When the main card of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Fight Night 27 from Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind., kicks off next Wednesday night (Aug. 28, 2013), former The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) participants Brad Tavares and Robert "Bubba" McDaniel will lock horns in a struggle for Middleweight relevancy.
Both fighters will come into the bout with momentum on their side. Tavares has won his last three contests, while McDaniel boasts an impressive seven-fight win streak. However, looks may be deceiving, as McDaniel lost two bouts on TUF 17 to eventual finalists Kelvin Gastelum and Uriah Hall.
Although he rebounded with a victory over Gilbert Smith at TUF 17 Finale this past April, the highly televised skid may give Tavares a slight edge heading into UFC Fight Night 27. With that said, anything can happen in mixed martial arts (MMA), especially with two lesser-known, but talented, combatants looking to make a name for themselves.
The winner will be in line for a decent step in competition, especially with an impressive finish. Let's dive in and take a deeper look at the opening main card bout from Indianapolis between Brad Tavares vs. Bubba McDaniel:
Record: 10-1 overall, 5-1 UFC
Key Wins: Riki Fukuda (UFC on FUEL TV 8), Tom Watson (UFC on FUEL TV 5)
Key Losses: Aaron Simpson (UFC 132)
How he got here: Tavares made his way to the UFC by fighting in his home state of Hawaii. There, he racked up an undefeated (5-0) record fighting in different promotions, including Icon Sport and X-1. The fast start got him a spot on the eleventh season of "The Ultimate Fighter," where he was a member of former UFC Light Heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell's team. Tavares fought valiantly on the show, advancing his way to the semifinals before being submitted by Court McGee.
At TUF 11 Finale, Tavares made his official Octagon debut against Seth Baczynski, whom he had beaten on the show after Baczynski was disqualified for a late first round soccer kick to Tavares. The second time around was a legitimate win for Tavares via unanimous decision. This marked the beginning of Tavares' current 5-1 run inside the Octagon. He defeated beaten notable fighters such as Phil Baroni, Dongi Yang, Tom Watson, and Riki Fukuda, while only dropping one decision loss to the experienced Aaron Simpson at UFC 132.
Tavares is a young Middleweight who's looking for a big run up the rankings. The only roadblock standing in his way is the fact that he's won his last three fights by decision. If he wants to get a big-name fight, he's going to have put an explanation mark on his wins sooner or later.
How he gets it done: Tavares will be looking to use his hand speed and striking to get a victory against McDaniel at UFC Fight Night 27. McDaniel has only been finished twice in his career via strikes (three times if you count his stoppage loss to Hall on TUF), so he's not the easiest man to put away.
Tavares has trained extensively with kickboxing champion and World Series of Fighting (WSOF) president Ray Sefo, so it's a safe bet to assume that his striking acumen will be on point against McDaniel. If he wants to use it, he's going to have exhibit extremely sharp takedown defense and avoid the dangerous submission game of McDaniel.
It's all going to depend which version of Tavares shows up. If he's on point and can avoid being taken down, he could make short work of McDaniel. He's exhibited a safer style of fighting in the UFC than he did earlier in his career. A lot of that may be attributed to the sharp step up in competition inside the Octagon, but Tavares will need a statement win to keep his hype growing.
Another decision win, marking four in a row, may not give him the big fight that he has been looking for. In today's ever-evolving mixed martial arts (MMA) landscape, fighters must not only win, but also win impressively, to keep the favor of the UFC's decision makers.
Robert "Bubba" McDaniel
Record: 21-6, 1-0 UFC
Key Wins: Gilbert Smith (The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale)
Key Losses: Alexander Shlemenko (ShoXC 9)
How he got here: McDaniel got here by racking up a ton of submission victories on the regional circuit. He boasts a solid 21-6 record, but doesn't really have any true signature wins. That makes him a bit of a wildcard, and even though he impressed by submitting Gilbert Smith at April's TUF 17 Finale, he may still be fighting for his job in Indianapolis.
The Greg Jackson-trained McDaniel has a ton of potential, something that his former TUF coach, UFC Light Heavyweight champion Jon Jones, touched on throughout the season. However, McDaniel has let the mental aspect of MMA subtract from that potential on multiple occasions, evident by his losing performances against Gastelum and Hall.
McDaniel was noticeably different during the buildup to the Gastelum and Hall bouts on the show. Prior to fighting Gastelum, he was supremely confident, and didn't really give Gastelum much of chance. While he wasn't the only one to make that fatal mistake during TUF 17, his confidence may have betrayed him there. Against Hall, the exact opposite was true, as many believed McDaniel had lost the fight mentally before even setting foot in the cage.
Those analysts turned out to be right, as McDaniel turned in an uninspired performance, getting knocked out much to the chagrin of Jones and the rest of his teammates.
How he gets it done: McDaniel needs to fight like it's the last one he'll ever take part in for the UFC, because it very well could be. McDaniel's talent is potentially great, but if he can't get past the barriers he sets for himself, he'll be back in the regional circuit all too soon.
Mental preparedness aside, it's no secret that "Bubba" will be looking to use his vaunted submission game to drag Tavares into a ground war. There's no need to prove anything by standing and trading with Tavares, so McDaniel will be looking for the takedown early and often. His home gym of Jackson's MMA will have him well prepared to do so, and his coaches will also have the optimal gameplan in place.
Tavares hasn't shown a ton of submission prowess throughout his career, having only gained the tapout from his opponent twice. McDaniel will obviously need to capitalize on this perceived deficiency and use his well-rounded array of submission holds to catch Tavares off guard. There's a good chance he can do so if he can avoid the inevitable flurries from his Hawaiian counterpart.
Bottom Line: This bout is an interesting one because it could go either way. While each fighter's main skillset is no secret, whoever can implement their gameplan first will most likely earn the win and stay afloat in the tough UFC Middleweight division. McDaniel appeared to be shaken during his stint on TUF, and if that's the case at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, then it's going to be a short night for him.
Tavares has the power and speed to put away his opponents if they give him the chance, and that chance could arise if McDaniel leaves himself vulnerable to a knee when shooting for a takedown. On the other hand, if "Bubba" can get past Tavares' striking range and get a takedown, he'll be able to smother Tavares to look for one of his many submissions on the ground.
The winner should receive a decent step in competition for his next bout, but a poor showing by McDaniel could be disastrous for his UFC career.
Which Middleweight can use their signature skills to keep their win streak alive at UFC Fight Night 27? Let us know your pick in the comments below!