UFC 271 Staff Predictions: Derrick Lewis vs. Tai Tuivasa preview, odds 1

This weekend’s UFC 271 co-main event is an exciting clash between two heavyweight knockout artists.

Derrick Lewis and Tai Tuivasa will go head-to-head in a three-round fight that both fighters are expecting to end in the first round. Lewis returns after beating Chris Daukaus in December and Tuivasa enters this fight after an impressive four-fight win streak.

Lewis vs. Tuivasa will stream live only on ESPN+ in the United States this Saturday night. Fight fans can order the UFC 271 PPV on ESPN+ to watch every fight live.

Lewis vs. Tuivasa odds

  • Lewis: -170
  • Tuivasa: +150

Lewis vs. Tuivasa staff predictions

Braeden Arbour

This fight is an absolute barn-burner as it takes just one mistake on either side to see their lights go out. Both men possess the great equalizer in this matchup so regardless of who it seems is beginning to pull ahead, absolute danger is always present. Derrick Lewis in particular has shown in the past that as he is hurt he is willing to explode back in desperation, which on a number of circumstances has paid off, therefore for Tai Tuivasa, who I believe is the smoother fighter with his combinations and footwork, can’t rush in to finish the job to aggressively should he feel the rush of momentum. Lewis can flurry, as he most recently did against Chris Daukaus, but where his speed stands out is in his one or two explosive punches, such as the uppercut that snapped through Curtis Blaydes. On the other side, while Tuivasa has evidently powerful one-punch KO power, the quickness and slickness in the combinations that lead him there is what he holds over Lewis.

Going to the body will be a big weapon for Tuivasa, it has been a weakness in Lewis’ game in the past and by sapping his energy, anything that can possibly chip away at Lewis’ power is always a good idea to go to. Lewis should have the advantage in the grappling department, he has trips and takedowns which he does not often go to but still show vastly more experience there than Tuivasa. Tuivasa has been found stuck on his back unable to unflatten himself but Lewis’ style of ground and pound typically resembles punching over in a crouched position rather than securing full mount usually, so I don’t see Tuivasa’s weakness here being exploited to the fullest extent. Ultimately, I think that Tuivasa will be able to look at the Cyril Gane fight against Lewis and take away some things about frustrating him and being the smoother more disciplined fighter, I think he chips away at Lewis until they are comfortably past the halfway point at which point he can open up and look for a finish.

Prediction: Tai Tuivasa to win

Michael Pounders

Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis currently holds the record for most knockout wins in UFC history. 21 of the #3 ranked heavy weight’s 26 wins have come by knockout. Tuivasa, ranked #11, is no stranger to the art of knockouts as 12 of his 13 professional wins have come via KO/TKO as well.

Lewis and Tuivasa have made a career within the heavyweight rankings based on a similar strategy: be more powerful than your opponent and knock them out first. Lewis holds the record for most knockouts in UFC history and he really is dangerous in the octagon; but, he is not some basic brute fighter who swings with ill-intent and lack of intelligence. Lewis fights intelligently and knows how to pick his shots well. As a counter striker, Lewis will typically fight moving backward, keep a high guard, and allow his opponent to punch themselves out or expose an opening in their own guard. Once Lewis spots a gap in his opponent’s defense, he pounces like a panther, or the black beast of the jungle, quickly and destructively. If he lands clean, odds are he is getting his hand raised. If he doesn’t land clean, Lewis will retreat and continue the same strategy. When he has a willing dance partner, a fellow fighter willing to initiate the exchange, Lewis’ fights are always exciting.

There may not be a more willing dance partner, willing to stand and bang, than Tuivasa. Tuivasa, as I’ve said in previous articles, loves two things: drinking and fighting. Outside of the octagon, that combination can land someone in jail. In the octagon, it has propelled Tuivasa inside the rankings and has grown his massive fan base. Similar to Lewis, Tuivasa is more than a simple power puncher. He typically walks his opponents down and looks to land heavy leg kicks. These leg kicks are designed to immobilize his opponent so they become a stationary target for his massive power. Unlike Lewis though, Tuivasa doesn’t often reset after trading shots. Instead, “Bam Bam” just keeps throwing until someone drops. With his power and battle-tested chin, often he is the one left standing.

This fight is going to be awesome for as long as it lasts. Then, it’ll be awesome again after as we either get Lewis on the microphone or Tuivasa with a shoey. I see this fight going similarly to Daukaus v Lewis. Tuivasa will look to pressure early and create a firefight. From here, Lewis should be able to counter and land heavy. The real question is, whose chin will withstand the shots. With Lewis’ pedigree and slight edge in power, I see him winning. I like two methods, one Lewis by knockout; and, also, a small play on Lewis by decision in case the two fighters over-respect the other’s power.

Prediction: Lewis to win by knockout or decision

Joe Pounders

Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis holds the record for most knockouts in UFC history. Although this fact is all that is truly needed to be known when breaking down Lewis, additional factoids will aid in separating him from the other hard-hitting heavyweights. Perhaps his best attribute as a power-hitting fighter is his ability to land the right hand. Whether it be baiting his opponent as he did against Curtis Blaydes or electing to blitz-attack the way he did in his last fight against Chris Daukaus, Lewis truly understands how to land his right hand. Expanding beyond the power alone, Lewis has a strong track record of securing victories over non-title-caliber fighters. Since 2018, Lewis is 8-3, having only lost to Daniel Cormier, Junior dos Santos, and Ciryl Gane. Lewis’ track record of having faced quality competition for much of his career coupled with an ability to beat the non-top of the division fighters makes him a clear top 3 gatekeeper, which is by no means an insult.

Tuivasa may be the most fan-friendly fighter the UFC currently has. To best explain who he is, combine Mark Hunt with the most fun college partier you know. A microcosm of who he is can be represented by the way in which he accepted the bout against Lewis – rather than being in elite shape or feeling as if he is sharper than ever, he is quoted as being drunk when saying yes to fighting “The Black Beast”.

His fighting style is one that simply seeks to end the fight as quickly as possible, and once finished, Tuivasa will do ‘shoey’ after ‘shoey’ – chugging beer out of a shoe. The impressive feet – pun intended – for Tuivasa, is having successfully implemented his style of fighting quite easily, as he is currently riding a four-fight win streak, with all four fights being finished inside the first two rounds. He finishes these fights by landing solid kicks to the calf and body early in the bout, and when the opportunity presents itself, blitzes his opponent to land his heavy hands that make his opponents go to sleep. The question, for Tuivasa, will be if he can overcome the experience and power threat of Lewis to land his own damaging blows.

This fight should, in theory, not go to the judges’ scorecards. In fact, this fight should not enter the third round. The potential issue is when two heavy-hitting fighters face off in the heavyweight division, fear over the other’s power may result in a very passive fight. Although this threat is indeed prevalent, particularly with Lewis having done so on several occasions, I anticipate Tuivasa bringing the fight to Lewis. Early in the bout, Tuivasa will likely utilize his sneaky athleticism with impressive kicks. Meanwhile, Lewis will likely be slowly stalking down his prey, often acting as if any non-punching strike does little, if any, damage to him. Once the song and dance of Tuivasa landing kicks and Lewis slowly stalking down his prey ends, the two massive heavyweights should meet in the pocket for an exchange that will likely put the other to sleep. Forecasting who will win the singular exchange is difficult, however, I am electing to back the far more experienced fighter, and one that has faced far greater competition in Lewis.

Bet: Lewis by KO

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