In the midst of all the great fights coming up this weekend, the bout between Brad Tavares and Israel Adesanya has a great deal to live up to. But with the solid all-around game of Tavares and the dynamic striking of Adesanya, it’s highly unlikely that I, or any diehard MMA fan, will be sleeping through this one. Both men possess the kind of power and skill that could see the fight end at any moment.
For some reason or another, Brad Tavares has become the man in the middleweight division that doesn’t get enough love. While he hasn’t picked up devastating finishes outside of Krzysztof Jotko and Phil Baroni, Tavares is a solid competitor who has done some good work during his UFC stint. His most recent bout against Jotko saw Tavares playing counter, picking his shots with hooks and straight right hands that kept the Polish fighter from pushing forward. He also utilized round kicks to the lead leg of Jotko to prevent him from circling out.
In this match with Adesanya, Tavares should consider striking to get into the clinch. While Adesanya will be expecting a takedown game, Tavares’ has the stinging power and dirty boxing ability to keep the “Stylebender” honest in the clinch. Dirty boxing will open up the body lock takedown which is ideal against Adesanya who possesses a long torso.
Tavares would also do well to throw the low as a counter to dynamic striker’s offense. With Adesanya’s great head movement, body strikes should be a major focus. That said, Tavares should also look to catch Adesanya on the exit with either a right hook or right round kick as the former kickboxing champion is prone to switching stances mid combination or when he looks to slip strikes. Pressure and patience must be the name of the game for a victory here. A steady dose of low kicks, body strikes, and forcing his way into the clinch for dirty boxing and takedowns are paramount in attempting to throw Adesanya off his game. With the smaller cage being utilized in this fight, pressuring Adesanya to the cage with low kicks, push kicks, and body shots is going to be paramount.
Inside Brad Tavares’ corner
I’d tell Tavares to be first and to treat this as an MMA match and not a kickboxing bout. Keeping the pressure high and focusing on the legs and body would be constantly hammered into his head. When Adesanya feints I’d scream for movement then leg kicks right afterward, followed by pressure on the new angle. Punching into the clinch or finishing combos with low kicks will be the constant narrative in between rounds.
Say one thing for Israel Adesanya, the man is a striking virtuoso. He’s a patient and precise striker, a man who utilizes fakes and feints to force his opponents to make mistakes. He can pressure forward with those feints or simply hang in the pocket, utilizing great head movement to make his opponents miss then make them pay with solid counter shots. His two bouts in the UFC showcased his mixed striking style to the MMA masses. With a blend of kickboxing, Muay Thai, boxing, and taekwondo, Adesanya is definitely a tough puzzle to figure out on the feet.
Right out of the gate Adesanya and his camp have to know a few things for sure about this matchup. For one, they can expect takedowns from Brad Tavares. Secondly, they should be cautious of the striking exchanges for that very reason. As usual, Adesanya should utilize his fakes and feints at distance, stinging with the jab while in orthodox stance and digging in spearing front kicks from either stance.
Adesanya’s tendency to switch stance mid combination can be both a strength and weakness in this bout. He can keep Tavares off balance switching stance from long range. In tight, switching at the wrong time in the pocket could see him being taken down when his hips are out of position. The Nigerian native will have to focus on maintaining distance throughout the match. Jabs up top, straights to the body and a hook back up top is a ideal combination in this fight. When in southpaw, inside low kicks, high round kicks and the straight lefts should be fired off with regularity. Keeping Tavares off balance with body shots and hard high kicks will eventually open up Adesanya’s offense.
Inside Israel Adesanya’s corner
Fakes and feints as always should be the main focus. Forcing Tavares to develop a shell defense with constant touching strikes up top then firing off vicious body strikes to damage Tavares’ liver. The constant message should be lateral movement and center control. The moment Adesanya gets to the black line just before the cage I’d be screaming for feints then lateral movement until he’s regained the center.
The analyst in me wants this fight to go all five rounds to pick apart each detail, while the highlight junkie wants to see the fight end in spectacular fashion. Either way, this one will be good while it lasts.
Can Brad Tavares upset the rising star or will Israel Adesanya add to his already impressive highlight reel?