Heavyweight action at UFC Fight Island 7 saw Brazil’s Carlos Felipe face off with Mark Hunt understudy Justin Tafa. The potential for an explosive finish was high in this affair: “Bad Man” Tafa had never been to a decision, and while Felipe had on several occasions, he was more than capable of finishing as well.
Saturday’s only heavyweight showdown saw Tafa open with kicks while both men looked to get their range down. Felipe focused more on firing his right hand, with a lot of power behind it. He was struggling to split Tafa’s guard, however. An eye poke by Felipe paused the action, with just under two minutes remaining in the opening round. Once back underway, Tafa nearly took Felipe’s legs out from under him with a thudding kick that caught the Brazilian out of position. Felipe, however, began to open up a little more toward the end of the frame.
Justin Tafa continued to find success in round two. The young heavyweight out of New Zealand worked the body, and followed that up with an uppercut. The kicks continued as well, and despite his corner imploring him not to take anymore, Felipe appeared unable to avoid them. Felipe would find success with a counter or two, but Tafa began working combinations while continuing to work in his leg kicks. And then, a second warning to Felipe for failing to control his fingers.
Immediately after, however, Felipe managed to take control of things. Felipe landed hard. Worked the body. Tafa briefly covered up, then initiated a clinch, looking for time to recover. That kicked things into high gear, with the pair trading, almost shot for shot, to the buzzer. Thanks to his flurry of action late in the round, Felipe had a case for stealing it on the scorecards.
Still, that left a full round to go. Early in the third, Tafa landed a kick to the body. Felipe ripped Tafa’s own midsection with punches. Before long, they were touching foreheads and focusing on the body shots. An eye poke, this time by Tafa, and a clinch slowed things. Tafa shot forward for a takedown, but the duo scrambled back up. Tafa then drove his opponent into the fence, peppering him with body shots. But they finished by holding center and trading to the buzzer, an absolutely wild finish.
— UFC (@ufc) January 16, 2021
It might be cliche to say that there were no losers in this fight. It might surprise some that Felipe, not Tafa, had his hand raised in the split decision result. But really, Felipe vs. Tafa was just a very fun heavyweight scrap.
Official Result: Carlos Felipe def. Justin Tafa by split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)