Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweights Brad Tavares and Nate Marquardt collide this Saturday (Jan. 3, 2015) at UFC 182 inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
After an impressive (8-1) start to his UFC career, Tavares has hit a bit of a rough patch. He was thoroughly controlled by Yoel Romero and looked to return to form against Tim Boestch, but a comeback knockout ruined those plans. In order to avoid a three-fight slide, Tavares needs a victory here.
Meanwhile, Marquardt got back into the win column in last bout, upsetting James Te Huna via first round submission in his return to the middleweight division. Now, Marquardt will look to reestablish himself as a top contender at 185 pounds.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for each man.
Key Wins: Lorenz Larkin (UFC Fight Night 35), Tom Watson (UFC on Fuel TV 5)
Key Losses: Yoel Romero (UFC on FOX 11), Tim Boestch (UFC Fight Night 47)
Keys to Victory: Though he's hardly the most powerful striker, Tavares is a rather effective high-volume kickboxer. In addition, his wrestling game is pretty sturdy, both offensively and defensively.
For the most part, Tavares relies almost entirely on one strategy. He'll defend his opponent's attempts to drag the fight to the mat, land some decent strikes at range, and look to land harder shots inside the clinch.
Luckily, that should work pretty well here. Marquardt's technical striking is not enough to overcome Tavares' volume, nor will he be able to discourage the Hawaiian with his power, since Tavares has historically shown an excellent chin. Therefore, Tavares will spend much of the fight trying to defend takedowns, which is one of his better skills.
While Tavares is kickboxing, he should put extra emphasis on his low kicks. Marquardt is not an adept range striker, which often leaves him stranded at a distance from which he cannot attack his opponent. This -- combined with Marquardt's relatively flat-footed fighting style -- leaves him particularly vulnerable to low kicks.
If Tavares can limit Marquardt's movement early, he makes it easier for himself to pursue a finish early. Once Marquardt is limping, Tavares can plant his feet a bit and step forward with power punches.
With a knockout victory, Tavares pushes himself back into the middleweight elite.
Key Wins: Tyrone Woodley (Strikeforce: Rockhold vs Kennedy), Demian Maia (UFC 103), James Te Huna (UFC Fight Night 43)
Key Losses: Tarec Saffiedine (Strikeforce: Marquardt vs Saffiedine), Hector Lombard (UFC 166), Jake Ellenberger (UFC 158)
Keys to Victory: Marquardt is a very well-rounded finisher. He possesses some legitimate knockout power and is a longtime jiu-jitsu black belt, making him dangerous wherever the fight goes.
Though it's not a good sign that Marquardt recently lost three straight fights in pretty poor showings, it's important to remember that he came back into the UFC with some serious momentum after defeating Tyrone Woodley.
While it would take a dramatic career revival to get "The Great" back in title contention, it's not impossible for him to find himself back in the top 15. In fact, he could steal Tavares' ranking at the bottom of the rankings with just his second middleweight win.
In order to defeat Tavares, Marquardt needs to heavily apply pressure from the onset of the fight. If he allows Tavares to dictate the range and settle into his rhythm, Marquardt is likely in for three rounds of slowly being picked apart.
Instead, Marquardt can threaten with both his power punches and grappling. Considering Tavares' power, or lack thereof, Marquardt really doesn't have much to worry about on his feet. With that in mind, Marquardt can really unleash his combos and get creative, which can result in some spectacular moments.
At the end of the day, however, Marquardt's objective should still be to land a takedown and submit his opponent. He won't be able to do that if Tavares is in his rhythm, but if he's hurt or overwhelmed then Marquardt could secure top position.
Bottom Line: One man will earn a position in the top 15, while the other will be stuck in the midst of a bad slide. In short, stakes are high for the individual fighters, if not for the division as a whole.
With a win, either fighter positions himself as a fringe contender and earns a fair amount of job security. Plus, with another win or two, the victor of this bout could find himself in the top 10 before long.
Though both fighters have some recent losses, they're still quality names. For up-and-coming fighters looking for a signature victory, both Marquardt and Tavares are UFC veterans that look good on a resume. That makes them desirable names to have on the roster, and with such a large number of events being held nowadays, it's unlikely that the loser of this bout is cut.
At UFC 182, Brad Tavares and Nate Marquardt will slug it out for a UFC ranking. Which man will leave the Octagon with a victory?