Harry Hunsucker (7-3-0) replaces Don’Tale Mayes after he was not medically cleared to fight.
Tai Tuivasa (11-3-0) will look to start 2021 off positively, following a quiet 2020 that saw him make the walk to the octagon just once, defeating recently retired Stefan Struve via TKO with one second left in the first round in late October at UFC 254.
Since going on a three-fight skid at the end of 2018 and throughout 2019, the Australian’s weaknesses in his grappling were clear to see. “Bam Bam” sought the help of former UFC double-champion Daniel Cormier, moving into his home in Gilroy, California for five weeks before the Covid-19 pandemic forced him to return home. However, in this brief period, the 27-year-old attributed the simplicity of his training schedule at American Kickboxing Academy and the mentorship of Cormier, as well as the gym’s head coach, Javier Mendez, in breaking his losing streak.
Dubai has been the location for Tai Tuivasa’s fight camp in the lead up to this fight, spending two months preparing himself for Mayes. However, speaking to the Australian Press last month, he would like to base his future camps in the United States, once travelling to-and-from Australia becomes more viable again.
Now in the States, his focus has changed just four days from the fight towards former HR MMA champion Harry Hunsucker.
Hunsucker fought as recently as 27 February this year, defeating Cory Moon by first-round knockout. Taking very little damage in the 45-second fight, the quick turnaround should be no issue for him.
The Kentucky native turned out on season 4 week 8 of Dana White’s Contender Series last year, losing to Jared Vanderaa via ground and pound in round one.
The UFC debutant will look to make up for what he will feel was a poor performance in his first attempt at a UFC contract in 2020.
So, how do the fighters Tai Tuivasa and Harry Hunsucker shape up?
It is likely that Tai “Bam Bam” Tuivasa will walk into the octagon the bigger of the two – in his last outing, the heavyweight weighed in one pound under the limit. Hunsucker weighed in around 250 lbs in his last fight. Although his opponent was heavier on the night, he was not in any great shape.
Size will favour the Aussie. Mix that with his unusual hand speed and it should help him navigate any sort of problems that his opponent can present in the first round, which is utterly crucial as the UFC debutant has not seen the second round once in his professional MMA career.
Even more encouraging, three of Tai Tuivasa’s four wins in the UFC have taken place in the opening round via KO/TKOs, while all of Hunsucker’s defeats have come by way of first-round KO/TKOs.
He is a pressure boxer that mixes in knees to great effect when throwing combinations. “Bam Bam” will look to exploit a major tendency in his opponent’s game; quick to find himself on the back foot after some wild exchanges. He may have gotten away with it in the regional promotions, but Hunsucker may not be so lucky when he makes the step up on Saturday, especially with Tai’s successful strike rate of nearing 50%.
The aforementioned exchanges are common in Hunsucker’s fights. Tuivasa may even look to instigate one, but he will be quick to slip out and strike on the counter, then reapply pressure once his opponent is in danger.
The UFC newcomer will likely be looking for a short night at the office if any of his professional fights are anything to go by. In his last fight in February of this year, he quickly got his opponent into an emotional chaotic exchange. He showed some good strikes moving backwards, which perpetuated the early tempo of the fight. He must try to drag Tai Tuivasa into the same type of fight.
Hunsucker will not know his capabilities in the later rounds – this could be weighing heavy on him. What he does know is Tuivasa has far more boxing experience, emphasising the need to get into an emotional scrap early. What is crucial for him is his opponent is there to be hit, although very adept on the feet, Tuivasa only boasts a 50% striking defence. If he can hurt Tuivasa and get him on the ground, it could get interesting.
The HR MMA Champion has shown three different submissions in his eight victories; a Kimura, an Americana, and a rear-naked choke. This will be concerning for Tai Tuivasa, owning up about his lack of skill on the ground in the past.
On the face of it, although a victory for Hunsucker seems slim, there does appear to be a path there. Provided, this depends on what Tai Tuivasa turns up on Saturday night.
Who do you see winning this exciting heavyweight bout? Tai Tuivasa or Harry Hunsucker? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
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