Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight bruisers Junior dos Santos and Tai Tuivasa will brawl TONIGHT (Sat., Dec. 1, 2018) at UFC Fight Night 142 inside Adelaide Entertainment Centre in Adelaide, Australia.
After his last bout, it became especially apparent that dos Santos is slowing down significantly. It’s one thing to make in-fight errors or face elite competition, but it’s clear from his last victory against a favorable style match up that dos Santos doesn’t quite have the speed or reaction time that once carried him through fights. All the same, “JDS” is a skillful veteran and more than a match for much of the division. Tuivasa, meanwhile, is a Heavyweight under 30 years of age who is not a complete slob, automatically making him a quality prospect. In addition, there’s some sneaky set ups and explosiveness behind his game, possibly enough to catch the veteran off-guard and end things early.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Junior dos Santos
Key Wins: Stipe Miocic (UFC on FOX 13), Cain Velasquez (UFC on FOX 1), Ben Rothwell (UFC Fight Night 86), Mark Hunt (UFC 160)
Key Losses: Cain Velasquez (UFC 155, UFC 166), Stipe Miocic (UFC 211), Alistair Overeem (UFC on FOX 17)
Keys to Victory: dos Santos may have problems backing himself straight into the fence, but he’s still a much more technical boxer than most of his peers. He works behind an educated jab, targets the body, and generally sets up his power shots far better than most of the division. Plus, “JDS” can maintain a reasonable pace for five rounds.
All of that is pretty much precisely why the Brazilian should win tonight. His set ups are better, his range control is better, and his game is more rounded. However, this is the Heavyweight division, and as we saw in Francis Ngannou’s win last weekend, it only takes a single power punch to change anything.
As such, I’d like to see patience from dos Santos. Tuivasa is far more dangerous in the first round than any other — he tires and his power fades a bit. There’s no need to take any chance forcing the issue in the first. Who cares if dos Santos loses the first round of a 25-minute match? There’s plenty of time on the clock, so “Cigano” would be wise to hang back and let Tuivasa miss early in the fight before turning it up later.
Oh, and avoid the bloody fence!
Key Wins: Andrei Arlovski (UFC 225), Cyril Asker (UFC 222), Rashad Coulter (UFC Fight Night 121)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Tuivasa is quite the bruiser. A sparring partner of Mark Hunt, he easily tops the Heavyweight limit and packs massive power behind his shots. Despite that size, Tuivasa is quite quick on his feet and athletic enough to have scored a flying knee knockout in his UFC debut.
Tuivasa may be at a technical boxing disadvantage, but that doesn’t mean he cannot ruthlessly exploit dos Santos’ own flaws. Despite years of elite coaching at multiple gyms around the world and knowing the issue all the while, “JDS” seemingly cannot break the habit of backing himself into the fence and dropping his hands.
Coincidentally, Tuivasa does violent, brutal work when his opponent is against the fence. Often, his strategy tends to be run at the opponent, get them to back into the fence, and annihilate them with elbows from there. Whether his early blitz along the fence is enough to stop or seriously damage dos Santos is an important question, but it’s very obvious that rushing “JDS” into the cage and smashing him with heavy shots from there should be Tuivasa’s gameplan.
Bottom Line: It’s a classic Heavyweight showdown of aging veteran and unproven up-and-comer. Fights like these are notoriously difficult to pick — will dos Santos allow himself to be mauled in the opening two minutes, or will Tuivasa’s lack of craft come back to bite him when the early finish fails to materialize? Either option is completely possible.
It’s an important bout for both men to be sure. For dos Santos, he’s alternated wins and losses for the past six years, and this is a chance to break that trend and reassert himself as a top-tier Heavyweight. Things may not look great right now, but Heavyweight is really the place for sudden career turnarounds. As for the Aussie, Tuivasa has plenty of time to prove himself as a contender, but he’s being given the opportunity now. If “Bam Bam” can knockout the former champion, he already places himself in the title mix and will greatly benefit from a bump in exposure.
TONIGHT at UFC Fight Night 142, Junior dos Santos and Tai Tuivasa will square off in the main event. Which man will earn the victory?