This week’s Welcome to the UFC will feature four debuting fighters broken down into two different articles. In an Australian card chalked full of homegrown talent, three will be making their way to the Octagon for the first time. First we will look at a massive heavyweight often described as the next Mark Hunt who gave up a future as a rugby star to pursue his passion for pugilism. Then we will look at another young Aussie who has won all four of her professional fights in what amounts to a feeling out process for a normal fight.
Who is Tai Tuivasa?
24-year-old Western Sydney native Tai Tuivasa will finally make his first walk to the octagon after signing with the UFC over a year ago. Tuivasa signed last October and was expected to debut on the November Melbourne card. However, a severe knee injury sidelined the portly puncher for the better part of this past year. Tuivasa is part of an emerging wave of young Western Australian fighters, including 2-1 UFC light heavyweight prospect Tyson Pedro, who trains alongside Tuivasa at Lions High Performance Center in Sydney. While his home gym may be in Sydney, Tuivasa spent a large portion of this fight camp sparring with mentor and body double Mark Hunt at the legendary Tiger Muay Thai. Tuivasa is “unofficially” 7-0 with seven first-round knockouts. His most recent performance was an AFC heavyweight title defense over James McSweeney, in which he managed to stop the UFC vet despite tearing multiple knee ligaments minutes into the first round.
What you should expect?
The aforementioned Mark Hunt has gone on record as saying, “Tuivasa hits harder than anyone else he has fought in his entire career.” High praise from a man who has eaten shots from every notable puncher in the last two decades. With the kind of god-given power Tuivasa possesses, I would not expect many guard pulls or any ground fighting, for that matter. The 265-pound behemoth drops bombs from both orthodox and southpaw stance and absorbs face punishment that would make the “Super Samoan” proud. Tuivasa’s conditioning has looked questionable in the past, but a 2013 loss to kickboxing legend Peter Graham (in a mixed rules fight) prompted the young fighter to drop a few pounds and focus on cardiovascular fitness.
What this means for his debut?
Tuivasa will meet Fortis MMA’s Rashad Coulter, who is coming off of a short notice Fight of the Night debut against Chase Sherman. This fight has all the ingredients of a unforgettable debut for Tuivasa. Coulter has shown no qualms about trading in a phone booth and not to knock MMA’s resident GIF king, but Tuivasa packs a bit more pop than Sherman. Coulter might have a chance if he can avoid the early onslaught, drag it into deep waters and hope that Tuivasa still lacks conditioning. Otherwise Tuivasa will get the home crowd standing early with a highlight reel knock out. Tuivasa Knockout 1st
Watch Tai Tuivasa capture the AFC heavyweight title in this beautiful display of violence from 2016:
Who is Nadia Kassem?
Just 4 years after taking up the sport, 21 year old Nadia “187” Kassem is set to become the youngest Australian female to enter the Octagon. The Australian Top Team fighter has shot through the regional scene under the guidance of FS1 prelim headliner Ashkan Mokhtarian. Kassem has managed to win all four of her professional fights and capture the Urban Fight Night strawweight belt with a total of 2 minutes and 26 seconds of time in the ring. She has knocked out all but one of her opponents in under a minute, creating sky high expectations for her debut.
What you should expect?
Kassem’s streak of first round knockouts is extremely impressive, but when you dig into those 4 wins and find that her opponents combined record is 0-10, it becomes a little less impressive. And when you dig a little more to find none of her opponents have made it out of the first round, it becomes downright unremarkable. Not to say she’s not talented; her stand up is tight, she throws a wide array of striking attacks and clearly has finishing power. It’s just difficult to set expectations for someone who tore up single-A pitching for one year and is promoted to the show.
What this means for her debut?
Kassem will debut against fellow Aussie Alex Chambers, who is returning from a two-year layoff due to a knee injury. Kassem is a big question mark, but there is no question she will want to keep this fight standing. In the two years that she has been inactive, Chambers has been training with a plethora of the best women fighters in the sport at ATT Coconut Creek. Her big fight experience and litany of high level training partners will be enough to get her the W over Kassem, who was inspired to began fighting by the Rousey vs. Tate season of TUF. Jesus that makes me feel old! Chambers RNC 1st
Here is one of Kassem’s lighting fast knockouts in Australia’s Urban Fight Night promotion: