Tai Tuivasa reigns triumphant as he emphatically knocks out Derrick Lewis in front of his home crowd at UFC 271. This is a tremendous victory for Tuivasa, and marks his most significant achievement in his MMA career thus far. What’s next for the Samoan sensation? Lewis was ranked #3 in the UFC’s heavyweight division prior to his defeat, and Tuivasa was ranked #11, their new rankings are is yet to be decided.
What’s next for Tai Tuivasa?
Ideally Tuivasa wants to fight up from Lewis, which means tackling #2 Stipé Miocic, or the #1 contender Ciryl Gane. However, these are both highly unlikely scenarios, let me tell you why.
The logjam that is the UFC’s heavyweight division
The UFC heavyweight landscape has been a deadlock for the best part of five years now. DC and Miocic held up the division for years with their back to back rematches, and when Ngannou stole the belt from Miocic, we had another long wait before he defended it against Ciryl. Now we’re looking at either losing Francis over contract disputes, or a drawn out rematch with Gane. There’s the champ and #1 contender gone.
Stipé Miocic is very nearly 40 years old, and is looking to either: A. Rematch Francis in a trilogy fight for the title, or B. End his career with a legacy defining matchup with either Gane or Jon Jones. There goes the number #2 ranked heavyweight. The third ranked heavyweight is Lewis whom Tuivasa just knocked out! So who does this leave???
“He should be top three, top five,” “Wherever he shakes out in the rankings, he’ll be mixing it up with those guys.”– Dana White on Tai Tuivasa after UFC 271
Let’s take a look at the official rankings (as per 13/02/22, these haven’t been adjusted for Tuivasa victory yet)
The winner of Tom Aspinall vs Alexander Volkov
This matchup makes the most sense for me. With Ngannou, Gane, and Miocic unlikely, Lewis just defeated, and Blaydes just getting back into the win column, Alexander Volkov would be the next logical matchup. Volkov is set to fight Tom Aspinall in the main event of UFC Fight Night: London next March. The fight is just over a month since Tuivasa’s victory over Lewis, so it’s timely and makes sense rankings wise.
Tai Tuivasa vs Alexander Volkov
I think Volkov is a favourable matchup for Tuivasa, as a big, stiff opponent. He’s obviously not to be underestimated, but Tuivasa excels at making fights dirty and up close, it’s where he wins the most. Volkov has been making use of his strong, lengthy teep kick to the midsection of his opponents. Tuivasa showed strong resilience in his fight this weekend, I think he takes it.
Tai Tuivasa vs Tom Aspinall
Aspinall is a more complicated matchup, with his precise striking abilities and solid ground game. Again, Tuivasa can make the fight ugly and throw all technique and composure out of the window. Aspinall is also keen on taking the slow and steady approach to title contention, so this fight makes sense win or lose.
The winner of Curtis Blaydes vs Chris Daukaus
Curtis Blaydes returned to the win column with an exhausting decision victory over Jairzinho Rozenstruik. It’s going to take a good performance to overwrite that devastating KO loss to Lewis. Hopefully he can have this performance against Chris Daukaus on March 26 at UFC on ESPN 33.
Tai Tuivasa vs Curtis Blaydes
I think that although a fight against Blaydes makes sense, the UFC matchmakers won’t look at it favorably because Curtis has a habit of making fights boring. Tuivasa is quickly growing into a UFC needle mover, and he will be given the more hyped fights without a doubt.
Blaydes would have the ability to drag this fight out to a decision. The other possibility is that Blaydes doesn’t do enough to wear Tuivasa out, and gasses himself out before being finished.
Tai Tuivasa vs Chris Daukaus
Chris Daukaus is a stand and bang type of fighter, so naturally I’d favour Tuivasa. Chris has exceptionally good boxing, specifically with his straight shots, like the 1,2 that he knocked out Abdurakhimov with the other month. As long as Daukaus’ hubris doesn’t get the better of him, he could theoretically fight from a distance and secure a win with the superior straight punches. However I don’t see Tuivasa allowing this to happen, and he seems to have an incredible chin, so it would be a hard fight for Daukaus in the end.
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