Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight sluggers Derrick Lewis and Tai Tuivasa will collide this weekend (Sat., Feb. 12, 2022) at UFC 271 inside Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.
Lewis earned his second UFC title shot last year, ultimately coming up short versus Ciryl Gane in a rough loss. Fortunately, “The Black Beast” reminded the division that he’s still a force to be reckoned with in Dec. 2021, quickly flattening Chris Daukaus to return to the win column. Meanwhile, 2021 was a spectacular year for “Bam Bam.” Continuing his rebound from a difficult stretch that saw him lose three straight, Tuivasa scored three knockout wins to extend his win streak to four, reasserting himself in the Top 10 and setting up another opportunity to join the title hunt.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Francis Ngannou (UFC 226), Curtis Blaydes (UFC Vegas 19), Alexander Volkov (UFC 229), Aleksei Oleinik (UFC Vegas 6), Blagoy Ivanov (UFC 244), Marcin Tybura (UFC Fight Night 126), Chris Daukaus (UFC Vegas 45)
Key Losses: Ciryl Gane (UFC 265), Daniel Cormier (UFC 230), Junior dos Santos (UFC Fight Night 146), Mark Hunt (UFC Fight Night 110)
Keys to Victory: Lewis is power incarnate. UFC’s reigning knockout king is not a fighter who relies on subtlety or a deft touch. No, “The Black Beast” swings big, and when he lands, his opponents go to sleep.
In general, swanging-and-banging is the standard Lewis gameplan, and there is little to no variation. Sometimes, he’ll charge forward and swing, while in other fights, he hangs back and then swings on the counter. Really, that’s it....
Opposite Tuivasa, I like the former more than the latter. Tuivasa is pretty accustomed to foes backing off from exchanges with him, but Lewis has the type of punching power to more than hold his own in the pocket. With the big men, it’s often the fighter moving forward who lands first, and in this match up, that may be all it takes.
Otherwise, a takedown attempt or two isn’t a terrible idea. Lewis is deadly from top position, and he’s willing to wrestle if he can catch a low kick or jam his foe into the fence. Many of Tuivasa’s struggles stem from his wrestling defense, so checking that historic weakness might pay off even if Lewis isn’t a known takedown artist.
Key Wins: Augusto Sakai (UFC 269), Greg Hardy (UFC 264), Andrei Arlovski (UFC 225), Stefan Struve (UFC 254)
Key Losses: Junior dos Santos (UFC Fight Night 142), Blagoy Ivanov (UFC 238), Sergei Spivac (UFC 243)
Keys to Victory: Tuivasa is a brawler, but that doesn’t mean the big Aussie is without tricks and setups. Really, what separates Tuivasa from the Heavyweight pack of hard-hitters is his ability to remain dangerous at all ranges: he can find the knockout at distance, in the pocket, or in the clinch.
Lewis, conversely, is most dangerous in the pocket, then the clinch, then finally at distance. Accordingly, Tuivasa should be looking to land his thudding low kicks at range. Lewis’ jumping kicks are a significantly less effective weapon, and he’s known to take low kicks without checking them.
Tuivasa kicks real hard, so it won’t take many to slow Lewis down.
Of course, Lewis is unlikely to hang back forever and get his leg chewed up. When “The Black Beast” pushes forward, Tuivasa has to do his best to either counter or clinch. This is the danger zone with Lewis, but he’s also been hurt from counters in the past. Similarly, if Tuivasa does choose to tie up for safety’s sake, he’d be well advised to keep his guard up on the break.
The odds of a knockout seem high.
After the Gane loss, Lewis is trying to work his way back into the title mix. Fortunately, he still has that victory over Francis Ngannou on his resume, and “The Predator” has yet to get that one back. If Lewis turns back another hot up-and-comer, he’s deserving of a fellow highly ranked opponent next, which would put him right back in the mix.
This is a significant opportunity for Tuivasa. The last time he earned a big step up in competition, Junior dos Santos spanked him and sent him on a losing streak. It’s been just over three years, and the 28-year-old striker is now ready to give it another go. A win immediately sets Tuivasa up for a title eliminator or similarly huge fight, while defeat stalls his current momentum.
At UFC 271, Derrick Lewis and Tai Tuivasa will slug it out in the co-main event. Which man remains standing when the dust settles?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 271 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV. Bet on UFC 271 at DraftKings Sportsbook.
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