Having taken out 5 straight opponents by knockout, Tai Tuivasa is now knocking on the door of the heavyweight title discussions. The Australian now sits in the top five of the division, but should he be fighting for a championship in his next fight?
This is my two cents on it all – this is Jake’s Takes!
November 2017 saw the debut of ‘Bam Bam‘ Tuivasa in the UFC. Having held the AFC heavyweight title, West Sydney’s 6-0 prospect entered the Octagon in his hometown. It only took just shy of 5 minutes for Tuivasa to establish himself on the big stage, knocking out Rashad Coulter with a brutal flying knee. The charismatic Aussie gained a fan following with this win.
The UFC ventured to Perth, Australia the following February for a pay-per-view event. Despite his inexperience, Tuivasa was the featured bout on the main card, only before the main and co-main events. This time around, Tuivasa would dispatch of Cyril Asker by TKO in only 138 seconds. The support for the young knockout artist continued to grow.
Tuivasa’s next fight was a major step-up in competition. Once again taking a pay-per-view main card slot, the Aussie was pitted with former UFC champion Andrei Arlovski. In a close and competitive slugfest, Tuivasa ultimately walked away with the judges’ nod. It was after this win that the fanbases’ infatuation with Tuivasa’s shoey celebration was born.
A supposed homecoming party for the Aussie was set up in December of 2018. Tuivasa was booked against another ex-champ in Junior dos Santos, who was ranked at #7 at the time of their fight. Despite a strong start, ‘Bam Bam‘ was handed his first professional loss by dos Santos. This TKO defeat sparked a string of losses for Tuivasa, including a decision loss to Blagoy Ivanov in June 2019.
Another loss, this time at the hands of grappling ace Sergey Spivak, put Tuivasa on a three-fight skid. In 2020, reports had surfaced that the Australian knockout artist had been cut from the UFC. It’s unclear if the news was fake or he was later re-signed, but Tuivasa was booked against Dutch veteran Stefan Struve at UFC 254 in Abu Dhabi.
In his return performance, Tuivasa took out Struve at the end of the first round with a brutal string of punches. Though Struve may not have been as high level of an opponent as the people Tuivasa had lost to previously, it definitely showed that ‘Bam Bam‘ was back to form.
Tuivasa and his team credited the win to a change in camp. Due to Australian lockdown restrictions in 2020, Tuivasa found himself moving to Dubai for training. Speaking about the change in 2022, Tuivasa said, “Dubai pretty much saved me. It kept me in my career, kept me in work, kept me being able to train. The restriction rules here are a lot better and [more] lenient than Australia’s been, for sure. It’s been awesome.”
Originally scheduled to fight Don’Tale Mayes, late replacement Harry Hunsucker would be Tuivasa’s next fight in March 2021. To the surprise of very few, Tuivasa once again scored a KO. He would follow this up with another knockout over Greg Hardy as the featured bout UFC 264, where the infamous shoey was brought back. Tuivasa’s star truly exploded with this performance and the media attention he gained because of it.
A top-ten spot was on the line in the Aussie’s next fight, when he took on Augusto Sakai in December 2021. This was seen as a return to upper-level competition, so some adversity for Tuivasa was anticipated. Once again, however, Tuivasa notched another KO onto his resume, taking out Sakai in two rounds. For many, this performance served as a reminder that the heavy-handed shoey-drinker could put people away at the highest level.
Quickly after this breakout win, the promotion came to Tuivasa with another fight offer – #3 ranked contender Derrick Lewis. Being the game fighter he is, #11 ranked Tuivasa accepted the bout for February 2022. This matchup of spectacular knockout artists left fans in anticipation of the violence that would unfold, come fight night.
Despite a rough opening round, where he was taken down and rocked badly, Australia’s heavy hitter left Lewis unconcious with a lethal elbow. Though Lewis’ hometown crowd were left saddened, the explosion of energy across social media at Tuivasa’s win was massive. In the space of 18 months, Tuivasa had rebounded from a losing-skid with a 5-fight KO-streak. To top the cake with a cherry, ‘Bam Bam‘ now sits at #3 in the official heavyweight rankings.
There are many calls for Tuivasa to get a crack at the title following his win. From where I’m standing, that doesn’t seem like a bad idea at all. Tuivasa is one of the biggest stars in the UFC right. It is, of course, more complicated than it seems. At the end of the day, what’s simple in MMA?
For a start, reigning heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou will be sidelined for the next 9 months. A knee injury he sustained in training now requires surgery, meaning that it’s likely that there will be no undisputed title fights in 2022. I doubt that Tuivasa will want to sit out until next year, if he is line for a shot at the champ.
It also has to be said that there is no guarantee that Tuivasa is next for the belt. Even if his fan support, credible streak and marketability have him in the running, the heavyweight division has others in line. The looming presence of light-heavyweight great Jon Jones’ divisional debut has put the title picture in disarray. A matchup with Ngannou, while slipping out of reach, is still the UFC’s top priority. On top of Jones, former champion Stipe Miocic has also been vying for a rematch with Ngannou.
Since the champ will be out, another interim title could be introduced at heavyweight. A potential of a Miocic vs Jones fight for interim gold could absolutely be on the cards. With Jones seemingly happy to sit out until the right deal is offered to him, this could be unlikely. That could be an opportunity for Tuivasa to slide in.
Even if none of the aforementioned fighters get a crack at the belt, there are other rising contenders in the division. Prospect Tom Aspinall and #4 ranked Curtis Blaydes have their own respective fights lined up. That could see them gravitate towards title contention. It’s also worth remembering that former interim champion Ciryl Gane is still sat as the #1 ranked contender. A fight with Tuivasa for any of those men – or their respective opponents – in a title eliminator, or interim title fight, could absolutely be the direction the UFC goes.
Regardless of what the promotion chooses to do in the immediate future, I think it’s absolutely fair to say that Tuivasa is on the path for his first title opportunity this year. For what it’s worth, I personally think we will see a throwdown between Gane and Tuivasa in the summer of this year. Should he win, he would be the indisputable number one contender for Ngannou’s title. I don’t see an interim title being on the line, seeing as Gane recently lost his version of that belt. If that belt will be on the line for any heavyweight title fight, it would be the potential Miocic vs Jones fight.
The future looks like it very well may be golden for ‘Bam Bam‘.
Fight To Watch | Muhammad Mokaev vs Charles Johnson
Fights are being booked fast and furiously for July 23rd as the UFC’s anticipated return to London approaches. With fireworks expected throughout the whole event, MMAPlay365 and VMTV have scoured through the card and selected Muhammad Mokaev vs Charles Johnson as our ‘Fight To Watch’ on the night.
Muhammad Mokaev returns to the octagon following a successful debut back at UFC London in March against Cody Durden. ‘The Punisher’ made light work of his American counter-part, submitting him in the first round via guillotine choke with very little problems. His upcoming opponent, Charles Johnson, signs with the UFC after an impressive four-fight winning streak on LFA, which saw him capture and defend flyweight gold.
His ability to mix it up on the feet and in grappling scenarios make this a much more dangerous bout for Mokaev stylistically, but it’s still nothing the 21 year old won’t be able to handle in the eyes of MMAPlay365 Founder, Adam Newsome:
“At this stage of Muhammad Mokaev’s UFC career every fight is going to be a test. And just because you haven’t heard of Charles Johnson doesn’t mean he isn’t a good fighter. Johnson was the Flyweight Champion in LFA. If you aren’t familiar with LFA it’s basically the American equivalent of Cage Warriors. You are battle tested in LFA and if you become a Champion the chances are the UFC are going to sign you.
So this is a very interesting match-up but still right now I don’t think that Mokaev gets tested enough to the point he loses. This is going to be another fight I see him doing extremely well in and I don’t see Mokaev losing a fight until he hits the top 20 of the division. But even when that time comes, he is going to have improved and developed so much that he could run through that pool of fighters at that time. If a fighter is going to beat Mokaev outside the best fighters in the division then now is the time to do it whilst he’s still developing. But even though he’s still developing he’s still a problem. I’m not sure Mokaev finds another finish here so I am predicting a dominant three round decision victory for Muhammad Mokaev.”
Cauley Quilty, Editor for VMTV, had this to say on the fight: “Muhammad Mokaev is always a treat to watch in action and his UFC debut back in March was nothing short of spectacular! He came to fight and did exactly that getting the first round finish and I see him doing the same thing when he steps back out there against Charles Johnson. His extensive amateur career and impressive run of professional performances make it almost impossible to not side with Mokaev in this bout, especially with the way he defeated Durden on his debut.
However, Charles Johnson isn’t an opponent anyone should underestimate as his resume and recent performances speak for themselves! His fight vs Carlos ‘Mota’ Tizil was a barnburner and with 8 of his 11 wins coming by way of finish you know he can get the job done when needed. Both fighters are highly touted and respected so expect the winner of this to receive a bump up in competition on their next outing.”
Who do you think leaves the ‘Fight To Watch’ with their hand raised? Be sure to let us know your predictions below!
Sumo | Summer Tournament wide open after 10 days
The Sumo Summer Tournament has a surprise joint-leader after 10 days, but many Rikishi are in with a shout of glory with only 5 days to go.
So far, only two have managed to achieve a guaranteed winning record, with M15 ranked Ichiyamamoto and M4 Takanosho posting 8-2 records 10 days in to the basho. It remains to be seen if he can keep up his championship challenge, but Ichiyamamoto is bringing back memories of the January 2020 basho when the M17 ranked Tokushoryu took home the title in a huge surprise. Whatever happens, Ichiyamamoto should see himself catapulted up the rankings for the next tournament if he can keep up this form. It is a welcome return to form for Takanosho who has previously been a Sekiwake.
Despite his patchy form, Terunofuji has scrapped himself to a 7-3 record, which puts him 1 behind the leaders in a large chasing pack. On day 10 he managed to get by a spirited Hoshoryu who is improving all the time. The Mongolian giant will be hopeful of taking home his first championship of the year. Others in the pack on 7-3 are Kiribayama, Ura, Sadanoumi and Aoiyama. With NINE more wrestlers on 6-4, only two behind the leaders and with an outside shot, there will be an amazing 16 Rikishi who may be dreaming of lifting the Emperor’s Cup come Sunday 22nd May. The chances of there being a playoff for the win for the second tournament running are looking pretty high.
Down at the other end of the table, it has been another tournament to forget for March’s playoff runner-up, Takayasu, who has posted a losing record of 2-8 so far. After doing so well to get himself back to M1 rank, he will find himself going down the rankings ahead of the July tournament. Ozeki Shodai has continued his poor form and one more defeat will once again see him staring down the possibility of losing his rank come July. March winner Wakatakakage, alongside fellow Sanyaku ranked competitors Abi, Takakeisho and Mitakeumi, are all fighting for winning records having gone 5-5 so far.
Keep an eye out for the next update after Saturday’s day 14 when I will be recapping the standings and looking ahead to what promises to be a very exciting final-day’s action.
Remember to check out the VMTV Sumo introduction and guide here if you need a refresher of the rules and some of the words used in these articles.
You can find the full rankings and results of the tournament so far at the Japan Sumo Association’s page here.
UFC London | Aspinall vs Blaydes Staff Predictions
The UFC will take centre stage once again in London as they return to UK shores for a second time this year on July 23rd. Following the immense success of the previous show in March, the O2 Arena will again play host to another stacked night of fights.
Headlining the card is surging heavyweight contender Tom Aspinall who will be looking to cement his name amongst the top ranked in the division with a win over #4 ranked Curtis Blaydes. It’s do or die for Darren Till when he faces Jack Hermansson in the co-main event as he aims to get his first win since 2019.
Leading up to the event, VMTV have teamed up with MMAPlay365 and our writing staff will be giving their predictions for each fight on the card as there announced. You can view details on the partnership between VMTV and MMAPlay365 here.
Tom Aspinall vs Curtis Blaydes
- Cauley – Curtis Blaydes via KO/TKO, R4
- Matt – Tom Aspinall via decision
- Jamie -Tom Aspinall via KO/TKO, R3
- Jake – Tom Aspinall via KO/TKO, R3
- Darragh – Curtis Blaydes via KO/TKO, R3
- Harry – Tom Aspinall via KO/TKO, R3
- Colin – Tom Aspinall via KO/TKO, R2
Darren Till vs Jack Hermansson
- Cauley – Jack Hermansson via decision
- Matt – Darren Till via KO/TKO, R2
- Jamie – Darren Till via decision
- Jake – Darren Till via decision
- Darragh – Jack Hermansson via submission, R3
- Harry – Jack Hermansson via decision
- Colin – Darren Till via decision
Nikita Krylov vs Alexander Gustafsson
- Cauley – Nikita Krylov via decision
- Matt – Nikita Krylov via KO/TKO, R1
- Jamie – Alexander Gustafsson via decision
- Jake – Nikita Krylov via submission, R1
- Darragh – Nikita Krylov via decision
- Harry – Alexander Gustafsson via decision
- Colin – Nikita Krylov via decision
Paul Craig vs Volkan Oezdemir
- Cauley – Paul Craig via submission, R1
- Matt – Paul Craig via submission, R2
- Jamie – Paul Craig via submission, R2
- Jake – Paul Craig via submission, R2
- Darragh – Paul Craig via submission, R1
- Harry – Paul Craig via submission, R2
- Colin – Paul Craig via submission, R2
Muhammed Mokaev vs Charles Johnson
- Cauley – Muhammed Mokaev via KO/TKO, R2
- Matt – Muhammed Mokaev via submission, R1
- Jamie – Muhammed Mokaev via submission, R2
- Jake – Muhammed Mokaev via decision
- Darragh – Muhammed Mokaev via KO/TKO, R1
- Harry – Muhammed Mokaev via decision
- Colin – Muhammed Mokaev via submission, R1
Molly McCann vs Hannah Goldy
- Cauley – Molly McCann via KO/TKO, R3
- Matt – Molly McCann via decision
- Jamie – Molly McCann via KO/TKO, R2
- Jake – Molly McCann via decision
- Darragh – Molly McCann via decision
- Harry – Molly McCann via decision
- Colin – Molly McCann via decision
Mandy Bohm vs Victoria Leonardo
- Cauley – Victoria Leonardo via KO/TKO, R2
- Matt – Mandy Bohm via decision
- Jamie – Mandy Bohm via decision
- Jake – Mandy Bohm via decision
- Darragh – Mandy Bohm via decision
- Harry – Mandy Bohm via decision
- Colin – Mandy Bohm via decision
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