UFC 254 Prelims: Tai Tuivasa Resurfaces, Punches Out 6-foot-11 Stefan Struve

By Brian Knapp Oct 24, 2020

Knockout power was the great equalizer for Tai Tuivasa.

Faced with nine-inch height and nine-inch reach deficits, “Bam Bam” re-established his foothold in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s heavyweight division and put away Stefan Struve with punches in the first round of their featured UFC 254 prelim on Saturday at the Flash Forum in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Tuivasa (10-3, 4-3 UFC) drew the curtain 4:59 into Round 1, as he snapped a three-fight losing streak with his first victory since June 9, 2018.

Struve (29-13, 13-11 UFC) was never much of a factor. Tuivasa chopped away at his lead leg with damaging kicks, closed the distance without fear and pressed the 6-foot-11 Dutchman into the fence. Late in the first round, he tossed an off-balance Struve to the canvas from the clinch, flurried with punches and sealed the deal with a right uppercut that folded the “Skyscraper” where he stood.

The 32-year-old Struve has lost five of his last six fights.

Kenney Outlasts Wood in Firefight

Former two-division Legacy Fighting Alliance titleholder Casey Kenny extended his winning streak to three fights, as he took a unanimous decision from Nathaniel Wood in a three-round catchweight scrap at 140 pounds. All three cageside judges scored it for Kenney (16-2-1, 5-1 UFC): 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27.

The bantamweight hopefuls fought at a frenetic pace. After a closely contested first round, Wood (17-5, 4-2 UFC) appeared to inch in front with a strong middle stanza. There, he maintained his output, clipped Kenney with left hooks and mixed in jabs and leg kicks. Wood’s efforts, however, did little to dissuade the MMA Lab standout. Kenney snapped back the Brad Pickett protégé’s head with a thudding straight left and spent a significant portion of Round 3 threatening with takedowns and running Wood through a maze of time-stealing clinches.

Wood has lost twice in his past three outings.

Unbeaten Rakhmonov Subdues Oliveira

Former M-1 Global champion Shavkat Rakhmonov dazzled in his promotional debut, as he submitted Alex Oliveira with a guillotine choke in the first round of their welterweight affair. A short-notice substitution for Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos, Oliveira (22-9-1, 11-7 UFC) bowed out 4:40 into Round 1.

Rakhmonov (13-0, 1-0 UFC) softened the Brazilian with leg kicks, closed the distance with a knee strike to the body, followed up with punches and invited a clinch exchange. From there, he countered an attempted double-leg takedown with the guillotine, trapped Oliveira in full guard and squeezed for the finish. “Cowboy” — who missed weight for the match by two pounds — resisted initially, then raised the white flag.

The 26-year-old Rakhmonov has stopped all 13 of his opponents, eight of them inside one round.

Jung, Alvey Battle to Split Draw

Korean Top Team prospect Da Un Jung and former Maximum Fighting Championship titleholder Sam Alvey fought to a split draw in a three-round confrontation at 205 pounds. Judges David Lethaby (Alvey) and Darry Ransom (Jung) struck dueling 29-28 scorecards, while Ben Cartlidge scored it 28-28.

Alvey (33-14-1, 10-9-1 UFC) controlled a majority of the standup exchanges in the first two rounds, where he piled up points with counter left hands, kicks to the lower lead leg and sneaky right uppercuts. Jung (13-2-1, 2-0-1 UFC) rallied in the third, where he floored the Team Quest rep with a standing elbow strike and swooped in for a potential finish with standing-to-ground punches. Alvey withstood those efforts but wobbled on the end of two more elbow strikes from his opponent later in the round, his lead on the scorecards dwindling with each passing second.

The draw halted Jung’s run of consecutive victories at 12 while simultaneously closing the book on Alvey’s four-fight losing streak.

Debuting Maverick Shreds Jojua

Invicta Fighting Championships veteran Miranda Maverick prompted a cut stoppage against Liana Jojua in between the first and second rounds of their women’s flyweight tilt. Hacked open across the bridge of the nose by a devastating stepping elbow, Jojua (8-4, 1-2 UFC) was declared unfit to continue by the cageside physician.

Maverick (8-2, 1-0 UFC) waded through a few counter right hands and tore into the former Fight Nights Global champion with volume and variety. Clean punching combinations and kicks to all levels made life miserable for Jojua. Near the end of the first round, the Georgian ate a full-force elbow to the face that split flesh and sent her back to her corner in a state of desperation. Soon after, the doctor advised referee Lukasz Bosacki to intervene.

A talent on the rise at 125 pounds, Maverick will carry a four-fight winning streak into her next assignment.

Alvarez Armbar Dismisses Yakovlev

Former Ansgar Fighting League champion Joel Alvarez submitted Alexander Yakovlev with an armbar in the first round of their lightweight pairing. Yakovlev (25-11-1, 3-6 UFC) conceded defeat 3:00 into Round 1, as the reeling Russian lost for the fourth time in five outings.

Alvarez (18-2, 3-1 UFC) — who missed weight by 3.5 pounds — attacked the legs with kicks, forced the K Dojo Warrior Tribe export into a takedown and threatened with an immediate arm-in guillotine. Yakovlev freed himself from the choke after 30-plus tense seconds, traded ground-and-pound with the Spaniard and wandered into the armbar. Alvarez then elevated his hips, cut off escape routes and forced the tapout.

The 27-year-old Alvarez has rattled off three straight wins.
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