How Sergei Pavlovich became the UFC’s most feared man: Russian heavyweight has SIX first-round KOs in a row and more knockdowns per fight than anyone in HISTORY, as he gears up for Tom Aspinall showdown at UFC 295
- Sergei Pavlovich has won six fights in succession by first-round knockout
- Russian is on a rampage and has become the UFC’s most fearsome powerhouse
- Listen to Mail Sport’s new boxing podcast THE HOOK – with exclusive interviews
Over the last five years, Sergei Pavlovich has established himself as one of the UFC’s most fearsome heavy-hitters.
Now that Francis Ngannou has departed the promotion, the Russian can justifiably claim to be the scariest KO artist on the roster.
Indeed, Saturday night’s UFC 295 opponent Tom Aspinall has branded him as such, calling him the most dangerous fighter in the sport.
So how has Pavlovich, 31, established himself as this fearsome character?
The statistics behind his run of seven fights in the UFC are astonishing. Pavlovich averages the highest number of knockdowns per fifteen minutes in UFC history (6.31).
Sergei Pavlovich has become the most fearsome fighter in the UFC’s heavyweight division
The Russian has enormous power and likes to be incredibly aggressive from the start
His monstrous 18 stone frame combined with front-foot aggression and dynamite hands has proven to be a potent cocktail.
But it was an inauspicious start to life in the UFC for him. Pavlovich was matched up against former heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem on debut.
He was undefeated at the time, while Overeem was coming off back-to-back defeats by Francis Ngannou and Curtis Blaydes.
It started as many of Pavlovich’s fights do. With the Russian landing hard and wobbling his opponent.
But Overeem used his vast experience to close the distance back up his opponent and secure a takedown.
He then poured on the ground-and-pound to force a stoppage and thrill the Beijing crowd. It was a learning experience for Pavlovich and he’s made quick work of everyone since.
In six fights, Pavlovich has only been in the octagon for a combined total of just over two full rounds – 11 minutes and 37 seconds to be precise.
A huge overhand right spelled the beginning of the end for Marcelo Grolm in his comeback from the Overeem defeat.
Tom Aspinall will have his work cut out as he bids for interim heavyweight gold
Pavlovich took out Tai Tuivasa, who admitted the Russian is more powerful than he thought
He then battered Maurice Greene with the same weapon before launching into a ferocious onslaught and forcing the referee to intervene.
Pavlovich’s level of opponent then ratcheted up but the result remained the same. A rapid piston-like straight uppercut knocked down Shamil Abdurakhimov and again the ground-and-pound proved fight-ending.
The top brass at the UFC then realised they might have the real deal on their hands.
Derrick Lewis, the man with the most KO wins in UFC history, was matched up against Pavlovich in what looked like a passing of the torch style fight.
He put himself in the firing line and risked being another statistic on Lewis’ record. In the fire fight, it was Pavlovich who landed the telling blows with his trademark flurry of shots.
When Pavlovich knocked out Derrick Lewis, it put the rest of the division on notice
Lewis backed up and although he kept a solid poker face, was clearly struggling to stay upright.
The American then absorbed further punishment before referee Dan Miragliotta stepped in. It took only 55 seconds for victory and his following bout with Tai Tuivasa was a second quicker than that.
It was a merciless performance of absolute ferocity. Pavlovich, once he sniffed blood in the water, threw combination after combination while taking or avoiding the panicked replies swinging back from the Australian.
Tuivasa’s chin held up to a point but once he’d been caught multiple times, it was game over.
Afterwards he paid homage to the Russian’s power, telling The Halfcast Podcast: ‘He hits hard.
‘You hear about his reach. He hits you from very far away where you think you’re in that zone, but you’re not, and he is.
‘Obviously, he’s got some heavy hands behind it, and once he smells it, he can smell the blood and he just goes for it.
‘I want him again. I didn’t get to hit him. That’s the heavyweight game. My eyes were like, “Where are you? Which one is it?”‘
Tuivasa’s face told the story after their 2022 meeting in Orlando, Florida
Curtis Blaydes must have felt much the same. Pavlovich found him a tougher nut to crack but managed to break the American open towards the end of the first round.
Landing an uppercut among a number of other shots to drop his opponent, Blaydes clutched the referee’s leg as it was waved off.
Afterwards, Pavlovich said: ‘I’m not waiting to find somebody [who can test me]. What I want is I want to get my belt.
‘I want to try and win this belt because this is a dream of mine from when I was a kid, and so I’m working really hard to get to that dream and get that belt.
‘I understood that if he was going to try and go for a shot, and it was basically just going to be met with a brick wall, he’ll start to psychologically crumble — and that’s exactly what we worked on, that’s what we prepared.’
Shamil Abdurakhimov was saved from further punishment by the referee’s intervention
Blaydes is a tremendous wrestler and was unable to drag down Pavlovich, which is potentially a warning sign for Aspinall.
The Brit may think his best route to success is on the mat but it will be no simple task to relocate the fight there against a man who has trained in wrestling in Russia since kindergarten.
Blaydes admitted he’d underestimated Pavlovich, a mistake Aspinall appears unlikely to repeat.
‘You can’t start slow,’ he said. ‘These guys, heavyweights – I’ve conditioned myself to do these long five-round fights.
‘Most heavyweights, they don’t want to do five rounds. They’re sprinting out of the gate. I didn’t sprint out of the gate. I came out, I was feeling him out, and he’s just coming hard. I underestimated him, and I paid the price for that.’
The British UFC fighter could become the third to be a champion from these shores
It isn’t just Pavlovich’s power that stuns opponents, it is the volume that makes it almost impossible to escape.
If he misses with four, the fifth is likely to connect and in terms strikes landed per minute, he is second on the all-time list, averaging 8.72.
While Jon Jones vs Stipe Miocic was a hugely exciting headliner before the champion’s injury forced a change, this interim battle is just as compelling in different ways.
Pavlovich’s reputation as the UFC scariest fighter is well founded – whether he can find a home for his thunderous strikes on Aspinall is a matter for Saturday night.
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