UFC Fight Night: Dos Santos vs. Tuivasa Preview

A preview of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night card, set to take place in Adelaide, Australia.

Updated: Nov. 29, 2018 • 1:23 PM ET

Junior Dos Santos is looking to pick up his second win in a row this weekend.

The UFC will invade Adelaide, Australia this Saturday for the second time in company history with a heavyweight main event featuring former champion Junior Dos Santos and rising Australian contender Tai Tuivasa.

Dos Santos, ranked No. 7 in the heavyweight division, is coming off a unanimous decision victory over Blagoy Ivanov in July. The fight was a great rebound for Dos Santos after losing by TKO to Stipe Miocic for the title at UFC 211 last year. The 34-year-old Brazilian has alternated wins and losses in his last eight fights, but he’s a former champion and has defeated some of the best in the heavyweight division.

Dos Santos won the belt in November 2011 by knocking out Cain Velasquez and successfully defended against Frank Mir at UFC 146 roughly six months later. Dos Santos also has key victories over Miocic, Ben Rothwell, Mark Hunt, Shane Carwin, Roy Nelson, Gabriel Gonzaga, Mirko Cro Cop, Stefan Struve and Fabricio Werdum. He holds the experience advantage over Tuivasa, but will have no easy task in defeating a younger fighter who has the bonus of fighting at home in Australia.

With all the changes that will inevitably take place in the heavyweight division, if Dos Santos can find a way to win on Saturday, he could be one more victory away from challenging for the title for a third time before he retires.

Tai Tuivasa, the No. 11 ranked heavyweight, is facing the toughest test of his career; but the 25-year-old Sydney native has shown tremendous power and promise in his young MMA career, coming off a unanimous decision victory over former champion Andrei Arlovski at UFC 225 in June. Tuivasa is 3-0 in the UFC and 8-0 overall in his MMA career, while he also has a 5-2 pro boxing record and 14-2 kickboxing record. He doesn’t have the same amount of MMA experience as Dos Santos, but has a significant fight resume heading into Saturday.

Tuivasa knocked out Rashad Coulter with a flying knee in his UFC debut and followed that with a TKO victory over Cyril Asker. His decision win over Arlovski broke a seven-fight knockout streak, but he has dominant power in his hands and has shown significant improvement with each fight. Against Arlovski, Tuivasa showed great patience and resolve, executing a consistent gameplan over three hard-fought rounds.

Tuivasa represents a youth movement that the heavyweight division needs. If he can find a way to defeat Dos Santos, he could be offered a bout with a top 5 ranked fighter. However, he cannot look beyond Dos Santos, who’s as dangerous as anyone in the division and still has fight-finishing abilities.

Tuivasa says he knows what he’ll be up against in Adelaide.

“This can go either way, but this is my home country, these are my people,” Tuivasa said via MMAjunkie. “This guy who’s coming to take my head off, he’s no slouch. He’s one of the best fighters ever, so I’m not taking it lightly.

“I’m going to go out there, and I want to get this done quick. I’m coming out, and I’m swinging for the fences.”


Co-main event

Saturday’s co-main event will feature another heavyweight fight between New Zealander Mark Hunt and No. 15 ranked Justin Willis.

Hunt, ranked No. 10, is trying to rebound from two straight losses, the first coming to Curtis Blaydes in February at UFC 221, followed by a deafest to Alexey Oleynik in September. His last win was over top contender Derrick Lewis in June 2017 in one of the best fights of that year.

The 44-year-old Hunt (13-13-1, 1 NC) has had an up-and-down career and been involved in crowd-pleasing wars against some of the best heavyweights ever. He has fought Alistair Overeem (twice), Dos Santos, Miocic, Werdum, Gegard Mousasi, Melvin Manhoef, Fedor Emelianenko, Brock Lesnar and Josh Barnett. He has victories over Ben Rothwell, Cheick Kongo, Stefan Struve, Antonio Silva, Roy Nelson and Frank Mir.

This will be Hunt’s last fight on his UFC contract, and he plans on leaving the UFC due to frustrations with the promotion. When asked if he could change his mind, he responded via MMAjunkie, “I don’t think so, to be honest. Looking at trying to do some other things next year. I want to compete five more times, at least – because I still have the fire inside of me to do it – and go from there. We’ll see what happens.”

If Hunt doesn’t return to the UFC, he’ll leave as a legend of the sport and one of the hardest hitting heavyweights in history.

Willis (7-1, 3-0 in UFC) is a former San Jose State football player from East Palo Alto, Calif and coming off a unanimous decision victory over Chase Sherman in April. In the UFC, the 31-year-old has also defeated Allen Crowder and James Mulheron, but Hunt represents the biggest challenge of Willis’ career. Willis, though, feels he’s ready to show the world he belongs at the top.

“I’m just happy Mark Hunt took this fight,” Willis said via ufc.com. “I’m happy because he knows stylistically I’m kind of his worst nightmare because I’m fast, I’m athletic, I’m a lot longer than he is, I can wrestle, I have knockout power, and I don’t just walk forward. I’m more strategic, I’m more calculated, and that’s his Kryptonite.”

Willis continued, “If you go to my house, I’m always watching film. I don’t really watch film of my opponents, but Mark Hunt’s one of those special guys that you’ve seen throughout the years, and I’ve learned his style through osmosis for years just by watching fights. So I understand his technique, I understand the things that he has to offer, and I believe that he’s gonna get drowned.”

If Willis can defeat Hunt on Saturday, it will be the marquee victory he needs to solidify his position as a legitimate title threat and possibly get a shot at a top 10 fighter.

Also on the card is a light heavyweight fight between former champion Mauricio Rua and No. 14 Tyson Pedro.

Rua, the No. 13 ranked light heavyweight, will try to rebound from a bad knockout loss to Anthony Smith in July. He was on a three-fight winning streak before meeting Smith and had even been in title conversations.

The 37-year-old Rua is a legend in MMA, who has fought and defeated some of the toughest light heavyweights of all time. He has victories over Corey Anderson, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (twice), Brandon Vera, Forrest Griffin, Lyoto Machida, Chuck Liddell, Mark Coleman, Alistair Overeem (twice), Kazuhiro Nakamura, Kevin Randleman and Quinton Jackson. On Saturday, however, Rua will have the disadvantage of fighting Pedro in his own backyard; but a victory over an up-and-coming contender would only further add to his legacy.

Pedro (7-2, 3-2 in UFC) will try to rebound from a submission loss to Ovince Saint Preux in June, but has shown incredible promise since joining the UFC in 2016. The 27-year-old Sydney native has finishes in all three of his wins, and his losses have come to top contenders and veterans like Saint Preux and Ilir Latifi.

Rua would be the biggest win of Pedro’s career and the springboard he needs to enter the top 10 of the light heavyweight division. He’ll have the people of Adelaide on his side and his family most likely in attendance, as he’s the brother-in-law to Tuivasa.


The rest of the card

Welterweight bout - Jake Matthews vs. Tony Martin

Light heavyweight bout - Jim Crute vs. Paul Craig

Bantamweight bout - Suman Mokhtarian vs. Sodiq Yusuff

Welterweight bout - Yushin Okami vs. Aleksei Kunchenko

Flyweight bout - No. 8 Wilson Reis vs. No. 10 Ben Nguyen

Lightweight bout - Mizuto Hirota vs. Christos Giagos

Flyweight bout - Elias Garcia vs. Kai Kara-France

Welterweight bout - Keita Nakamura vs. Salim Touahri

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