One of the UFC’s most criminally underrated fighters, Brad Tavares, takes on spectacular striker, Israel Adesanya, in what should be an important fight for the middleweight division.

Brash, Flashy and Dangerous

With a decorated kickboxing career in the rear view, Israel Adesanya takes on his next challenge of obtaining the middleweight belt. Before he can get close to title contention, he’ll need to get through his toughest challenge to date this Friday.

It’s no secret that Adesanya is an exceptionally slick striker. With his unpredictable movement and diverse attacks, standing at range with “The Last Stylebender” is a recipe for disaster. As a kickboxer, his extreme self-confidence is unquestionably warranted. As an MMA fighter, I’m not so sure. While he’s looked impressive against Marvin Vettori and Rob Wilkinson when given space to operate, it’s worth remembering he spent two out of five rounds in the UFC getting taken down and suffocated by fighters that aren’t predominantly wrestlers.

In those two rounds, his ground game did not look advanced and neither did his counter-wrestling. If Vettori had opted to grapple more, Adesanya could have certainly taken his first MMA loss. Adesanya does not cut a lot of weight and will be defending takedowns against larger fighters at middleweight. His long-limbed, ectomorph body type is ideal for striking at distance, but it’s not for counter-wrestling.

Can Tavares Keep his Momentum Rolling?

Despite fighting in the UFC for nearly a decade, Brad Tavares seems to be entering his prime right now. Riding a four-fight winning streak, Tavares has been able to stuff takedowns and comprehensively outstrike his recent opponents. While the tough Hawaiian may not be as mesmerizing as Adesanya on the feet, he has strong striking fundamentals. With a clean jab, good low kicks and solid defense (most of the time), he’s typically able to land the more eye-catching strikes and win rounds.

Tavares is a proficient grappler. With amazing balance and cat-like reflexes, it’s nearly impossible to take him down and keep him grounded. While he primarily uses his wrestling defensively, I assume this is because he has the striking advantage in the vast majority of his bouts. Fighting out of renowned wrestling gym, Extreme Couture, I guarantee they are not gameplanning for Brad to stand and bang with Adesanya. Tavares was able to take down Elias Theodorou, which is never easy, and he showed excellent positional awareness during the grappling exchanges in the third round. When Theodorou shot for a takedown, Tavares was the one that eventually took back mount.

Flash or Fundamentals?

Some cappers seem to think it’s a matter of time before Tavares gets annihilated if the fight stays standing, but I believe he can hold his own. That being said, I doubt Tavares has much interest in hanging at distance. I anticipate Tavares to cut off the Octagon, force his opponent to contend at boxing range, punch his way into the clinch and take the fight to the mat. This is where he will have his biggest advantage, since Adesanya does not look competent off his back. If Tavares is unable to finish on the mat, I think he can win rounds with grappling. Despite his muscular physique, he’s always able keep his output high for fifteen minutes. Adesanya is a great striker, but this is too much too soon.

I played Tavares last week at +160, but I still think he’s the right side at his current price.

Pick: Tavares +130

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