Tatsuro Taira

Tatsuro Taira, a budding prospect from Japan who is still only 23 years old, enters the octagon with his zero still intact. Taira is 12-0 with three knockouts, six submissions, and three decisions. In the UFC, he won his debut via decision and his second fight via second-round submission. Jesus Santos Aguilar, 26, is making his UFC debut following a third-round submission win on Dana White Contender Series in 2022. Professionally, Aguilar is 8-1 with six submissions, and two decision wins.

Betting Odds

I had to do a double and triple take at this line. Taira, by far, is the largest favorite on the card.

  • Tatsuro Taira: -1100
  • Jesus Aguilar: +700

Fight Breakdown

Taira is a complete prospect with the potential to hold a ranking for an extended period. Taira is justifiably known as a grapple-first fighter with a nose for the finish once he gets the fight to the mat. Prior to the UFC, Taira would patiently wait for an opening, drop low, drive his hips through his opponent, and get them to the mat. Once down, he showed impressive top control that typically comes with experience coupled with a slick submission game. In both UFC fights, we’ve seen Taira’s grappling on full display and a welcomed improvement in his standup as well. He tends to box with simple but effective straight shots that use little wasted movement and land with pop. Given his pre-UFC tenure, Taira’s fluidity, technicality, and power was a pleasant surprise. However, he still struggles to defend himself on the feet. His wide stance offers little mobility and he keeps his hands low and chin high. Moreover, while Taira improved his striking when he’s the aggressor, he struggled to counter a linear pressure fighter. Instead of cutting an angle, Taira tried to exchange and quickly found out that even low-level UFC caliber strikers can pressure him into a bad spot. Still, though, Taira has show important improvement offensively on the feet and solid toughness when he’s pressured. As long as Taira can continue to make incremental improvements on the feet, he should be able to keep winning on the back of his strong wrestling game, heavy top pressure, and slick submissions.

Aguilar’s first obstacle in each of his fights is his size. Standing at 5’3 with an equally short reach, he fights in the smallest division in the UFC but is still, often, significantly undersized. Because of his disadvantage at range, Aguilar has adopted a fan-friendly but risky striking style. Similar to a Brian Kelleher, Aguilar likes to blitz forward and throw overhand right after overhand right in an attempt to crash distance while looking for a big damaging shot. Against a linear-moving and low-level striker, Aguilar’s head-down blitz striking can catch opponents sleeping. However, against opponents capable of cutting angles, fighting behind a jab, or countering with speed, Aguilar’s striking is rudimentary and predictable. Aguilar rarely takes a step back in the octagon, relying on toughness and pressure against bigger opponents. But, when he is forced to his back foot and forced to grapple against the cage, Aguilar, interestingly enough also similarly to Kelleher, has a go-to guillotine that is quick and suffocating. When forced to clinch, Aguilar is comfortable being pushed against the cage as he awaits his opponent to try and drop levels. When the do, he catches their neck and looks to choke them out. Four of his six submission wins have come in this fashion. The other primary way Aguilar looks to win is by following his pressure striking into persistent wrestling. He uses the momentum of his hands to propel him into solid wrestling. He looks to use power takedowns to force his opponent to the mat and then quickly scramble to the back for a rear-naked choke. Because his wrestling is steeped in explosion and quick movement, Aguilar struggles to hold position on the mat.

Prediction and Betting Guide

Taira being a -1100 favorite is a ridiculous line. Yes, he likely will win, and I anticipate him winning with a finish. But, a -1100 betting line creates a 90% implied winning percentage. Beyond the astronomical implied winning percentage, -1000 odds used to be rare and reserved for the uber elite facing a significant step down in competition. Unfortunately, the theme of 2023 seems to be extreme lines which makes betting more frustrating and difficult. Fortunately, I think there is a solid bet to make on this fight. Under 2.5 rounds is only -160. Taira should have all the skills necessary to win this fight inside the distance and Aguilar’s only hope is a hero submission. Betting u2.5 compared to Taira inside the distance allows for the unlikely but possible upset of Aguilar catching a limb. As a straight pick, I’ll take Taira inside the distance, but my best bet is u2.5 rounds.

Pick: Tatsuro Taira to win inside the distance

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