Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight veterans Chris Weidman and Brad Tavares will battle this weekend (Sat., Aug. 19, 2023) at UFC 292 inside TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.
It’s been little more than two years since Weidman was seen in the Octagon, shattering his leg almost immediately against Uriah Hall (watch it if you dare). A cruel twist of fate to be sure given his history with Anderson Silva, but it’s a testament to his willpower that he’ll return at all. At 39 years of age, only Weidman still believes that his title dreams are alive, but this fight should be the perfect reveal of his current abilities. Tavares is as tried-and-true as Middleweight contenders come, a perfectly consistent veteran who has been within shooting distance of the Top 10 for as long as anyone can remember.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Anderson Silva (UFC 168, UFC 162), Kelvin Gastelum (UFC on FOX 25), Lyoto Machida (UFC 175), Vitor Belfort (UFC 187)
Key Losses: Uriah Hall (UFC 261), Luke Rockhold (UFC 194), Yoel Romero (UFC 205), Ronaldo Souza (UFC 230), Dominick Reyes (UFC on ESPN 6)
Keys to Victory: At his peak, Weidman was a well-rounded and physically dominant athlete with plus skills in all areas. What really elevated him to champion, however, was his ability to smartly game plan and maintain his composure against elite opposition.
In this bout, I think it’s vital that Weidman doesn’t rely too much on the takedown. That’s not to say he shouldn’t wrestle at all, as that’s his greatest strength. At the same time, if we were to rank Tavares’ skills, his takedown defense is also his best attribute by a fair margin. If Weidman commits to grinding for takedowns, the most likely outcome is that he gets tired after some early success.
Fortunately, Weidman can strike with the Hawaiian, particularly if he tries a couple shots then shows takedown feints. Assuming Weidman still has most of his previous speed, he should be able to box with Tavares by pressuring with combinations. Tavares’ chin has been cracked before, and Weidman can definitely hurt him, too.
Key Wins: Krzysztof Jotko (UFC on FOX 29), Thales Leites (UFC 216), Elias Theodorou (TUF 25 Finale), Lorenz Larkin (UFC Fight Night 35), Nate Marquardt (UFC 182), Antonio Carlos Junior (UFC 257), Omari Akhmedov (UFC 264)
Key Losses: Israel Adesanya (TUF 27 Finale), Yoel Romero (UFC on FOX 11), Robert Whittaker (UFC Fight Night 65), Dricus du Plessis (UFC 276), Bruno Silva (UFC Vegas 71)
Keys to Victory: Tavares is a model of consistency, a historically great gatekeeper to the upper realm of the division who flirted with the Top 10 himself on a couple occasions. Each and every time Tavares fights, you can expect a good, technical kickboxer to throw at a reasonable rate of volume and remain highly difficult to take down.
Look again at that resume above: Tavares has fought everybody!
Tavares’ leg kicks are likely his best weapon. He’s not a knockout artist, so breaking opponents down is essential for his success. Fortunately, kicking Weidman in the leg has historically been a good idea, Silva leg break aside. Tavares sets up his kicks well, so the check is less of a concern.
Really, the key here it to outlast Weidman. Even at his best, Weidman was a fast starter who tended to slow a bit over time. At 39 years of age, can he keep up with Tavares? If the Hawaiian keeps his volume high, attacks the lead leg, and fights off takedowns hard, it’s hard to imagine Weidman being able to match his pace for three full rounds.
It’s not what I would call a relevant fight, but it’s a pair of respected names in a well-matched fight.
Obviously, this is a massive moment for Weidman. Making it to the cage is a huge win in itself, but Weidman genuinely believes he has another title run in him. I don’t buy it all — does anyone outside of the Serra-Longo sphere? — but a victory in his return keeps the dream alive at least. If he loses, the end of his career may be fast-approaching, but the man has already been champion.
As for Tavares, the stakes are higher than one would expect. He’s been a fixture of the Middleweight division since 2010 (!!!), but defeat here would mean three straight losses. I don’t think UFC cuts him, as he’s a known name that serves a valuable purpose at 185 lbs., but it’s definitely not impossible in the current cost-cutting era. On the other hand, victory should buy a solid bit of job security for the 35-year-old moving forward.
At UFC 292, Chris Weidman and Brad Tavares will open the main card. Which man earns the victory?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 292 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard on ESPN2/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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