Heavyweight action capped off the UFC Vegas 61 preliminary card on Saturday, with Aleksei Oleinik, at age 45 the elder statesman of the UFC roster, looking to make it two straight wins against Sweden’s Ilir Latifi.
The bout had originally been booked for March at UFC Columbus, only for Latifi to withdraw due to illness on the day of the fight. A rescheduled date at UFC 273 weeks later also fell through; Saturday would turn out to be the charm, with the pair finally throwing down.
The end result was a very reserved affair, which saw the Swede fight smart, and stay away from Oleinik’s submission game.
A very cordial start to the heavyweight fight saw the fighters shake hands before getting down to business. Oleinik connected with his hands, while Latifi looked to land his own right. Latifi then landed a takedown, which of course put Oleinik in his wheelhouse. Oleinik trapped both of Latifi’s arms with overhooks, forcing the ref to consider standing them how. Latifi pulled one arm free, however, and the action was allowed to continue.
By the final minute, Oleinik had a cut opened up by an eye, possibly due to an accidental head butt. Latifi did get some strikes in, going body-head in the final minute. More impressively, he stayed out of danger in terms of submissions.
Round two saw Latifi fire an uppercut early, while Olienik looked to close the distance for a takedown. He fired wild over the top, with Latifi successfully countering. Latifi then landed a left hand; Oleinik fired a low kick. Oleinik put the pressure on, walking Latifi down and throwing looping punches and leg kicks. It wasn’t pretty, but was likely earning him points. When Latifi shot for a takedown, Oleinik sprawled. A second attempt, with more power behind it, landed for Latifi, however.
That gave the Swede 90 seconds to work. Latifi moved to side control, landing some nasty elbows and forcing Oleinik to scramble. Latifi had the back momentarily at the end of the round, before Latifi moved back to side control.
Oleinik pressed forward once again to start the third. Latifi answered him with a left hand. Latifi then feinted a takedown, which Oleinik fell for. Oleinik fired a knee shortly after, which Latifi answered with an uppercut. Clinching, they battled it out by the fence; Oleinik would land a knee, but Latifi had most of the control time. They’d go the distance, with Ilir Latifi the clear winner.
After the win, Latifi revealed that the bout was the last on his contract, and at 40 he was unsure of his future. He also said he’d picked up a staph infection in his leg two days out from the fight, but didn’t tell his coaches.
Official Result: Ilir Latifi def. Aleksei Oleinik by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)