Tai Tuivasa (14-3-0, 7-3-0 UFC), King of the Shoey, returns this weekend in the Co-Main Event of UFC 271, in a bout that is almost CERTAINLY going to end with a bang. The ‘Barbie Girl‘ faces off against Derrick Lewis, who, having knocked Chris Daukaus back in December, now officially holds the record of most knockouts in UFC company history.
Lewis will be hoping to avenge his Interim Title loss to Ciryl Gane at UFC 265 back in August and get a W in his hometown, but don’t think that being in Houston will put Tai at a disadvantage, as he has been practically living as a nomad between the US and Abu Dhabi instead of trying to navigate Australia’s COVID-19 restrictions.
The two come together after the two were interviewed on Ariel Helwani‘s MMA Hour back in December, where Helwani acted as a matchmaker, asking Tai about the potential bout immediately before interviewing Lewis. Tai claimed this week on the MMA Hour that he continued to consume copious amounts of alcohol and agreed to the fight that night, but didn’t remember until he saw the news break on Twitter.
“The Black Beast” Collides with “Bam Bam”
Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis (26-8-0 1 NC, 17-6-0 UFC):
Having gone 2-1 in 2021, we haven’t learned much that we didn’t already know: he’s a BIG lad with ridiculous power in his right hand, struggles against strikers who challenge him with a wide variety of strikes, and while he may hit harder than a Ford Escort going full tilt, according to Curtis Blaydes, he has the gas tank of a lawnmower.
Lewis will be going into this fight with a four-inch reach advantage over Tuivasa, which means that Lewis will be hoping to maintain control of the center of the octagon and keep Tuivasa at range. As we have seen time and time again, when he decides to bang, people go to sleep.
However, in his post-fight interview after knocking out Chris Daukaus in the first round (which Lewis described as a “great feeling,” owing to Daukaus being a police officer), Derrick told the UFC that unless his next fight was a three rounder, there was no need to call. Pair this new aversion for five-round fights with his lackluster performance against Ciryl back in August, and one has to begin to wonder whether all those wars and years have begun to catch up with Derrick.
Tai “Bam Bam” Tuivasa (14-3-0 7-3-0 UFC)
Having gone viral in 2021 for doing shoeys (for the uninitiated, this involves drinking a beer out of a worn shoe) after each of his three sub-90-second R1 KO/TKOs. Relatively inexperienced compared to his opponent, Tuivasa believes that his recent surge is a result of him now taking his job as a mixed martial artist more seriously, both in training and in his mindset. Tuivasa has demonstrated a snappy leg kick that he can throw from either side and with either his lead or rear leg. He has used these kicks both to find his range and help work his way inside his opponent’s reach before letting his hands go to devastating effect. Given how poorly Derrick handled Ciryl Gane’s leg kicks in their bout, this could be Tuivasa’s way to victory.
This is a heavyweight matchup between two pretty heavy hitters, so there is not a whole lot of strategy or technicality to break down. Derrick, as we know, has the wrestling skills to lay-and-pray, as he did with Heavyweight Champ Francis Ngannou back in 2018. He also has the ability to put anybody to sleep with that right hand, but as mentioned, his gas tank poses questions. Tuivasa, on the other hand, has explosive power and speed, demonstrably more technical, with effective, fast, reliable leg kicks, more versatile hand and elbow strikes, and seemingly better cardio if December’s performances are anything to go by.
Derrick seemingly has a fairly safe route to victory if he chooses to wrestle, but he’d be relying on a gas tank that isn’t set up for wrestling, and we haven’t seen Tai on the ground since his time at AKA, so I would be shocked if Derrick went this route. If it remains standing, the reach advantage will certainly give Derrick the edge if his octagon control is as good as it was against Daukaus. However, if Tai can make this a lateral back-and-forth, cutting off Lewis’ attempts to angle, and attack the lead leg to work his way inside Lewis’ reach, he has the power to put Lewis down.
Featured Image Credits to Embed from Getty Images