UFC 271: The Best Party at Heavyweight is Being Hosted Lewis and Tuivasa

Derrick Lewis and Tai Tuivasa, UFC 271
Derrick Lewis and Tai Tuivasa, UFC 271 pre-fight press conference Credit: Dave Noseworthy/Cageside Press

In a bout where the only downside is that one will have to lose, both Derrick Lewis and Tai Tuivasa will be looking to get closer to the title at UFC 271.

It is a rare occurrence that two beloved heavyweights collide in a match-up that divides the fan base,  but that is exactly the case between Derrick Lewis and Tai Tuivasa.  Ask the internet and it will tell you: the only bad thing about the fight is that one of them will have to lose.

For Derrick Lewis, the fight provides an opportunity to deliver another highlight reel performance in front of his hometown.  The bout also carries an element of redemption.  The normally unflappable “Black Beast” was honest that the moment of facing Ciryl Gane in Houston for UFC gold on the anniversary of being released from prison was too much for him.  Now with a dance partner of a completely different style and disposition, the UFC’s all-time knockout leader has a chance to deliver the excitement to his hometown that he was unable to the last time around.

The fight also comes at an intriguing time in the division.  Though most expect a deal to eventually be reached with current champion Francis Ngannou, it is not expected to happen anytime soon.  Heavyweight gold is the only thing currently missing from Lewis’s trophy case, and 2022 could see another opportunity for a piece of it as the division tries to sort out the future.  Whether or not a deal is reached with former light heavyweight champion Jon Jones will be worth watching.  If it does not, it is highly possible that Lewis could be the one to welcome former champion Stipe Miocic back to action with interim gold potentially on the line.

In a sport with plenty of party animals, it’s fair to say that Tai Tuivasa is in a league all of his own.  When he was just 23 years old, the Australian powerhouse burst onto the scene as a breath of fresh air as he reeled off back-to-back first round knockouts.  While he is his own person, the biggest compliment that can be given to him is that he inspires an anticipation of violence akin to his former training partner and walk-off knockout legend Mark Hunt.

Now 28 years old,  “Bam Bam” has bounced back from an 0-3 skid to record four consecutive first round knockouts to resume his ascent up the rankings.  That said, the fight with Lewis is a turning point.  A fifth victory in a row would more than likely get him a title eliminator against any number of top five contenders.  While the fans would continue to be ready to do shoeys and bask in the post-fight celebration regardless of the outcome, a loss would mean that his route to finally becoming a title challenger could become a lot longer.

Respectfully, the odds of the fight going past the first five minutes are low and each exchange is expected to put every spectator on pins and needles.  That said, the two are not exactly the same.  Tuivasa should look to pick his spots to throw kicks and use a deeper arsenal of weapons to keep Lewis at bay.  For Lewis, dictating the exchanges and picking the right moments to push forward and throw in the pocket will be key.  Both men do their best work when creating exchanges where they can do the most damage and both men will be aware that leaving openings recklessly will give their opponent their best chance to stay in the fight.

The next opponent for Saturday’s winner will be determined by a number of factors, not the least of which is what route the title takes.  With the immediate futures of Francis Ngannou and Jon Jones uncertain, the possibility of the winner stepping into a potential interim title bout against the likes of Stipe Miocic or a top contender bout with Curtis Blaydes or Ciryl Gane are all possible options.