Given that the Ultimate Fighting Championship still has a few events left in 2018, it does not feel like UFC Fight Night 142 on Saturday in Adelaide, Australia, has gotten much notice. However, it is effectively the end of the promotion’s time on Fox Sports 1, as this is the last UFC main card to take place on the station; and it is a surprisingly solid show.
Like the card out of Denver a few weeks ago, this is marked by an excellent top few fights for this level of event, even if there is not a ton of relevant stuff on the prelims. There is a consistent theme in this card’s big fights, as they are all stark examples of fading vets taking on up-and-coming athletes -- a dynamic that makes for matchups that could have lasting impressions on the heavyweight and light heavyweight divisions going forward. While the undercard is skippable, this is yet another event where the UFC has done well to make the early fights entertaining on paper.
Let us get to the breakdown for UFC Fight Night “Dos Santos vs. Tuivasa,” which will go down at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre:
HeavyweightsJunior dos Santos (19-5) vs. Tai Tuivasa (8-0)
ODDS: Dos Santos (-150), Tuivasa (+130)
Dos Santos’ best days are obviously behind him, but he may have some juice left as a heavyweight contender. Dos Santos’ trilogy of heavyweight title fights with Cain Velasquez marked the end of both their peaks. Velasquez has been ravaged by injuries, fighting only twice in the subsequent five years, while dos Santos has been more active but obviously diminished. Dos Santos remains as one-dimensional as ever, serving purely as a boxer. However, the beating he suffered in the last Velasquez fight has permanently impacted his durability, so dos Santos is there to be knocked from his perch as a top heavyweight. With that said, there do not seem to be many fighters capable of knocking him off. Then-champion Stipe Miocic turned up the pressure and then turned out dos Santos’ lights out at UFC 211 in 2017, but other fringe contenders like Ben Rothwell and Blagoy Ivanov found themselves at the end of dos Santos’ jab, with the Brazilian’s combination of range and boxing options leading the way to tedious five-round decision victories. With Miocic no longer the heavyweight champion, there is a path for dos Santos to find his way back to a title shot with enough wins. He now finds himself in the gatekeeper role once again, this time against a top Australian prospect in Tuivasa.
Tuivasa is the obvious heir apparent to Mark Hunt when it comes to being a heavyweight star in this part of the world. He has the Samoan heritage, the charisma and the surprising athleticism despite an unimpressive frame. Tuivasa is in fact a Hunt protege, though none of that was really apparent in his pre-UFC career. A lot of Tuivasa’s early fights were marked by his being too aggressive for his own good, hunting knockouts and ill-advised takedowns and overcoming a lack of technical skill with his strength and athleticism. After a wild knockout win over Rashad Coulter to start his UFC tenure, Tuivasa has improved greatly over the course of 2018. A showcase fight against Cyril Asker was a quick but impressively measured beatdown, while his last fight was a strong decision win over Andrei Arlovski that answered a lot of questions. Namely, it was the first time Tuivasa had ever been forced to fight past the first round, and he showed an impressive ability to stay in the fight for 15 minutes, manage his gas tank and do enough to take the narrow win against a crafty vet. Tuivasa is now in the spot a lot of the UFC’s heavyweight prospects find themselves. Despite still being fairly raw, “Bam Bam” has nothing left to prove at the lower levels of the division, so from here on out, he will probably be trying to survive in deep waters against experienced opposition. Tuivasa has the talent to get over the hump, but it remains to be seen just how long that will take.
This is an intriguing style matchup, even if it is one that has been seen almost every time dos Santos steps out of facing the heavyweight elite. Dos Santos is well-schooled on the feet but does not handle getting cracked on the chin well, so it is up to Tuivasa to succeed where Rothwell and Ivanov failed, trying to get inside on the much longer and more technical fighter. Tuivasa is a better bet than those two, thanks to his surprising second gear of athleticism and a gas tank that seems to be holding up increasingly well, but he may not have the ability to get the knockout more times than not. He has done well to cut a lot of the wildness out of his game, but that may hurt him here. If Tuivasa was still the blitzing madman of earlier in his career, dos Santos could have trouble scaring him off before he scores the finish. However, this version of Tuivasa looks more content to have a slow-paced kickboxing match and manage his energy. That leads to a fight that looks much like the dos Santos-Ivanov, with the Brazilian keeping his opponent at bay for five rounds. Tuivasa scoring the finish would not be surprising at all, but this looks like the wrong matchup too soon in the Australian’s career. The pick is dos Santos via decision.
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