Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight head-knockers Andrei Arlovski and Tai Tuivasa dueled last night (June 9, 2018) at UFC 225 inside the United Center in Chicago, Illinoise.
Arlovski is a unique fighter. Most athletes go on a losing streak and completely fall off, losing confidence. The later in their career, the more likely the choice to retire. Instead, Arlovski bounced back from a brutal five-fight losing streak to show off new skills and better strategy than ever, keeping him relevant at Heavyweight. On the other hand, Tuivasa is just two fights into his UFC career. The result was a pair of vicious knockout wins and a likable prospect. The UFC took notice, and Tuivasa found himself ranked and with a big name opponent in front of him last night.
The fighters opened the fight with wide punches that glanced off the guard, but Tuivasa found a home for some hard early low kicks. Arlovski answered with some kicks of his own and moments later attempted a sacrifice throw, but instead he pulled Tuivasa directly into mount.
Somehow, Arlovski stalled for a minute then bucked his way back to the feet. Immediately after, a big left hook from Tuivasa briefly dropped the veteran. Tuivasa continued to advance and land, but Arlovski did a good job of locking up the clinch to buy some time to clear his head.
“Pitbull” ate some nasty shots in the final 30 seconds of the round, but he fired back and survived to the bell.
Arlovski started the second round very well. He dug into Tuivasa’s lead leg multiple times before putting together some combinations. Tuivasa absorbed numerous right hands without issue, but his face wore the damage afterward. Despite his bloodied mug, Tuivasa continued to walk Arlovski down. However, Arlovski continued to get the better of the exchanges, punching and kicking Tuivasa as the big Aussie moved forward. Losing exchanges or no, Tuivasa did land some hard left hooks in the process.
With five minutes remaining, the bout was very much up in the air.
The third round continued to challenge aggression vs. precision. Arlovski stuck jabs in Tuivasa’s face and counter-kicked repeatedly, but Tuivasa kept pushing forward and ducking into power shots. Both athletes punished the other, and while Arlovski definitely landed at a higher rate of accuracy and volume, it was clear that Tuivasa’s punches were far more threatening.
It was a close fight, and the judges awarded the decision to “Bam Bam.”
I don’t know that Tuivasa winning the decision was the right call, but either way, this was the toughest test of Tuivasa’s career. Against an opponent that he could not steamroll, Tuivasa was forced into deep waters. The result was a better gas tank than expected, and Tuivasa showed a great deal of toughness. Arlovski tore his face up, but Tuivasa never took his foot off the gas.
That’s a great sign for the future.
While Tuivasa definitely needs more setup punches in his arsenal, it would be unfair to say he did nothing but chuck power in Arlovski’s direction. Tuivasa mixed tricky elbows into his attack, and his low kicks clearly packed a brutal punch. There are still some pieces to put together, but Tuivasa is definitely a serious prospect at Heavyweight.
More than slow-paced wins over Albini and Struve, this decision loss shows that Arlovski has something left in the tank. Tuivasa is a killer with legitimate one-shot power, and he never stopped trying to take Arlovski out. Despite all his youth and power, Arlovski was routinely the sharper man. He did a great job of mixing his target, kicking Tuivasa in the legs and body repeatedly to slow him down. All the while, Arlovski jabbed up his opponent and forced him to bleed freely.
Had Arlovski managed to land a couple of those takedowns that almost happened, the decision would have clearly went his way.
Last night, Tai Tuivasa brawled his way to another victory. Who should the Aussie face next?
For complete UFC 225: “Whittaker vs. Romero 2” results and play-by-play, click HERE!