UFC Vegas 89: Karl Williams Wrestles His Way Past Heavy-Handed Justin Tafa

Karl Williams and Justin Tafa, UFC Vegas 89
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 23: (L-R) Karl Williams of the U.S. Virgin Islands punches Justin Tafa of New Zealand in a heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on March 23, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

A bit of a switcherooo led to Saturday’s UFC Vegas 89 co-main event between Justin Tafa and Karl Williams.

Originally, heavyweight Tafa’s brother Junior had been booked against Williams. However, last month ahead of UFC 298, Justin had to pull out of his fight with Marcos Rogerio de Lima on barely more than a day’s notice; Junior opted to fill in. Returning the favor, Justin took the fight against Williams.

Williams was no doubt just happy to have a fight after being on the sidelines since last May. Perhaps less happy when Tafa took some big swings early. Those had Williams on the retreat, but he exploded into a takedown, planting Tafa on his back. Tafa would work his way back up, but Williams went right back in on another takedown attempt, this time against the fence.

After a grueling first five minutes, with was Williams ending the round in control. The second frame started with Justin Tafa against finding success on the feet. Still, with more than half the round still on the clock, Tafa fired a hard kick that was caught. He was dumped on his back, allowing Williams to move to side control, where he could drop hammerfists. Tafa would reclaim half-guard, if just barely, but Williams was in a dominant spot once again.

Round three opened with another attack from Justin Tafa, and Karl Williams was rocked. He dove in on a takedown, and nearly was caught again before finally finishing the attempt. Tafa was sat on his backside, back against the fence. But before long, he had spent most of the round being controlled, despite the violent start to the final stanza. And when it went to the scorecards, it was clear who had won.

Official Result: Karl Williams def. Justin Tafa by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)