alexander Gustafsson who is currently in need of an opponent. This bout on Saturday night could provide a potential dance partner for Gus. With the uncertainty of Cormier’s future and whether or not he will even compete as a light heavyweight again, a vacant or at least interim belt seems inevitable.
Expect a finish
It’s tough to say where this fight will end up but it’s unlikely that the judges will be needed. Latifi’s only fight in 2017 was a decision victory, but prior to that the majority of the Swede’s UFC bouts have not gone the distance including a handful of first-round knockouts.
“OSP” also has shown knockout power to accompany his slick submission game. All signs lead to this bout being an entertaining segway to the co-main events with performance bonus potential.