robert-whittaker The co-main event of UFC Fight Night 65 is a three-round middleweight bout between Brad Tavares and Robert Whittaker. According to the current betting lines available at 5Dimes Sportsbook, Tavares is a -160 favorite (bet $160 to win $100) while Whittaker is a +140 underdog (bet $100 to win $140). MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened up Tavares at -245 and Whittaker at +175, and action so far has come in on the dog Whittaker. It’s a competitive fight to be sure, but I do lean slightly towards Whittaker to get the win. Here’s why. Tavares (13-3) was a cast member on season 11 of TUF and has since gone on to post an 8-3 record in the UFC with wins over Nate Marquardt, Lorenz Larkin, Bubba McDaniel, Seth Baczynski, Riki Fukuda, Tom Watson, Dongi Yang and Phil Baroni with losses to Yoel Romero, Tim Boetsch and Aaron Simpson. The 27-year-old Hawaiian is a grinder who typically goes the full 15 minutes in his fights. Of his eight UFC wins, seven have come by knockout, and overall nine of his 11 UFC bouts have gone the distance. He is particularly effective at pushing his opponents up against the fence, getting takedowns, and grinding, but he also has solid volume kickboxing that can allow him to win striking battles. He also has good cardio and keep up a solid pace for the full three rounds. However, Tavares lacks in power, having only knocked out Baroni in five years with the UFC. He has also shown a questionable chin, getting dropped by Baroni in their fight and getting shockingly KOed by Boetsch a few fights ago. He was also demolished by Romero, getting slammed to the mat with ease in their fight. Tavares is a solid fighter, but clearly not the fighter we all once thought he was. He’s still in the top 15, but make no mistake about it, younger fighters on the come up are gunning for Tavares’ spot in the rankings, and Whittaker is one of them. Whittaker (13-4) is 4-2 in the UFC with wins over Mike Rhodes, Clint Hester, Brad Scott and Colton Smith with losses to Court McGee and Stephen Thompson. The 24-year-old native of New Zealand won TUF Smashes and has since gone on to look very good in the UFC. Following a 3-2 run as a welterweight, Whittaker decided to move up to 185lbs in his middleweight debut he demolished Hester via TKO. It was an extremely impressive performance because it showed Whtittaker’s power translated well to 185 and also that he can handle fighting bigger men as Hester is one of the biggest middleweights in the division. All told Whittaker has six T/KO wins in his career which exemplify how much power he has. He also has five wins by submission, showing his versatility. He’s just a very solid fighter and he keeps improving every fight, and he absolutely has top-15 potential. This is a close fight, but I believe Whittaker can use his speed and power to defeat Tavares. I think Tavares will want to push Whittaker up against the fence, but I think Whittaker can stay mobile and turn this into a kickboxing match where I favor him to either win a decision or possibly knock Tavares out. Tavares showed he has suspect chin in his fight with Boetsch and if Whittaker can connect he will finish him. Whittaker will be a bit smaller but he will also be the faster fighter and he also is the younger fighter. Additionally, he is fighting in a friendly arena. All the signs are telling me Whittaker wins this fight. The UFC wants to see just how good he really is and beating Tavares would put him in the top 15. It won’t be an easy fight for Whittaker, but it’s a test I think he can pass and as a plus-money underdog I think there is some value on him considering all the advantages he has heading into the fight.