Alberta heavyweight Tanner (The Bulldozer) Boser has yet to be taken down in the UFC, a record that will no doubt be tested Saturday night.
The 29-year-old from Bonnyville, Alta., who now calls Edmonton home, faces Ilir (The Sledgehammer) Latifi on a Fight Night card in Las Vegas.
The bout promises to be an interesting stylistic matchup, given Latifi’s wrestling skills.
“It’s a different test than I’ve had in the UFC,” said Boser, who looks to keep the fight standing. “I’ve fought wrestlers before but not in (the) UFC.”
Boser’s mandate hasn’t changed, however.
“My job is to go in there and try and kick his (butt) as fast as possible.”
Boser (19-7-1) has not been taken down in his five UFC fights. Latifi (14-8-0 with one no-contest) has completed 14 of his 43 takedown attempts in his 13 UFC fights, according to UFC Stats.
Strong and stocky, the Swede also packs a punch. As such, Boser is expecting a hard fight.
“He’s most likely going to try and have a wrestling-heavy approach towards me, I think,” said Boser. “But yeah, he does have good power in his hands and good explosion. There is lots you have to pay attention to when you’re fighting a guy like him.”
The main event at the UFC’s Apex production facility in Las Vegas pits Suriname’s Jairzinho (Bigi Boy) Rozenstruik, ranked sixth among heavyweight contenders, against No. 9 Augusto Sakai of Brazil.
Both Boser and Latifi are coming off losses.
Boser saw his two-fight win streak snapped in a defeat by decision at the hands of former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei (The Pit Bull) Arlovski in November.
Latifi suffered his third straight loss when, moving from light-heavyweight to heavyweight, he dropped a decision to Derrick (The Black Beast) Lewis at UFC 247 in February. Prior to that he was beaten by light-heavyweights Volkan (No Time) Oezdemir and Corey (Overtime) Anderson.
The 37-year-old Latifi said he made the move to heavyweight because making 206 pounds for non-title light-heavyweight bouts was too arduous.
The five-foot-eight Latifi weighed in at 246.5 pounds against Lewis, currently ranked second among heavyweight contenders. He weighed in at 204.5 against Oezdemir, who is currently ranked eighth among light-heavyweights, and 205.5 against Anderson.
Despite giving up five inches and 15 pounds to Lewis. Latifi took the big man down on three of seven attempts.
The six-foot-two Boser, meanwhile, weighed in at 232.5 pounds against the 42-year-old Arlovski, who was making his 33rd UFC appearance in his 51st professional fight.
It proved to be a cagey fight between counter-punchers.
Boser landed 68 of 119 significant strike attempts. Arlovski was good on 34 of 82 attempts. But Arlovski had more power. Forty-six of Boser’s strikes were leg kicks.
While all three judges scored the fight 29-28 for Arlovski, each awarded Boser a different round. Eric Colon gave Boser the nod in the first, Chris Lee the second and Ron McCarthy the third.
“It was, I guess, a hard one to judge,” said Boser. “I’m not happy with it. I’m not talking about necessarily the judging, I’m not happy with how I performed. Any fight that’s one punch away on either side from winning a decision is too close and I let myself be in too close of a fight — a little too complacent. I thought I was ahead. I thought he would have to come at me and make the mistake and I could catch him. But it wasn’t the case. I wasn’t ahead despite having a big edge in significant strikes.
“So I didn’t do enough. That’s what happened there.”
Boser has only faced two takedown attempts in the UFC with the majority of his five opponents not looking to wrestle. He also notes his opponents have zero control time against the fence, something else he expects Latifi to test.
“At some point for sure, he’s going to look to pin me against the cage and try and take me down,” he said.
Latifi is 7-6-0 in the UFC, compared to 3-2-0 for Boser, who was briefly ranked 15th among heavyweight contenders prior to the Arlovski loss.
Latifi has trained with elite heavyweights, including Arlovski and fellow former heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos.
Prior to Arlovski, Boser scored impressive knockout victories over Philipe (Monstro) Lins and Rafael Pessoa last summer.
“You to have a short memory whether you win or lose,” said Boser. “If you win a good fight and you go in there thinking that you’re going to win this next one easily, well you’re in for something else too because that might not be the case.
“Either way you’ve got to have a short memory when it comes to actually getting in there and fighting someone else.”
Boser believes he has improved since the Arlovski loss.
“I’m definitely stronger. Hopefully all of it pays off,” he said.