Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight finishers Stefan Struve and Tai Tuivasa will face off this weekend (Sat., Oct. 24, 2020) at UFC 254 inside Flash Forum on “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
The book on Struve has been written: the very tall guy who is simply not that great at fighting tall. Yet, I feel bad for for the Dutchman, who actually fought long fairly well against Ben Rothwell, before a couple illegal low kicks left him vulnerable to a come-from-behind knockout (watch it). As a result, he’s now lost four of five, rather than having won two straight. The sport has been rough to Tuivasa as well, who started his UFC career hot with three straight wins ... only to suffer a trio of ugly losses. The Australian Heavyweight is still just 27 years old, so there’s hope for the future, but “Bam Bam” really needs a return to form.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Stipe Miocic (UFC on FUEL TV 5), Daniel Omielanczuk (UFC 204), Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (UFC 190), Antonio Silva (UFC Fight Night 87)
Key Losses: Alexander Volkov (UFC Fight Night 115), Marcin Tybura (UFC Fight Night 134), Alistair Overeem (UFC on FOX 13), Mark Hunt (UFC on Fuel TV 8), Travis Browne (UFC 130)
Keys to Victory: Struve may not ever master the jab, but he still has some tricks up his sleeve. Struve kicks real hard — the benefits of having a long leg that weighs, I don’t know, 50 pounds? — and has broken down plenty of opponents with that tool alone. In addition, Struve is better on the mat than he is on the feet, which is likely an avenue to success here.
This is not a prediction article, but if it were, I would point back to the long established trend of Stefan Struve submitting mediocre opposition in the second round for any prop bettors reading. Tuivasa already likes to crash forward into the clinch — Struve’s best takedown is an inside trip from the overhook — as he punches forward, and he’s simply out-classed on the mat.
The gameplan for Struve is simple. The first step involves hanging back and throwing kicks, though it includes the important caveat of not getting creamed by an overhand in the process. When Tuivasa barrels forward, Struve should look to clinch up and trip his opponent.
If Struve gets his foe down, the fight is likely over. If the first attempt fails, Tuivasa has a history of fatiguing, so avoid that right hand and try again.
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), Blagoy Ivanov (UFC 238), Sergei Spivac (UFC 243)
Keys to Victory: Tuivasa is a big hitter. The up-and-comer has deceptive speed and explosiveness for his size and appearance, and there’s some definite craft too in how he sets up his power shots.
Short and simple: “Bam Bam” is one clean right hand from a victory Shoey.
Against Struve, Tuivasa’s ability to burst forward is huge. Struve already has trouble getting caught on the end of looping shots — ask Tuivasa’s training partner and mentor, Mark Hunt — but some extra speed can really help a shorter fighter catch his opponent off-guard. With Tuivasa’s power, that doesn’t need to happen very many times. As explained above, it will be important for Tuivasa to try to finish his combinations in the open space, rather than by crashing into the clinch.
Otherwise, Tuivasa demonstrated some pretty heavy low kicks in his UFC debut. It would be wise to return to that weapon, not with the hopes of out-kicking an opponent who is 7’ tall, but to keep Struve honest at range and give Tuivasa’s offense a bit of variety.
Both men really, really need a win.
Is Struve at risk of being released or pushed into another period of retirement? I would like to say that the weirdness of the Rothwell fight afford him a bit more leniency, but given his health problems and history of getting stopped, it would not be shocking. At the same time, UFC does need Heavyweights in the middle of the division to face off with up-and-comers and struggling veterans, so a win keeps Struve around for a good few more fights.
In general, UFC isn’t releasing fighters very often right now, but Tuivasa may receive his pink slip with a fourth-straight defeat. That’s not to say the Aussie couldn’t fight his way back to the promotion — he’s entertaining, inside and outside of the cage — but his recent losses have shown his weaknesses. If Tuivasa cannot improve upon them while competing inside the Octagon, a few fights on the regional scene might do him good.
Or, Tuivasa can shut down that line of thinking by flattening Struve.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 254 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN 2/ESPN+ at 12 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN+.
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At UFC 254, Stefan Struve and Tai Tuivasa will headline the preliminary card. Which fighter will remain standing when the dust settles?