The first of two heavyweight clashes at UFC 221 saw Aussie newcomer Tai Tuivasa take on French fighter Cyril Asker in front of a packed arena in Perth, Western Australia.
Sydney-born Tuivasa has made a splash as a professional mixed martial artist and came into this one with a perfect 6-0 record with all six victories coming back way of knockout/TKO.
After his stunning UFC debut that saw him knock out Rashad Coulter with a flying knee, Tai’s manager Zen Ginnen revealed that it’s become a tough task to even find a heavyweight willing to fight him.
“Tai is keen to fight anyone in the division,’’ Ginnen said before this fight. “But since winning his UFC debut, it’s been incredibly difficult finding an opponent for him.
“In recent weeks I’ve approached matchmakers about five different guys – and every one of them said no. At one point, Tai even said ‘look, maybe the Perth card isn’t meant to be’. But we’ve persisted because this is a historic event for Australia and we believe Tai deserves to be part of it.”
When asked if he was surprised that so many rivals were ducking him, the top heavyweight prospect said that he wasn’t but could understand why that was the case.
“No, not really. I guess they’re just trying to be smart, protect their careers. This is a cut-throat industry and nobody wants to lose, especially to someone like me, with only the one fight.”
Still, he was philosophical about facing some of the division’s top prospects in the future.
“But the way I look at things, we’ll all run into each other eventually. That’s why I’ll always want to fight the best opponents available.”
With both fighters unranked, a win here would propel one of them up the pecking order and put them inline for a top ten opponent.
The bookies certainly favoured Tuivasa going into this one and installed him as the strong favourite at $1.30 while Asker was paying $3.50 to get the job done.
This fight always felt like a formality for Tuivasa, and from the get go he dominated the strikes, with his opponent barely throwing a punch. Tai opted to land vicious elbows more so than punches, and it was all over in just half a round.
See the finish here:
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