Thiago Tavares is looking for a crucial win against Spencer Fisher in Rio de Janeiro. | Photo: Jim Page
With the UFC returning to Brazil for the first time since 1998, the UFC 134 undercard features nine Brazilians in seven fights on Saturday at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro.
It is a fitting showcase for the country’s huge boom of MMA talent. Brazil’s MMA scene is rich and vibrant, with many prospects getting a depth and breadth of experience that few in other countries can match.
The top two preliminary bouts -- Thiago Tavares-Spencer Fisher and Rousimar Palhares-Dan Miller -- will air on Spike TV and Sportsnet in Canada. The five remaining matchups will stream live on the UFC’s Facebook page.
Spencer Fisher (24-7, 9-6 UFC) vs. Thiago Tavares (15-4-1, 5-4-1 UFC)
The Matchup: Round-for-round, fight-for-fight, few in UFC have created as much action and memorable moments as the hard-traveled veteran Fisher. Whether it was his comeback triangle on the much-larger Thiago Alves, his flying-knee knockout of Matt Wiman or his two epic battles with Sam Stout, “The King” brings it with every outing. With a penchant for turning fights into brawls and a well-established disdain for taking it to the ground, Fisher is a hard-boiled banger with whom most opponents would prefer to avoid swapping punches.
Tavares is precisely wired to follow the plan to take Fisher out of his element. The Brazilian has decent takedowns and a stout jiu-jitsu game, backed up by patience and conditioning. His standup looked better than ever before Shane Roller blitzed him with a right hand from nowhere in his last outing at UFC Live 3, and he will be looking to overcome the ghosts of that dramatic loss in this fight.
Game planning is everything, especially with smaller fighters, for whom conditioning and key swing moments are huge factors in winning two of three rounds. Tavares will circle and use counter punches to keep Fisher honest and then shoot for a takedown or a clinch. Tavares excels at forcing extended tie-ups that lead to dragging his foe to the mat. Like most grapplers, he wears on opponents for takedowns rather than using a single high-energy shot. Once he gets it to the floor, he will park and pile up points with some ground-and-pound and positional improvements.
Outside of landing a dramatic shot to win via knockout, this looks like a tough fight for Fisher to win, as he has often had problems with ground-oriented stylists.
The Pick: Tavares by decision.
Continue Reading » Next Fight: Rousimar "Toquinho" Palhares vs. Dan Miller