Rankings Review: Tai Tuivasa Should be Ranked After Three Straight First-Round Knockouts

It might be an understatement to say the UFC has some questionable rankings.  You would expect rankings to be questionable as they are subjective; however, in this column, I will point out rankings that I think are glaring mistakes.

Editorial Commentary by Peter Parsons

Tai Tuivasa was one of the brightest stars of the UFC 264 pay-per-view this past Saturday, mainly for his performance inside the octagon, but also for his actions outside and on top of the octagon.  Tuivasa had many in the crowd dancing, cheering, and laughing as he came into a Spice Girls song.  After scoring his third straight first round knockout, over Greg Hardy, Tuivasa sat on top of the octagon and did his infamous shoey.  He did more shoeys celebrating his victory on his way back to the locker room as fans handed him a beer and a shoe.

His antics outside the octagon have the Australian heavyweight as a fan favourite, however, it’s his fighting inside the octagon in his last three fights that have the 28-year-old seen as one of the top young up and coming heavyweights in the UFC.

Tai Tuivasa unranked at heavyweight

Tuivasa was previously ranked after going 3-0 to start his UFC career.  In his octagon debut in November of 2017, Tuivasa defeated Rashad Coulter by a first round flying knee knockout.  In February of 2018, he scored another first round stoppage over Frenchman Cyril Asker.  Tuivasa next won a unanimous decision over former champ Andreil Arlovski in June of 2018.

Tuivasa faced his second former champ and first top 10 heavyweight in Junior Dos Santos in December of 2018.  The Brazilian handed Tuivasa his first career defeat, by second round TKO.  Tuivasa returned in June of 2019 losing a unanimous decision to perennial ranked heavyweight Blagoy Ivanov.  In October of 2019, Tuivasa lost his third in a row to current No. 14 ranked heavyweight Serghei Spivac by second round arm triangle choke.

After a year layoff Tuivasa returned in October of 2020 and knocked out Stefan Struve in the first round.  He then defeated UFC newcomer Harry Hunsucker by first round TKO in March of this year.  This past Saturday at UFC 264, Tuivasa scored his third straight first round knockout, defeating fellow top heavyweight prospect Greg Hardy.

Tuivasa is now 6-3 in the UFC with his losses coming against former or current ranked opponents.  Five of his UFC wins have come by first round knockout.  In my opinion, Tuivasa should be ranked No. 15 at heavyweight behind the last man to defeat him in Serghei Spivac.

For the regular readers of this column, you would have read my thoughts on why the current No. 15 ranked Sergei Pavlovich should not be ranked.  For any new readers, you will see why I think Pavlovich should not be ranked as I explain below why Tuivasa should be ranked ahead of him.

Pavlovich last fought on October 26, 2019.  That makes it nearly 21 months since he last fought.  Tuivasa on the other hand, has scored three straight first round knockouts since October of 2020, a year after Pavlovich last fought.

The inactivity not withstanding, there is no way that Sergei Pavlovich should be ranked ahead of Tai Tuivasa.  Pavlovich is 2-1 in the UFC.  After losing a tough octagon debut to Allistair Overeem who was ranked No. 6 at the time, Pavlovich defeated Marcelo Golm.  The Brazilian Golm was 1-2 in the UFC going into their fight and was cut from the promotion after taking another loss.  In his last fight nearly 21 months ago, Pavlovich defeated Maurice Greene who was ranked No. 13 at the time.  This was the victory that put Pavlovich into the rankings.  The victory has not held up well over time as Greene went on to lose 3 of his next four and has recently been cut from the UFC.  One of Greene’s notable losses was a second round TKO loss to Tuivasa’s UFC 264 opponent Greg Hardy.

Based on their recent fight history, I do not see how you could have Pavlovich ranked ahead of Tuivasa.

Kris Moutinho on his current status, his loss to Sean O’Malley, and receiving a $75K bonus

Ilia Topuria ranked No. 15 at featherweight

Typically, I only write about rankings that I think are glaring mistakes in this column.  In this case, I think the voters got it right with Topuria entering the featherweight rankings.  Topuria joins his Georgian countrymen Merab Dvalishvili and Giga Chikadze as ranked UFC fighters.  Not bad for a country of around four million.

Last month, I wrote about how Alex Caceres should not have been ranked at featherweight.  Caceres was ranked No. 15 at featherweight and had won four in a row, however, he had not defeated any top 30 opponents.

Topuria (11-0) rightfully replaces Caceres in the rankings.  He has won his first three fights in the UFC against tough opposition.  In his octagon debut last October, he defeated Youssef Zalal who was on a three-fight winning streak at the time.  Topuria followed up the Zalal win with a first round KO over Damon Jackson in December.  Jackson was coming off a big win over Mirsad Bektic.  The 24-year-old Topuria defeated Ryan Hall by second round knockout this past Saturday at UFC 264.  Hall was previously unbeaten in the UFC and had been ranked until coming out of the UFC rankings a few months ago due to inactivity. 

My rankings would look different than any other writer or fan who follows the sport closely.  This is to be expected, as rankings are subjective.  However, the above examples are rankings I strongly disagree with.  Rankings should be based primarily on results and not perceived potential or popularity.

Some people think rankings do not matter.  Rankings do matter.  They matter when it comes to matchmaking.  They matter when it comes to contract negotiations.

Let’s keep the rankings conversation going.  Do you agree or disagree that the above examples are glaring ranking mistakes? Which UFC rankings do you strongly disagree with? Express your thoughts in the comments below.