That was definitely a card that happened. The UFC put on a midnight showing of mid-card talent and it produced an absolute minimum of meaningful momentum for the fighters involved. Most notably, Serghei Spivac announced himself as a real force in the heavyweight division, demolishing Derrick Lewis in the first round. Otherwise, a few contracts go handed out for the promotion’s first ever ‘Road to UFC’ finalists.
So, is Spivac ready to swim with the heavyweight title contenders? Can Marcin Tybura get a little bit of respect? And is the UFC going to keep slow-playing Tatsuro Taira?
To answer those questions—and nothing else—I’ll be using the classic Silva/Shelby fight booking methodology from the UFC of years past. That means pitting winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured talent up against one another. Hopefully, by following that model, a few of these bout ideas will actually make it off the page and into the Octagon. Now, let’s get to the fights!
It’s too bad that the fight ended at 3:30 AM in the morning (east coast time), because this was very much Serghei Spivac’s coming out party. The giant Moldovan has sort of snuck his way to success in the heavyweight division. Having started out his UFC career on the wrong foot, he’s won six of his last seven fights now—and three straight since a disappointing 2021 defeat at the hands of Tom Aspinall. While Lewis has had his share of setbacks, Daniel Cormier is the only other man to punish him so thoroughly for giving up easy takedowns.
After the bout (and with a fair bit of pressure from Michael Bisping), Spivac called for a fight with Jon Jones. It’s absolutely not a fight he’s going to get, but can’t blame the guy for wanting it. Fortunately there are a few strong options out there for him, fights with Sergei Pavlovich, the Volkov/Romanov winner, or Curtis Blaydes would all serve well. Just because Pavlovich vs. Blaydes feels like a much more natural booking to make, I’ll say Spivac should get the Volkov/Romanov winner. Sure it’s not the biggest fight possible, but another dominant showing there and he’ll be firmly in the contender’s circle.
My pre-fight feeling, heading into Saturday night, was that if Derrick Lewis couldn’t win this bout, then his days as a top tier heavyweight are likely truly over. It’s hard not to feel like that’s still true coming out of it. He may hang around the top 10 or the top 15 for a while, but getting absolutely beasted by Spivac feels like such a statement. If Lewis can get KO’d by other big punchers, and is starting to get handled by the low-powered grinders, that puts him at a disadvantage in far too many high level fights.
Still, the UFC is bullish on keeping Lewis as a feature attraction then I’m sure he’ll keep getting name opponents for as long as he wants to keep fighting. In fact, that gives me an idea. There’s one other man just hanging around the heavyweight division looking for entertaining ‘name’ opponents: Andrei Arlovski. They’ve been fighting in the same place for nearly a decade now, and the ‘Pitbull’ won’t stick around forever. Lewis vs. Arlovski seems like a fight that just needs to happen once, before both men are done.
If Jung Da-un didn’t show up for UFC Vegas 68, there was no danger of Devin Clark not being there to deal out some damage. From the moment Jung tried that terribly advised sacrifice throw in the first round, he seemed checked out of the bout. Not ready to trade shots from range, he was entirely dependent on trying to win clinch battles with the shorter man. The end result was a clean sweep for Clark, who gets a badly needed bounce-back from a hard loss to Azamat Murzakanov.
Bouts against Khalil Rountree, Carlos Ulberg, or the Pedro/Bukauskas winner would all be strong options. I’ll say go with Ulberg. Clark’s physicality and gas tank makes him a great test at the edges of the light heavyweight top 15, and Ulberg’s rangy power should be the kind of problem Jung was supposed to represent. Ulberg vs. Clark is a great way to see if the New Zealander is ready to start jumping up the division.
It really feels like Marcin Tybura deserves SOMETHING from the UFC in terms of a high profile fight. The 37-year-old has won seven of his last eight bouts. Even if they’re not spectacular, dominant wins, he’s put together a run. This bout against Ivanov felt like a decided step back after beating Alexandr Romanov last August. Following this win, he called out Jairzinho Rozenstruik. It’s not exactly a title eliminator, but with Rozenstruik coming off a good win over Chris Daukaus and without another bout already booked, it seems like a smart call. The other options would be Tai Tuivasa or Jailton Almeida, and neither of those feel like an especially great fit instead. Tybura vs. Rozenstruik is a perfectly good fight if both men are down for it.
This was exactly the kind of performance Park Jun-yong needed to have. He’s got all the technical tools to be a force at middleweight, it’s just the physical side that’s lacking. A fighter like Tiuliulin was only going to be as much of a challenge as Park’s game-planning made it. To that end, the ‘Iron Turtle’ exchanged a few punches, fought hard to get a takedown, and then was totally dominant from top position. The result was a quick first round submission for the Korean, bringing his UFC record to 6-2 overall. That should put him in the sights of fighters like Brendan Allen or Caio Borralho or Phil Hawes. I like the Allen fight a lot, but unfortunately ‘All In’ is set to take on Andre Muniz instead. So, I’ll say book Park vs. Borralho. It’s a tough matchup for the 31-year-old, but also a chance to put a rising top prospect on ice.
A crushing first round win for Tatsuro Taira. Honestly, it happens so rarely that it feels kinda surprising to see the UFC bring the top Japanese prospect along slowly like this. It’s not that Taira’s been taking steps back, but his first three UFC bouts have all felt like sideways moves for a kid who came up from the regional circuit with a resume built on strong veteran talent. If the UFC wants to continue down that path, then a fight with Bruno Santos or Tyson Nam would be great options. If the UFC really wants to give Taira a step up, then Tim Elliott or Tagir Ulanbekov would be really fun. Elliott has positioned himself as something of a gatekeeper to the top 15 over the years. Seems like a prime chance for him to try and stop another prospect’s run. Elliott vs. Taira would be a fun scramble-filled flyweight battle.
OTHER BOUTS: Jung Da-un vs. Ihor Potieria, Blagoy Ivanov vs. Maxim Grishin, Dooho Choi vs. Gavin Tucker, Kyle Nelson vs. Danny Henry, Adam Fugitt vs. Ange Loosa, Yusaku Kinoshita vs. Fletcher/Gorimbo loser, Anshul Jubli vs. Mike Breeden, Lee Jeong-yong vs. Daniel Argueta, Rinya Nakamura vs. Chad Anheliger, Park Hyun-sung vs. Rafael Ramos Estevam, Denis Tiuliulin vs. Joseph Holmes, Jesus Aguilar vs. Ross/Rodrigues loser