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Fighter on Fighter: Breaking down UFC Paris’ Serghei Spivac

UFC Fight Night: Lewis v Spivac Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Rising Moldovan talent, Serghei Spivac, will take a big step up against former interim champion, Ciryl Gane, this Saturday (Sept. 2, 2023) at UFC Paris inside Accor Arena in Paris, France.

Spivac is something of a Heavyweight dark horse. He’s younger than most of his peers at 28 years old, and he’s already ten fights deep into his UFC career. Debuting young will result in some ups-and-downs, but the Spivac has demonstrated continual progression all the while, which has resulted in six wins in his last seven bouts.

“Polar Bear” is not as flashy as other Heavyweight new faces. However, he’s made a habit of exposing and finishing those without serious ground skills, and there are real concerns that Ciryl Gane falls into that group.

Let’s take a closer look at his skill set:

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UFC Fight Night: Oleinik v Spivac Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC


Spivac is not blessed with gigantic punching power like most other Heavyweight prospects. He’s a capable hitter whose punches certainly don’t feel great, but he doesn’t have the type of shocking speed or raw power that shut off the lights in a single blow.

Spivac has rather smartly and in fairly quick fashion developed a nice jab to workaround his relative lack of stopping power. Just a few fights ago, he was lunging for the clinch with little setup. Now, “Polar Bear” is far more willing to establish his jab and use that blow to work into his wrestling setups. He can jab to raise the guard then step forward or continually hang back, waiting for his opponent to over-swing and try to wrap up an arm when that happens.

Why does Spivac find so much success with the jab? His grappling threat surely helps, but it comes down to good form and consistency more than anything else. There’s no better example than his ugly fight with Aleksei Oleinik, in which he repeatedly stuck the Russian’s nose while circling off from his massive overhand swings.

Against Lewis, the jab served its purpose wonderful. A few flashes of the jab accompanied by active circling kept “The Black Beast” away, at least until a clinch dramatically changed the course of the fight.

UFC Fight Night: Felipe v Spivac Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images


Spivac’s clinch wrestling really separates him from the Heavyweight pack.

Very few fighters are able to chain clinch trips and throws like Spivac ... regardless of division. That’s an especially useful skill in a division where balance and flexibility are often subpar, while getting stuck beneath a sprawl can easily be a fight-ending error. Against the fence or in the open, Spivac plays the inside, outside hip position game really well. He’ll fight his hip inside and start working for an inside trip or bump, and it often works. If it doesn’t, expect Spivac to circle back around to the outside of the lead knee and attack with an outside trip.

Spivac has a really exceptional whizzer kick. When he steps across the body, he doesn’t overextend with his hips, which is how fighters find themselves getting reversed and taken backwards. He also makes it a point to block his opponent’s leg just above the knee, which is ideal for off-balancing (GIF). Against Greg Hardy, Spivac scored his throw by first attempting an inside trip before then stepping all the way across as Hardy reset his stance, fully tossing the giant man (GIF).

In the clip above, Spivak first attempts a foot sweep, which serves a similar purpose to an attempted outside trip in off-balancing Lewis. As Lewis recovers his footing, Spivak releases his underhook and clubs the head with his bicep, allowing him to execute more of a head-and-arm toss (note how his leg blocks just above the knee). As a result of the chained takedown, Lewis hits the mat with authority.

Spivac also does really well if able to secure the back clinch. He has a good diversity of techniques from that position, working to drag his opponent down with well-executed trips, suplexes, and simple mat returns (GIF). This proved very important against Lewis, who’s infamous for being able to stand up from bottom position. Indeed, Lewis managed to pop back up four or five times, but he did so without fighting hands effectively.

As a result, Spivac could just maintain his body lock and repeatedly drag Lewis back to the floor, effectively sapping his energy in just three minutes.

UFC 243: Tuivasa v Spivac Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Spivac has finished seven opponents via submission, including two arm-triangle choke wins inside the Octagon. In general, his jiu-jitsu is very fitting and safe for a top player in MMA. He flows really well from top position, smoothly transitioning around opponents as they work to scramble and stand. If the opportunity to attack the rear naked choke or arm triangle is there, he’ll take it. Otherwise, Spivac tends to focus more on ground strikes and control, which is where more of his stoppages have materialized.

One of the best times to capture an arm triangle is as an opponent tries to turn and face Spivac. When stuck in turtle and eating shots, turning to face and recover guard is an effective strategy in halting strikes if not standing up entirely. However, since Spivac is such a fatiguing man to fight and generally has good awareness, he looks to time his opponent’s attempts to turn and face. If timed correctly, he can deny their would-be guard by landing in side control, an ideal position to attack the arm triangle choke.

UFC 243 Whittaker v Adesanya Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images


Spivac has a skill set that will carry him to fairly effortless wins over much of the Heavyweight division. Whether Gane is apart of that number remains to be seen, but this is also a test of whether or not Spivac can compete with elite opposition. He has the potential to score the best win of his career here, which would really establish him as a contender.

Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, is a professional fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport’s most elite fighters.

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Paris fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 12 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN+) at 3 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Paris: “Gane vs. Spivac” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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