Brad Tavares (10-1, 5-1 UFC) vs. Bubba McDaniel (21-6, 1-0 UFC)
Two former castmembers of “The Ultimate Fighter” look to continue win streaks as Tavares and McDaniel meet in the night’s opening bout of the main card on FOX Sports 1. Tavares is quickly making a name for himself as a potential contender on the heels of three straight wins. He looks to build on a decision win scored over Riki Fukuda in March at UFC On FUEL TV 8, and is 4-1 over his last five fights. McDaniel will put his seven-fight win streak on the line, a streak he extended with a submission win over Gilbert Smith at The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale in April. McDaniel is 9-1 over his last ten fights.
Fight Breakdown- Tavares is quickly establishing himself as a viable threat in the UFC’s middleweight division. Coming off of making it to the semi-finals on season 11 of “The Ultimate Fighter”, Tavares looked like he’d be a solid addition to the middleweight roster, but it was hard to imagine he’d be 5-1 through his first six UFC bouts. Yet, here he is rising up the ranks and he gets a chance to add to his win total against McDaniel. If there are a few things Tavares has shown the need to work on during his six bouts inside the Octagon, it is his wrestling defense and his ability to finish fights. Tavares’ lone UFC loss came to Aaron Simpson, and Simpson controlled that fight with his wrestling offense. Tavares has shown good wrestling in his fights since then, but he hasn’t finished a fight since his TKO win over Phil Baroni at UFC 125 in January 2011. His recent wins have been close decisions, and he should be looking to finish McDaniel to make an even bigger statement.
McDaniel has been fighting in the regional circuit for a long time as it took 26 professional fights before that call from the UFC came. He went on season 17 of “The Ultimate Fighter” as the veteran of the household, and it helped that training partner and friend Jon Jones was one of the coaches during the season. With all of his experience, McDaniel has a ton of potential and was expected to be a huge factor during TUF 17, but he struggled in the house and lost two fights on the show, and he mentally seemed out of it a few times during the season. Those mental lapses didn’t hinder him when he made his UFC debut, though, and he scored the 16th submission win of his career with a slick triangle armbar on Gilbert Smith. 20 of McDaniel’s 21 wins have come by stoppage over his career, so he is a finisher, but he can be finished as all six of his losses have seen him finished. McDaniel knows that any loss in the UFC could be his last shot at the big time, and he plans on fighting to finish Tavares.
Tavares has shown excellent striking recently, and his all-around attack is vastly improving every time he sets foot inside the Octagon. Working extensively with renowned kickboxing champion Ray Sefo has improved both his footwork and his striking, and his wrestling attack has gotten much better as well. His five takedowns of Tom Watson likely secured him that fight, but he still has the chance to be taken down. McDaniel should look for the takedown and start working in his solid submission game. McDaniel secured a lot of guard passes in his fight against Smith, and he was constantly looking for the submission despite the fact that Smith took him down three times while McDaniel got no takedowns. Tavares may look to take him down and plant him on the mat, but he will need to avoid McDaniel looking to throw up his legs to lock in a triangle choke or to force transitions.
Tavares has the speed and power advantage on the feet, and he could make McDaniel pay if he sets up a well-timed counter of a takedown. Tavares has vicious knees in the clinch, and McDaniel tends to fade if the fight is not going in his favor, or if he is not mentally there. This is a chance for Tavares to make a statement that he wants to be in higher profile fights, but he will need a finish as another decision will not move him up the ladder as quickly. He likely knows that, and while McDaniel can be tough to finish, if Tavares can catch him early, it could be a short night. McDaniel needs to make sure the fight spends an extended period on the ground if he is going to walk away with the victory. McDaniel’s submission game is what will win him the fight, and he will need to make sure that Tavares’ ground defense shows a lot of holes. Both have the conditioning to go the distance, but both will be fighting hard for the finish. McDaniel may have more overall experience, but Tavares has more time in the Octagon, and his upside is greater. Tavares takes the win in this one.
Why It Matters- Tavares wants to firmly establish himself as a force to be reckoned with in the 185-pound division. A finish of McDaniel would not only give him a four-fight win streak, but it would likely secure him a bigger fight for his next appearance in the UFC. A loss would chop down all of the momentum that he has created, and if he wants to get himself into the top ten in the middleweight division, a loss is something he can not afford. Tavares wants the win, and he will certainly need to earn it.
McDaniel has been fighting professionally since 2005, and the seven-year journey to the UFC has finally culminated. McDaniel wants to secure his future for a long time, and another win inside the Octagon will do so. McDaniel knows that any loss at any time could spell the end of his UFC career, and he will be doing anything he can to avoid a loss. To McDaniel, every fight is a must-win situation.