Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight strikers Brad Tavares and Israel Adesanya will clash TONIGHT (July 6, 2018) inside The Pearl Theater in Paradise, Nevada.
At one point in time, Tavares was a hot shot up-and-comer favored to defeat Yoel Romero. It didn’t quite work out that way, as Tavares lost three of four bouts between 2014 and 2015. Luckily, Tavares righted the ship, winning his last four bouts in impressive fashion and working his way back into the mix. Standing opposite the Hawaiian is one of the most hyped prospects in the sport, Israel Adesanya. An extremely decorated professional kickboxer, “The Last Stylebender” has shown off his stand up talents twice now in a pair of UFC fights. There’s still much to learn for the Nigerian athlete, but his talent is obvious.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Krzysztof Jotko (UFC on FOX 29), Elias Theodorou (TUF 25 Finale), Lorenz Larkin (UFC Fight Night 35), Nate Marquardt (UFC 182)
Key Losses: Yoel Romero (UFC on FOX 11), Robert Whittaker (UFC Fight Night 65), Tim Boestch (UFC Fight Night 47)
Keys to Victory: Tavares may not be the prospect any longer, but he’s a skilled and well-rounded veteran. A clean kickboxer with a nasty low kick, Tavares is also a seriously underrated wrestler and has been difficult to take down throughout his entire career.
In this bout, Tavares’ primary goal should be to mix up his attack. Going straight into wrestling mode may sound like a good idea, but Tavares is not Cain Velasquez. Diving forward into a shot probably won’t work, and it’s more likely to exhaust him.
Instead, Tavares should engage Adesanya on the feet like he would anyone else. Is Adesanya dangerous there? Definitely, but he has not been murdering people in the first exchange. Tavares has to start the fight with offensive striking — a few jabs and a hard low kick will remind Adesanya that four-ounce gloves hurt.
From that point on, Tavares’ takedown attempts have a far better chance at succeeding, especially if he ducks under a punch or is able to catch a kick. Getting Adesanya to engage will create opportunities, and it’ll also tire the kickboxer out, which seems a viable option given Adesanya’s last performance.
Key Wins: Marvin Vettori (UFC on FOX 29), Rob Wilkinson (UFC 221), Melvin Guillard (Australian Fighting Championship 20)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Watching Adesanya fight, it’s not hard to see why people are excited. Aside from his credentials, Adesanya is long, lean, and powerful — it’s easy to remember great performances from Anderson Silva or Jon Jones when you watch “Stylebender” make an opponent look helpless.
At the same time, Adesanya still has to figure out his MMA game if he’s to reach the highest level.
Like his previous two, this bout is once again about managing distance. Tavares will kickbox for a time, but he’ll eventually look to move into the clinch or into a shot. Either way, it’s Adesanya’s job to punish his attempts to do so.
The standard tools for the job — be it jab, front kick or Southpaw cross — will serve Adesanya well, but I’d also like to see him make use of intercepting elbows. That’s a strike Romero used to great success opposite the Hawaiian, and it’s very difficult to advance toward an opponent who’s interrupting the path forward with a dangerous shield of bone.
Bottom Line: It’s another big test for Adesanya.
It’s also Tavares’ chance to jump back into the title mix. Currently ranked No. 8, a high-profile victory over a big prospect in his first main event slot would certainly go a long way to establish Tavares as a title threat. Even though the Hawaiian has been in UFC since 2010, he’s still just 30 years old and should be entering his prime now, so the timing could not be better.
Meanwhile, a loss ruins Tavares’ momentum.
Of course, this is a very big step up in competition for Adesanya. He fought a pair of unranked opponents — one a solid prospect himself, the other not so much — and looked quite good, but hardly untouchable. Now he’s facing a Top 10-ranked foe in a fight that is very much a sink-or-swim moment. With a win, Adesanya is on the fast track to a title shot. If it doesn’t work out that way, Adesanya still has the potential for a bright future in MMA, but perhaps expectations should be more reasonable.
At TUF 27 Finale, Brad Tavares and Israel Adesanya will square off. Which athlete will earn the victory?