Tuivasa (11-3 MMA, 4-3 UFC) had three straight losses entering their heavyweight fight, while Struve (29-13 MMA, 13-11 UFC) had dropped four of his past five. Tuivasa was better able to translate his sense of urgency into action in the cage, as he pushed the pace and caused the “Skyscraper” to topple in the final second of the opening round. The time of the TKO finish was 4:59 of the opening round at Flash Forum on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi.
“It’s been awhile, been awhile,” Tuivasa said afterward. “It’s good to be back.”
The 7-foot-tall Struve attempted to dictate the fight’s range by throwing kicks in the early going, but Tuivasa wasn’t having it. He immediately started in on leg kicks and often followed up by throwing looping combos and then closing the distance. Struve would inevitably clinch, but this became less effective as the fight wore on.
By late in the round, Tuivasa dictated the tempo, closed the distance and really picked up the pace. It appeared Struve was going to survive a big final flurry, but Tuivasa connected on an uppercut to the jaw, which dropped Struve and ended the fight.
The win was the ninth KO/TKO finish of Tuivasa’s career. Struve’s second straight loss was also the 10th time he’s been finished in his career.
Up-to-the-minute UFC 254 results:
- Tai Tuivasa def. Stefan Struve via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 4:59
- Casey Kenney def. Nathaniel Wood via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
- Shavkat Rakhmonov def. Alex Oliveira via submission (guillotine choke) – Round 1, 4:40
- Sam Alvey vs. Da Un Jung ends in split draw (28-29, 29-28, 28-28)
- Miranda Maverick def. Liana Jojua via TKO (doctor’s stoppage) – Round 1, 5:00
- Joel Alvarez def. Alexander Yakovlev via submission (armbar) – Round 1, 3:00