The UFC 264 prelims showcased some of the top talents in the promotion. Three of them stood out from the rest with their impressive performances. Take a deeper look into these fighters to see how they got the job done and where they will go from here.
UFC 264 Prelims: Topuria, Du Plessis, Tavares Impress
Ilia Topuria had a lot of eyes on him during the UFC 264 prelims, as many people think he is one of the brightest young prospects in the sport. After notching wins in each of his first two UFC bouts, Topuria was given the fight that many others were too afraid to take, in Ryan Hall. Hall had not fought in two years leading up to this point as he seemingly could not get a fight because none of the top featherweights were willing to fight him. This matchup was a big step up in competition for Topuria, along with the challenges that come with facing someone that has a unique style like Hall.
Going into the fight, Topuria was very confident that Hall would not be a challenge for him. Topuria said during his media day that there are many guys at his gym in Spain that are very similar to Hall, therefore Hall’s style will be easy for him to adapt to. During the first few minutes of the fight, both fighters were patient but every time Topuria would attempt to close the distance, Hall would then roll for a leg and force Topuria to back away. You could tell that Topuria was trying to time Hall’s roll to enter Hall’s guard and secure top position.
Once Topuria was able to time the roll, he pounced on Hall and started landing heavy shots from the top. After several unanswered shots were landed, Topuria finished the fight and earned himself a first-round knockout victory. This was a flawless performance from Topuria, showing that the hype is indeed real and he is here to stay. Topuria should be set up for a big fight in his next time out against a top 15 opponent. Topuria seems like he could be on the fast-track to a UFC title, and only being 24 years old his potential is limitless.
Dricus Du Plessis
Dricus Du Plessis has made waves since joining the UFC in 2020, putting the middleweight division on notice by producing knockout wins in each of his first two fights with the promotion. Du Plessis was matched up with Trevin Giles on the UFC 264 prelims. Giles was riding a 3-fight win streak leading up to this fight. In their fight, Du Plessis showcased his wide range of skills, with an impressive display of striking. Du Plessis also mixed in his grappling, landing two takedowns in the first round.
Du Plessis would hold his guard high when getting backed up against the cage, which led Giles to leave his guard down to load up on strikes. Du Plessis caught on to this and capitalized on Giles’ mistake by countering his barrage with a straight right that landed clean on GIles’ chin. Du Plessis followed up this shot with ground and pound that forced the ref to step in and declare Du Plessis the winner by knockout. Du Plessis might have left the most lasting impression on the fans during the UFC 264 prelims, even receiving a POTN bonus from UFC President Dana White.
Du Plessis made sure that everyone watching made sure to remember his name, clearing up some of the difficulties that American fans were having when pronouncing his name. Du Plessis has the potential to be an international star, already having the country of South Africa supporting him. Du Plessis said that he is not going to rush his way to the top because it would not make sense for him to fight big-name guys on his current contract. This could benefit Du Plessis because it will allow him to keep gaining UFC experience so that he is more prepared for when the opportunity presents itself. However, he did make a point of saying that he called out Kevin Holland after his debut and would still be open to that fight.
In a fight between two UFC veterans, Brad Tavares faced 13th ranked Omari Akhmedov during the UFC 264 prelims. It felt like this fight meant a lot for the career trajectory of both fighters. Leading into this fight, it had been three years since Tavares had won back-to-back fights. His takedown defense was probably the biggest factor that led to him getting the win. Tavares successfully defended seven of Akhmedov’s nine takedown attempts. Tavares also utilized low kicks, which seemed to affect Akhmedov as the fight went on.
After two close rounds, it looked like the fight was up for grabs heading into the third round. Tavares pushed the pace in the third, landing 38 significant strikes and hurting Akhmedov which resulted in a knockdown. For many, this spirited third round from Tavares was the deciding factor of the fight when it went to the judges’ scorecards. To the surprise of many, one judge scored the bout 29-28 Akhmedov, causing this fight to be ruled a split-decision in favor of Tavares.
Tavares said after the fight that he was “shocked” after hearing the 29-28 score in favor of Akhmedov, but he was glad that the judges got it right in the end. Even though Tavares has been in the UFC since his debut in 2010, he is still only 33 years old. Tavares will need to rattle off a few more victories, but we might be seeing another run into title contention that could end with a rematch against current champ Israel Adesanya.
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