Shooto world champion Taira, at only 22 years of age, has secured an astounding 10-0 pro record with only two of those wins going the distance. He will join just three other pro Japanese mixed martial artists on the UFC roster but intends to be the one to make the most waves, especially in the ever-increasingly exciting flyweight division. His opponent, Carlos Candelario made news most recently becoming the first fighter on the Contender Series to earn a contract off of a loss. Undefeated otherwise, Candelario’s controversial split decision last August raised UFC president Dana White’s eyebrows who later stated he believed Candelario should have won on the scorecards. He will get another shot to prove himself UFC level against Taira.
- Taira: -240
- Candelario: +195
Candelario is primarily a boxer but is well-rounded and can contest in all areas. His bread and butter are long and slightly looping punches, but a sharp tight hook is always a possibility at any point. He always looks to go into overdrive very early, which contrasts the style of Taira who tends to work in a more patient manner. Candelario holds his guard tight and close as a classic boxer always protecting his chin and he also tends to lean heavy on the lead leg. His punches have a good whip on them and the evident sting to them is obvious in his fights. However, although his love for boxing is no secret he always likes to mix things up in his fights and he has a beautifully fast double leg takedown he goes to often. On top he is constantly looking to land, and even when put in danger he will put himself in painful positions as long as it means he can keep peppering his opponent.
By comparison, Taira takes a more slow-paced approach on the feet. Look for him to float outside a bit, he likely has the advantage in kicking over Candelario, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t also have dangerous boxing as well. He particularly has a dangerous lead leg kick mostly thrown off the shuffle step. A quick lead hook and powerful rear strike are a recurrence in his fights as well. Often you will see Taira on the outside bouncing, shifting back and forth and fainting, and although not in a rushed manner, his consistent movement allows him to project the feeling that something is coming at any moment. This allows him to maintain respect and slow down the pace so as to engage on his terms.
However, the real special element about this fight is both men’s scrambling ability. Taira, as dangerous a striker as he is, uses his striking to hurt his opponent but the submission threat is what finishes things. If he can get his opponent hurt or shooting desperately his ability to scramble and somehow end up on the back or on a limb is terrific and even more impressive is the speed at which he secures and locks in submissions. Triangles, armbars, and chokes come in split seconds from Taira. Yet, one fighter who has shown an impressive ability to constantly scramble out of danger is Candelario, who will roll, shift and buck his way in order to constantly make the submission elusive even if he is stuck on the defensive.
This fight is very interesting, if Taira can discourage the pressure and pace of Candelario with his sharp power strikes and his feinting then I believe he is the cleaner and more technical striker, but that’s a big if. Candelario also has the potential to drag Taira into a more exhausting pace than he’s ever been in, and Taira has only gone the distance twice although looked good doing so. At some point, we will see some very high level scrambles and I think this is where the fight is won and lost, Taira is the larger submission threat and on top he is great at maintaining shoulder pressure and creating those openings for submissions, whereas Candelario will constantly be looking to land damaging ground and pound. Ultimately I see a competitive fight but Taira either finding the mark striking and/or finishing things on the mat.
Prediction: Tatsuro Taira to win via submission
Braeden Arbour is an aspiring journalist out of Ontario, Canada. He is a recent graduate of Trent University, with a black belt in Karate and a blue belt in Judo. He has also been an avid fan of MMA for the last decade.