UFC Adelaide sees two up-and-coming Australians embark on a Saturday in the headlining battle to include a pair of beloved veterans in their CVs.
The undefeated Tai Tuivasa can set the exclamation point for a strong 2018 campaign when he accepts his former team world champion Junior dos Santos in the main event, while the co-main light heavyweight event UFC and Pride legend Mauricio "Shogun" Rua to fend off Sydney's Tyson Pedro. One can bet that Tuivasa and Pedro would love nothing more than to shake off Dos Santos and Rua in front of rough home crowd.
In his final fight in the UFC, heavyweight veteran Mark Hunt fights with Justin Willis. 44-year-old Hunt will be a free agent after battling Willis, who is unbeaten in three UFC appearances.
Also on the main map, former lightweightweights Jake Matthews and Tony Martin are struggling to keep their welterweight markings spotless Sodiq Yusuff, winner of the Contender series, fights with Ultimate Fighter 27 alum Suman Mokhtarian in a featherweight fight, and Paul Craig tries to challenge the Australian light heavyweight Jim Crute with his first loss.
Where: Adelaide Entertainment Center in Adelaide, Australia
When: Saturday, December 1
Junior dos Santos vs. Tai Tuivasa
This should be a fascinating battle, as Junior dos Santos must find a way to deal with the aggression of Tai Tuivasa.
In his recent stint against Andrei Arlovski, Tuivasa has shown he is more than a quick finisher when he made three tough rounds with a former world champion who made his pro debut when Tuivasa was just six years old completed. Dos Santos may not be that long, but it's a similar challenge.
Much of this fight will be similar to a high-level kickboxing match, with both fighters proving that they can perform various strikes while doing dos Santos is known for its technically eye-catching exhibits, do not sleep on Tuivasa. The 25-year-old is developing a reputation as a friendly, fun-loving, crappy drinking ball that will make the enemy fall asleep. In fact, Tuivasa is a classic spiral spring. Only when you think he is slumbering does he break a flying knee or an angry combination.
Tuivasa is also constantly moving forward, which the judges always like to see, and dos Santos has to score points with his jab and with him kicking to keep Tuivasa in check. This is Tuivasa's first five-round fight and if it takes the full 25 minutes, I have to lean towards "Cigano".
Selection: Dos Santos
Mauricio Rua. Tyson Pedro
How One Feels That Mauricio Rua depends on this matchup depends very much on how much of a step you think he has lost. In his best form, Rua made him a nightmare for opponents, regardless of their background, because of his excellent footwork and feared flashing skills. At 37, he looked just as much prey as predator.
That does not mean that Tyson Pedro can expect a tour here. His economies of scale will be a factor and it will do him good to set the distance in which he wants to fight this fight early. Although he was almost a decade younger, it could be a mistake for Pedro to start too fast, as his teammate James Te-Huna experienced the hard road when he was destroyed in December 2013 by "Shogun".
Where Pedro really can shine is on the canvas. Rua has always been great at defending takedowns, but when Pedro crunches him in a clinch and can get a trip, he faces a submission. It would be even better for him if he scored a counterattack against the opponent and can go to work from there.
Aside from a vintage of the first round of "shogun," look for Pedro to get Ruas back sometime to win over choke.
Mark Hunt vs. Justin Willis
Before he took part in a slugfest with Chase Sherman, it could be said that Justin Willis had not really been tested the Octagon he is now taking a big step against Mark Hunt.
"The Super Samoan" is a far better striker than anyone Willis has fought so far. One of the keys to Willi's success is whether he chooses to boost the pace early, hopes to catch Hunt Hunt or consider the K-1 veterinarian. On the other hand, Willis has a left dynamite hand that Hunt must respect.
This has the appearance of an entertaining stand-up battle that makes it hard to predict, especially when both men decide to wind up the wind to track the fight of the night. I see Hunt's deeper kickboxing arsenal, which makes all the difference here, as he finishes his UFC run with a high note.
Jake Matthews Vs. Tony Martin
Great matchup between two well-rounded playing fighters on the way up in welterweight.
Famed for his submissiveness, Martin surprised many with a knockout in the third round by Ryan LaFlare in his last outing, the first time that Martin had defeated an opponent in 18 professional fights. An improved confidence in the stand-up situation will do him good against Matthews, a 24-year-old who has grown since joining UFC in 2014.
Both fighters look like new men at 170 pounds and no longer have to torture themselves to make the slightest limit. This is the closest main fight I can call, but I give Matthews the edge for his top athleticism, a trait that allows him to cover up many mistakes and quickly capitalize on his opponents failing.
Suman Mokhtarian Vs. Sodiq Yusuff
Suman Mokhtarian is a specialist in creative submissions, for which he did not show much in his TUF 28 decision against Ricky Steele for whatever reason. He will feel much better with a horde of roaring Aussies behind him.
Unfortunately, home-style cooking is not enough to save him from the highly acclaimed Yusuff. After a complete three-round performance against Mike Davis in the series Dana Night by Dana White (19459008), Yusuff brings the Octagon excellent lateral movement and an absolute right hand bomb.
] If Yusuff can resist the temptation to suffer a headache, he should defend himself well against Mokhtarian. He has a thick base that will make it hard for Mokhtarian to get takedowns, even if he manages to get hold of the elusive striker. For Mokhtarian it must result in a fight, otherwise Yusuff could let him stare early on the lights.
Paul Craig. Jim Crute
Just 22 years old, Jim Crute is a fascinating perspective from Australia. He made an impressive debut in the Contender Series with a TKO in the first round of Chris Birchler, which turned into an entertaining standup fight, and he has also proven to be an offensive fighter once he has reached the top control. He is the kind of fighter who seeks damage or submission attempts for position.
That could be a bad idea against Paul Craig, who is building a reputation as a deceitful submission artist. "Bearjew" fights comfortably from his back and could actually invite Crute to knock him down so he can throw up armrests and triangular holds. It is noteworthy, however, that Craig's willingness to fight from scratch could also be his downfall when dealing with such an aggressive fighter as Crute.
This is Crute's fight to lose and if he can show some patience in his UFC debut. the goal will come to him. But do not be surprised if the tricky Craig catches another opponent unprepared.
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