Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight sluggers Tai Tuivasa and Blagoy Ivanov will throw down this Saturday (June 8, 2019) at UFC 238 from inside United Center in Chicago, Illinois.
Heavyweight prospects under the age of 30 are worth their weight in gold — which means Tuivasa is a particularly valuable man! The 265-pound, 26-year-old combatant began his UFC career with a trio of wins, but ultimately was informed it was too soon for title contention by the powerful punches of Junior dos Santos last time out. Meanwhile, Ivanov joined the roster with an impressive record, Professional Fighters League (PFL) strap over his shoulder, and decorated Sambo background. Two fights later, however, it’s really unclear just where Ivanov stands, so hopefully this match up can provide a bit of clarity.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Andrei Arlovski (UFC 225), Cyril Asker (UFC 222), Rashad Coulter (UFC Fight Night 121)
Key Losses: Junior dos Santos (UFC Fight Night 142)
Keys to Victory: Tuivasa is a bruiser, make no mistake about it. His technique may be somewhat lacking on the mat, but Tuivasa hits damn hard and does so with surprising speed, occasionally mixing in the tricky tactics of a more veteran fighter.
This is an interesting match up, as Ivanov is likely to surrender the center of the ring and allow Tuivasa to push him towards the fence. Usually, Tuivasa has to work harder to push his opponent to that position, where he tends to land big. However, Ivanov is also a more dangerous counter puncher than most, and Tuivasa did get walloped last time by a counter from dos Santos while the Brazilian’s back was to the fence.
In short, Ivanov will give him the fight he wants, but it’s still a dangerous situation for the young Aussie. Really, it will come down how well Tuivasa can feint and hide his blitzes. If he can soften Ivanov up with some heavy low kicks and mix some variety into his boxing combinations — Tuivasa can lean on the right hand too much — it increases his chances that Tuivasa gets the better of these exchanges along the fence.
Record: 17-2 (1)
Key Wins: Ben Rothwell (UFC Fight Night 146), Shawn Jordan (WSOF 35), Josh Copeland (WSOF 31), Rich Hale (Bellator 111)
Key Losses: Junior dos Santos (UFC Fight Night 133), Alexander Volkov (Bellator 120)
Keys to Victory: An International Master of Sports in Sambo and black belt in Judo, Ivanov primarily operates as a counter puncher inside the cage. He’s crafty and well-rounded, able to maintain a solid pace for 25 minutes if need be.
Let me propose a question to my dedicated readers: if a decorated wrestler never actually goes for a takedown, should I still include their credentials in the intro? Ivanov has competed inside the Octagon for 40 minutes now, yet he has scored zero takedowns and from what I remember of the two fights, scarcely attempted them!
That really should change against Tuivasa. There may be a path to victory in counter punching the over-aggressive youngster, but Tuivasa’s grappling is simply bad. If Ivanov takes him down, the fight is probably over, so hopefully the Bulgarian athlete will at least attempt a few takedowns.
Bottom Line: It’s a match up of ranked Heavyweights looking to climb into the top 10.
Tuivasa has a lot of years ahead of him as a potential Heavyweight contender, as he’s advanced to No. 11 at a rather young age. This bout is a good match up for him, a test to see if he’s really deserving of that position, one that will also show if Tuivasa can navigate the waters against a decent counter puncher. Against Ivanov, Tuivasa has a chance to showcase some improvement, but it’s not particularly damning for his career were he to come up short.
The stakes are higher for the older and more experienced Bulgarian, who should be in the prime of his career. I cannot help but feel Ivanov has more skill and talent than he’s shown inside the Octagon. Perhaps this shaky start to his UFC career will force Ivanov to mix it up more effectively or make some otherwise positive adjustment. Tuivasa is the perfect opponent to demonstrate such technique against, as there are plenty of openings for a veteran like Ivanov to capitalize upon.
If Ivanov is unable to get it done, it really hurts any chance left of Ivanov becoming a contender.
At UFC 238, Tai Tuivasa and Blagoy Ivanov will open the main card in a Heavyweight battle. Which man will have his hand raised?