Last night (Weds., Jan. 15, 2014) Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweights Lorenz Larkin and Brad Tavares squared off in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 35 from The Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Georgia.
Larkin was coming off his first Octagon win over Chris Camozzi at UFC Fight Night 31: "Fight for Troops 3" in November 2013. The talented striker picked up most of his relevant mixed martial arts (MMA) experience in Strikeforce and was looking to announce his presence in a tough UFC middleweight division.
Tavares, on the other hand, was a veteran of seven bouts inside the Octagon. He had won four straight decisions amid little fanfare, the last being a win over Robert "Bubba" McDaniel at UFC Fight Night 27. UFC Fight Night 35 was potentially his coming out party, and he took full advantage by beating a ranked opponent.
Let's take a look back at Tavares' biggest win to date.
The fight started with Tavares mixing it up well with his boxing. He controlled the Octagon, landing a big leg kick. Larkin appeared a bit tentative early on, putting forth a relatively low volume of strikes. Tavares snapped a bevy of varied kicks and kept his movement level high. Larkin responded with a nice combo, a noticeable spring in his step. Tavares fought back with a good right hand over the top, following with a short-lived takedown to seal up a solid round for him.
The second round kicked off with Tavares continuing to stalk Larkin with a solid two-punch combination. Larkin landed two shots of his own on the inside, but Tavares continued to be the busier fighter. He pressed forward, switching it up by going to the head and body. Larkin threw a big uppercut that Tavares dodged to throw a solid left hook and a hard kick to the body.
Larkin initially showed good takedown defense as Tavares pushed the action up against the cage, but he was eventually taken down. Tavares took Larkin's back until the Strikeforce veteran reversed positions to end the round.
When the final frame began, Tavares continued to push the pace by throwing more kicks. He had gas left in his tank, staying one step ahead of Larkin's next move. Larkin landed a good elbow, yet still continued with a substandard volume of strikes.
Larkin sprawled out a takedown to go for a guillotine choke that never materialized. Tavares rushed Larkin up against the cage and was met with a brutal series of elbows to the head. Larkin landed a big uppercut as a sense of urgency took over. But it was too little, too late, and Tavares took home the unanimous decision to win his fifth in a row.
After toiling in the UFC for years without recognition, Tavares finally had a chance to shine in a co-main event bout. He did just that be proving to be the more active fighter. He looked like he wanted it more than Larkin did, and the effort will earn him a nice step up in competition. One more win will have him inching closer to a top-10 ranking spot. Tavares could help that along by actually finishing one of his opponents, but it's hard to argue with a UFC win streak like he has.
Larkin will have to go back to the drawing board after a very tough loss.
He was on a big stage after just two Octagon bouts and he failed to utilize much of the explosive striking that earned him an impressive record in Strikeforce. With a relatively pedestrian 1-2 record in UFC, expect Larkin to get one more chance against a mid-tier middleweight with him receiving his release should he lose. He definitely brings a good striking mix to the cage; he just didn't bring much fire to the fight tonight.
That simply won't cut it on the world's biggest stage.
Brad Tavares could become a quiet contender at middleweight after beating Lorenz Larkin at UFC Fight Night 35 for his fifth win in a row. Is it time to give him a big name fight after almost four years in the Octagon?