February 28, 2018

UFC on FOX 28: Ilir Latifi vs. Glover Teixeira Needs To Happen Next

By Adam Martin

In one of the biggest upsets of the night at UFC on FOX 28, Ilir Latifi knocked down Ovince Saint Preux and then choked him out cold for the biggest win of his UFC career to date. Latifi, who is now riding a two-fight win streak with wins over OSP and Tyson Pedro, immediately called out UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Daniel Cormier, who was sitting cageside commentating the fight. DC is busy with Stipe Miocic in the heavyweight division next, however, so that fight is not going to happen anytime soon. Instead, I say Latifi faces another top contender coming off of an impressive win, none other than former title contender Glover Teixeira.

Though Teixeira is 38 now, he's proven time and time again that he remains one of the elite light heavyweights in the game. In his last fight, Teixeira brutally knocked out the younger, faster, and stronger Misha Cirkunov, which was a huge win for him. It's true he was knocked out by Alexander Gustafsson one fight prior, but there's no shame in losing to Gus. Plus, the fact that Teixeira lost to Latifi's longtime teammate Gustafsson just adds to the backstory of this matchup I'm proposing. In a light heavyweight division that needs to find potential title contenders, the winner of a Teixeira vs. Latifi fight would throw his name right into the discussion regarding the next guy to face DC once he moves back to 205.

Stylistically, Teixeira vs. Latifi is a very interesting fight. Teixeira is an incredibly well-rounded light heavyweight with a solid wrestling game, very good boxing with power, and excellent submissions for a big guy. He has also proven he can go 25 minutes and has a great chin, plus his 10-4 UFC record is impressive. Though fans and media have thought his decline would come for a while now, he keeps surprising us.

Latifi is someone who gets written off at times (including by me) but he's also shown he's a very well-rounded heavyweight with a 7-3 UFC record. Though he's 34 now, he keeps getting better every time we see him. He showed off his devastating submission ability against OSP, and against Pedro he showed his physical strength and strong wrestling game. And in the past he's shown us knockout ability to boot. His durability remains a concern, but there's no doubt he's just a step below the elite light heavyweight tier in MMA. And he still has the potential to take the next step.

If the UFC does make this fight, I would assume the winner of the bout is right behind Gustafsson in the title queue, which is a good place to be considering how inactive Gus is these days. If Jon Jones is somehow reinstated sometime this summer (however unlikely that is) then obviously that changes things. A Jones vs. Gustafsson fight for the #1 contender spot at that point sounds like fun, with the winner of Latifi vs. Teixeira just a step behind. And just say DC beats Miocic and retires, or moves to heavyweight full-time. At that point, the light heavyweight title situation becomes completely wide open, and the winner of Latifi vs. Teixiera could be in line for an opportunity to fight for the vacant title.

As for where the fight would take place, you could either throw it on the undercard of UFC 224 in Brazil for three rounds, or you could book it as a five-round main event for a Fight Night card in Europe. This is all theoretical, of course, but that's part of the fun in writing these fantasy matchmaking articles.

We'll see what plans the UFC has for Teixeira and Latifi, but I really do think this is a great matchup that makes a lot of sense considering the timing. And stylistically it looks like a very exciting fight on paper. The light heavyweight division isn't the most exciting weight class these days, but when a guy like Latifi goes out there and destroys a guy like OSP, it makes you excited to find out if he can take the next step in his career. It's only when you give him the opportunity to fight someone like Teixiera do you find out where he's at.

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