The UFC returns to the Apex this week, as UFC Vegas 71 features a heavyweight main event between Curtis Blaydes and Sergei Pavlovich. Also on the card is TUF Season 30 heavyweight winner Mohammed Usman. He is welcoming another newcomer to the UFC in Junior Tafa.
Junior “The Juggernaut” Tafa
Standing at six-foot-three
Fighting at 245 lbs (heavyweight)
Fighting out of Queensland, Australia
Training out of NTG Fight and Fitness
A pro record of 4-0
How will Tafa fare in the UFC:
Usually, prospects signing to the UFC with just four pro fights is a big mistake but at 185-265, it’s understandable. Tafa also has a ton of combat sports experience. Tafa fought in kickboxing most notably for three years competing in Glory. He also went 1-0 in both Boxing and Muay Thai. He’s the brother of UFC heavyweight Justin Tafa.
Tafa has the tools to be successful at heavyweight but is better suited at light heavyweight. He made his MMA debut at 205 so it’s something he can go back to. He’s only 4-0 and hasn’t even been in MMA for a full year. Obviously being so new to the sport he’s going to have some shortcomings. With takedown defense, it’s good in space but against the cage, he fails to fight the wrists or underhooks and gets taken down. He’s going to struggle in the UFC off his back with barely any jiu-jitsu.
Tafa is a dangerous striker. For the most part, his hands are sharp. I like the use of the uppercut in his combinations. Tafa is a volume striker that throws from both sides and goes after the body as well. He can get a bit overzealous with his forward pressure swinging wide and coming in recklessly. His chin has looked strong but I don’t like the way he’s getting pressed back and hit by low-budget heavyweights.
Right now I wouldn’t pick Tafa to beat any of the top 15 heavyweights. The bright side is he’s only 4-0 and just 26. With the right build, he could become at the very least a top-ten heavyweight. I think 205 is where he would have more success with fewer wrestling-based fighters. I do like the signing because Tafa is fun, a finisher, and has a lot of upside.
How he matches up with Usman:
I have a lot of concerns with Usman. Usman is a decent wrestler, but his overall takedown ability doesn’t match his look. He’s a big, muscular fighter but isn’t that great of a wrestler considering his build and who his brother is. If he gets Tafa down he’s likely dominating on top. Usman just lacks the technique to be confident he can complete a takedown. Tafa has a massive advantage on the feet and Usman doesn’t have great striking defense. Usman can sleep him with one punch as he did Zac Pauga who was also better technically. It’s a fight Tafa should win as Mo Usman is towards the bottom of the UFC heavyweight division.