Illustration: Ben Duffy/Sherdog.com
Seven-year Octagon veteran Brad Tavares will headline his first Ultimate Fighting Championship card on Friday at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, where he takes on Israel Adesanya in “The Ultimate Fighter 27” Finale main event on July 6. Tavares has spent much of his career flying under the radar but nevertheless owns an impressive 12-4 record in the UFC.
The latest installment of The Film Room puts the 30-year-ok Hawaiian’s exploits under the microscope:
Back to Basics
Tavares began his professional MMA career at just 19 years old, signed with the UFC at 22 and has been with the company ever since. He often takes some heat over his lack of finishes, but his focus on the fundamentals has proven to be the main source of his success.
The most basic strike in any martial art is the jab. Whether he uses it to set the range for his offense or to stifle his opponent’s aggression, Tavares can land a variety of jabs in a variety of ways and often wins fights based on nothing more than out-jabbing his counterparts. Early in his career, he would routinely jump forward with a stiff jab, only to drop his guard and eat a counter. Tavares has since tightened up his defense when throwing the jab and has grown adept at evading his opponents’ return strikes after throwing the punch.
The other fundamental strike Tavares has perfected is the leg kick. It is often said that if you can out-jab and out-leg kick your opponents, you will win 90 percent of your fights; Tavares appears to have taken this to heart. He often throws primarily jabs and leg kicks with an occasional right hand and still dominates his way to easy decision victories with nothing but the basics. Something to notice about his leg kicks are the manner in which he targets them. He likes to switch them up to the calves and thighs and will even throw some lower to the ankle.
For those who zero in on his jab and leg kicks, Tavares can surprise with a leaping knee or right hand. When fighters like Yoel Romero become known for flying knees and spinning strikes, they become much harder to land once opponents begin to expect them. That is not the case for someone like Tavares, who tends to sit back and rely on the basics. The element of surprise remains on his side.
Tavares may not be known as a potent finisher, but in his second UFC appearance he earned a magnificent technical knockout against Phil Baroni. An overhand right followed by knees from the Thai clinch has become a go-to attack for the Hawaiian when he pins his opponents to the cage. Baroni was the best example.
Tavares went seven years between his TKO of Baroni and his finish of Krzysztof Jotko at UFC on Fox 29 in April. The win over Jotko marked the end of an incredible stretch of decision victories. Even so, the well-rounded Tavares has the ability to stop a fight with strikes or a submission at any moment.