Prior to each UFC fight card, Jay Primetown takes a look at some of the key contests at each event. In the latest installment, we look at the UFC Fight Night 142 main event as Tai Tuivasa has his biggest fight to date as he faces former heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos in the main event in Adelaide, Australia.
Junior dos Santos (Record: 19-5, -155 Favorite, Power Ranking: B)
The former UFC Heavyweight Champion started competing in MMA professionally at the age of 21. After seven fights he signed a UFC contract. In his first fight in the promotion, he knocked out future Hall of Famer Fabricio Werdum in just 80 seconds. He went on to win nine straight fights, the heavyweight championship, and became one of the top heavyweight fighters this decade. After a difficult run in the promotion, he came back strong against quality veteran Blagoy Ivanov easily beating him by decision.
Just a couple years ago, the American Top Team trained heavyweight was widely considered a top two heavyweight in the world along with rival Cain Velasquez. It was the second fight with Velasquez that was the beginning of a new career path. Dos Santos was dominated by the Mexican-American wrestler and took significant damage over the course of the 25 minute fight. The two fighters rematched 10 months later and it was more of the same with Velasquez brutalizing the Brazilian with constant pressure and damage. It was clear from that point on that damage had accumulated and dos Santos wasn’t the same fighter. Dos Santos has started to rebound winning two of his last three bouts and has proven he can go the distance if required. When dos Santos is at his best, he’s got perhaps the best hands in the division. His overhand is as brutal a strike as there is in MMA. It was the strike that won him UFC gold. His movement is pretty good and he holds some of the best takedown defense in the division at 80%. The question with dos Santos is that he has taken a lot of damage in his career. The cumulative damage has made him more tentative on the feet. His athleticism is not the same as it was just a couple of years ago. In short, dos Santos is still a dangerous opponent, but he’s not the terrifying opposition he once was.
Tai Tuivasa (Record: 8-0, +135 Underdog, Power Ranking: C)
Born in Sydney, Australia, Tuivasa was an athlete from the start eventually signing with the Sydney Roosters of the national rugby league in his native country. While he gave up the sport in 2010, he quickly took to MMA in which he made his pro debut in 2012. Six years later, he’s still undefeated and headlining his first UFC event.
The 6’1” big man weighs in right at the heavyweight limit of 265 pounds. Despite his size, he’s much more athletic than his frame gives on. He’s a mobile heavyweight that likes to stand and trade with opponents. Tuivasa has power in both his hands and his kicks are vicious as well. With seven of his eight victories coming by knockout, Tuivasa is a clear knockout threat especially early in his bouts. The Australian fighter has one of the highest outputs in the heavyweight division landing 5.21 significant strikes per minute. That high output has a lot to do with his quick finishes. In his most recent bout, that output was just 54 strikes landed over 15 minutes. While his output was fairly consistent over the three rounds, he struggled with the technical craft of Andrei Arlovski. He did take some damage in the bout, but he’s proven durable having never been finished in his career.
In what should be an exciting heavyweight matchup, Tai Tuivasa looks to continue to climb up the rankings as he takes on the legendary Junior dos Santos. Both fighters have big power for the division and are known as knockout artists. In this fight however, I expect both of them to be more cautious knowing the power each of them possess. Dos Santos, in particular, will look to utilize his boxing and keep Tuivasa at distance. Dos Santos has done a good job in recent fights at maintaining distance and winning technical striking matchups. Tuivasa struggled with Arlovski in his last bout and I think that sets a proper precedent for how this fight could go. Tuivasa has power in his hands, but ultimately will struggle to land with regularity against the grizzled veteran. While both of these fighters have real knockout power, the much more likely scenario is that this fight goes into the late rounds and possibly even a decision. At +225, fight goes the distance is worth a shot given how dos Santos has fought recently and how hard it is to hurt Tuivasa. Dos Santos should win this fight, but the goes the distance prop is the better bet at better odds.