UFC Fight Night 121 Newcomer Breakdown: Tai Tuivasa

Prior to each UFC card, Jay Primetown takes a close look at debuting fighters. In the latest installment, we look at Australian heavyweight Tai Tuivasa as he makes his UFC debut in his hometown of Sydney, Australia against American Rashad Coulter at UFC Fight Night 121.

Tai Tuivasa

Hometown: Sydney, Australia. 
Age: 24
Height: 6’2”
Weight Class: Heavyweight
Camp: Lions High Performance Centre
Career Record: 5-0
Key Wins: James McSweeney
Key Losses: None


The 24-year-old Australian heavyweight enters the UFC with an undefeated record with all of his victories coming by way of knockout. He was supposed to enter the UFC as early as November 2016, but had to sit out due a knee injury and lengthy recovery.  


  • Longtime protégé and sparring partner of UFC fighter Mark Hunt
  • Big time power in his hands
  • Has boxed professionally
  • Can mix in kicks
  • Decent footwork


  • Can be pushed against the cage
  • Ground game is very limited
  • Takedown defense is poor

Fighter Grade

Offensive Striking: C-
Striking Defense: D
Knockout Power: B-
Athleticism/Speed: C-
Footwork: C-
Chin: C-
Offensive Wrestling: D-
Takedown Defense: F
Submissions: F-
Conditioning: D-
Intangibles: D-

Overall Grade: D-

Matchup with Rashad Coulter

In a matchup of two guys who have the same approach in the cage, Tai Tuivasa welcomes Rashad Coulter to his hometown in his UFC debut. Both of these fighters are boxers first and foremost and will be looking for a knockout at UFC Fight Night 121. Tuivasa enters the fight undefeated in MMA and comes into the cage with a good amount of hype as the main training partner of Mark Hunt. Tuivasa has heavy hands and a solid chin to go with it. Coulter showed a lot of toughness in his bout with Chase Sherman and proved he can stick around in a fight even when he’s been hurt by his opponent. This is a classic heavyweight scenario of whomever lands the big shot first will win the fight. Tuivasa is the more diverse striker and fighting in his hometown will certainly buoy his confidence. After a quick feeling out process, look for these fighters to engage with the Australian getting his hands on Coulter battering him until he gets a finish. If there isn’t a first round stoppage, neither of these fighters has a great gas tank, so technique could be thrown out the window late in the second and in the third round where the bout will be more about conditioning than technical ability. At the current price on Tuivasa at -170, this bout is a pass. I’d need him to be at under -140 to garner consideration.

UFC Ceiling

At just 24 years of age, Tai Tuivasa is one of the youngest heavyweights in the UFC. He certainly has heavy hands and the confidence to go along with it. From a striking only perspective, he can compete in the UFC. However, he really needs to work on the other aspects of MMA to build a foundation for potential success. If he doesn’t add grappling and wrestling elements his success will be limited to low level striking matchups and he’ll struggle for wins beyond that. 

Fight Film

Check out Tai Tuivasa in some of his most recent fights:

Tai Tuivasa vs. James McSweeney

Tai Tuivasa vs. Branon Sosoli

Written by Jay Primetown

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