Hawaii is a hotbed for MMA, with fighters such as UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway and Yancy Medeiros carrying the torch for the islands in the UFC. But one name that flies under the radar is Brad Tavares, who has now become a middleweight to watch moving forward.
Ranked No. 15 in the UFC’s 185-pound division, Tavares defeated No. 14 Krzysztof Jotko this past Saturday at UFC on FOX 29 in Arizona via TKO. Tavares (17-4 MMA, 12-4 UFC) dispatched Jotko (19-4 MMA, 6-4 UFC) in the third round and didn’t waste any time calling out another top ranked opponent - former middleweight champion Michael Bisping.
While a fight with Bisping seems unlikely, Tavares has certainly done enough to earn a fight with a Top 10 opponent the next time he steps inside the Octagon.
Here’s a look at some potential opponents for Tavares:
While Uriah Hall should probably never fight again after suffering a mini-seizure cutting weight which resulted in him pulling out of his last fight, Hall is still in the UFC and is still looking to return to the Octagon.
With that in mind, a fight with Tavares could be exactly what the doctor ordered for both fighters.
Tavares and Hall would make an intriguing matchup from a stylistic standpoint. Hall, an explosive and dynamic striker, would have to deal with Tavares’ power and disciplined stand up. Tavares would look to slow down Hall with leg kicks while Hall would look to get Tavares off balance with kicks to the body.
Hall, a loser of three of his past four fights, needs a big win to cement his spot in the division’s Top 10. As for Tavares, a win over the current-No. 10 middleweight in the division would put him in line for a Top 5 fight, which could then result in a title-eliminator matchup.
Loser of David Branch vs. Thiago Santos
Thiago Santos has won four-straight fights coming by way of KO or TKO while Branch is looking to return to winning form after getting stopped by former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold.
Both ranked ahead of Tavares, Branch and Santos wouldn’t want to fight beneath them if they don’t have to. However, the loser of the bout might not have a choice but to fight another reputable name in the division to stay relevant
Branch has only fought twice in the UFC since his return to the organization a year ago and is currently 1-1. A second loss in a row would raise some serious concerns about Branch’s ability to become a contender in the division while a loss for Santos would be just a bump in the road.
To put it simply, this fight is a must-win for Branch and that would be the best-case scenario for Tavares. If Branch were to lose and fight Tavares, there isn’t much room for the Hawaiian to move up since Branch’s recent fight record works against him. But if Tavares were to fight Santos and win, he would have taken out a rising prospect in the division while putting his name on the UFC’s radar.
Forget about Derek Brunson fighting Israel Adesanya - Adesanya isn’t ready for a fighter like that.
Adesanya called out Brunson on Twitter shortly after his controversial split-decision victory over Marvin Vettori, but that’s not in his or the UFC’s best interest in terms of promoting one of the organization’s hottest prospects.
Brunson is coming off a rough TKO loss to Jacare Souza and doesn’t have a fight lined up. Currently ranked No. 7 at 185 pounds, Brunson doesn’t have many options available to him as the likes of Lyoto Machida and Vitor Belfort are lined up to fight each other next month and the only other fighter not named Tavares eligible to fight soon would be Paulo Costa, who is a fighter that no one wants to face at the moment.
A win over Tavares would keep Brunson in the spotlight for a Top 5 opponent while a win for Tavares would push him into the upper echelon of the division, where he could command a Top 5 opponent next.
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