Sergei Pavlovich, 30, enters the UFC octagon for the sixth time on Saturday night. His first five fights have resulted in a 4-1 record and a surge into and through the rankings. All four of his wins have come by first-round knockout. Tai “Bam Bam” Tuivasa is 8-4 in the UFC, with all but one of his eight wins coming by knockout. Someone is likely getting finished in this one.
Pavlovich recently knocked out Derrick Lewis, a name and a legacy that helped him earn a top 5 ranking. However, Lewis has not been the Lewis of old and his name carries more power than his hands as of late. Still, Pavlovich can only fight those across from him; and, despite the lackluster resume he’s built, Pavlovich has done yeoman’s work in his wins, ending all inside of 5 minutes. Pavlovich’s only loss came in his debut to the athletic powerhouse, Alistair Overeem. Breaking his style down closely, Pavlovich has an enormous frame and generates enormous power. If he lands cleanly, few fighters can absorb the shot and remain standing. Pavlovich is primarily a boxer who does not strike with much variety or fundamentals. Instead, he is a binary striker with a basic but undeniably successful style. When he is offensive, Pavlovich swings with wide-looping shots that either connect and crack or cause him to overextend and hit air. Despite his massive size and reach, Pavlovich rarely sets up his shots with a jab or other range attack. Instead, as soon as an opponent is in his range, Pavlovich looks to throw a cross-hook combination with deadly intent.
Because of his size, Pavlovich’s range is often further than his opponent’s. So, if his cross-hook combination fails, he rarely has to worry about a counter shot coming back, most opponents simply cannot reach him for a counter. This physical advantage masks some defensive flaws, namely his tendency to overextend on strikes and exit his range with an exposed chin. When on defense, an uncommon situation thus far in his career, Pavlovich can be overly patient and plotting. He moves well linearly but struggles laterally. So, when an opponent can get inside his range and back him up, Pavlovich struggles to pivot out and circle to a safer place in the cage. His game, so far, has been binary, Pavlovich has either been on offense or defense, struggling to string the two together. But, it hasn’t mattered. Pavlovich’s raw power and physical gifts have resulted in 4 1st round finishes in a row and he keeps improving fight after fight.
Tuivasa is a new fighter since his 3-fight losing streak in 2018-2019. Since then, “Bam Bam” is 5-1, also with a knockout win over Derrick Lewis, and fought for the interim belt back in 2022. Stylistically, Tuivasa tends to fight the same way. When he is at distance he struggles to land strikes with his hands because he is often the shorter man with a smaller reach. This caused him issues during that losing streak, he couldn’t safely enter his own striking range. Since then, Tuivasa has developed an increasingly popular and effective tool: a cracking calf kick. Now, Tuivasa can hang out at his opponent’s range while dealing damage to their calf. Implemented effectively, Tuivasa is able to land damaging shots while also immobilizing his opponent. A stationary target is exactly what the Aussie brawler wants because he has some of the heaviest hands on the roster and a chin that can withstand a war.
Once an opponent is stationary, Tuivasa tends to lunge forward and unload a surprisingly quick overhand right. He gets his entire body weight behind the punch. This serves two purposes, his right-hand carries the full weight (260+ pounds) of his momentum; so, if it lands, it likely ends the fight. But, it also allows him to follow the strike and get in the pocket. Once in tight, Tuivasa’s shorter reach is to his advantage. He can land more powerful shots, to both the head and body, than taller opponents can land on him. He specifically succeeds when he can engage in a brawl against the cage where he and his opponent trade blow for blow until someone drops. Often, he isn’t the one getting dropped. This is a dangerous fight style and once his chin erodes, likely an unsuccessful one; but, until then, “Bam Bam” will put on a show.
Tuivasa has the edge in experience, matches or suprasses Pavlovich in the power department, has the x-factor with his calf kick, and has shown the ability to close distance successfully against a rangy striker. Meanwhile, Pavlovich is a massive, powerful, and athletic fighter who has shown improvements each time out. Tuivasa is the known commodity and Pavlovich is the unknown. I’m genuinely surprised the odds are what they are, I would have handicapped Tuivasa as the favorite for the reasons outlined above. I suspect that Pavlovich is getting a bump because of his recent knockout of Derrick Lewis and people see Lewis and Tuivasa in a similar light.
However, Tuivasa is more mobile, has a better chin, and has proven more reliable as of late. I am taking Tuivasa here. I think he is the more predictable and well-rounded fighter with more paths to victory. Look for him to weather an early storm as he takes advantage of Pavlovich’s heavy lead leg with calf kicks and lack of lateral movement with heavy power shots.
Pick: Tuivasa to win (bet now at MyBookie)