This Wednesday (January 15, 2014) Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweights Lorenz Larkin and Brad Tavares will go to war in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 35 from The Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Georgia.
No. 13-ranked Larkin recently notched his first UFC win, beating Chris Camozzi at UFC Fight Night 31: "Fight for Troops 3" last November. Larkin had previously dropped his Octagon debut to No. 8-ranked Francis Carmont at UFC on Fox 7, the only official loss of his mixed martial arts (MMA) career.
Tavares has quietly racked up four straight decision wins. Part of the reason he isn't getting much publicity is his lack of finishes; another part is the mid-level competition he's been facing. With only one loss on Tavares' record, Larkin should provide a nice step up in competition for him.
Both fighters are known for their impressive striking, so this bout could erupt into a war. Let's take a look at the keys to victory for Larkin and Tavares:
Record: 14-1(1) overall, 1-1 UFC
Key Wins: Robbie Lawler (Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Kennedy), Chris Camozzi (UFC Fight Night 31), Gian Villante (Strikeforce Challengers: Fodor vs. Terry)
Key Losses: Francis Carmont (UFC on Fox 7)
Record: 11-1 overall, 6-1 UFC
Key Wins: Robert McDaniel (UFC Fight Night 27), Tom Watson (UFC on Fuel TV), Phil Baroni (UFC 125)
Key Losses: Aaron Simpson (UFC 132)
Former Strikeforce contender Larkin is respected for his lethal blend of Kung Fu, kickboxing, and boxing that has translated into eight knockouts throughout his career. He'll have a tough time knocking out Tavares, whose only loss came by decision. That won't stop Larkin from trying, however. He's extremely well versed on his feet and can outlast quality fighters, evident by his decision win over current UFC welterweight title challenger Lawler.
On the other hand, Larkin rarely looks to go to the ground and has never submitted an opponent. That could present a great opportunity for Tavares, who is proficient if not spectacular on the mat. It won't be easy to control former light heavyweight Larkin on the ground, but it will be a better strategy than choosing to stand and trade with him. Tavares has been largely able to use his own standup skills to outpoint his last four opponents, but Larkin is simply a different animal. Tavares needs to stay on his toes and look to transition his strikes into some takedowns if he wants to win.
Larkin could receive a nice boost up the rankings if he can effectively derail Tavares' momentum. But, it's still unclear if Larkin can consistently defeat the well-rounded fighters in UFC. There's no doubt his knockout ability is some of the best, but pure strikers rarely last long in the Octagon. By defeating Larkin, Tavares can score the biggest win of his solid career and catapult himself into some long overdue recognition.
With middleweight suddenly becoming one of the most stacked divisions in UFC, the stakes will be high for both fighters in Georgia. Can Larkin prove he deserves a big name fight, or will Tavares win five in a row?