A middleweight bout between rising contenders takes center stage in the co-main event slot of UFC Fight Night 35 as Lorenz Larkin looks to score his second win in the UFC when he takes on Brad Tavares, who will be putting a four-fight win streak on the line. Larkin fights for the third time since moving to the UFC from Strikeforce, and he is looking for back-to-back wins after scoring a decision win over Chris Camozzi at UFC Fight For The Troops 3 in November. Larkin is 2-1 with a no contest in his last four fights after starting his career 12-0. Tavares looks for his fifth straight win after scoring a decision win over Bubba McDaniel at UFC Fight Night 27 in August. Tavares has just one loss in his career and is looking for his 12th win overall.
Fight Breakdown- This is a big opportunity for both Larkin and Tavares to get some solid exposure in the co-main event of a free television card. Larkin is fighting for the third time as a member of the UFC, but this will be his first appearance on the main card. Larkin started his career with twelve straight wins, the last three of which came in the Strikeforce promotion, and eight of those wins came by knockout. That win streak set Larkin up for a bout with Muhammed Lawal. Lawal won their fight, but it was later turned into a no contest when Lawal failed a post-fight drug test. Larkin bounced back with a decision win over Robbie Lawler in his final Strikeforce bout. Larkin moved over to the UFC following the merger of the Strikeforce roster, and he was set up in a bout with rising contender Francis Carmont for his UFC debut. It was a close fight, and while many judged the bout for Larkin, it was Carmont who took home the decision, and it handed Larkin his first-and-only official loss on his record. He bounced back with a decision win over Chris Camozzi in November, and he gets rewarded with a co-main event bout for this fight. Larkin is currently ranked at No. 13 in the UFC’s middleweight rankings.
Tavares has somewhat quitely put together a 6-1 record in the UFC coming off of being a castmember of season eleven of “The Ultimate Fighter”, and he enters the showdown with Larkin riding a four-fight win streak. Tavares started his career with five straight wins, all by stoppage, with four in the first round, to earn a spot on TUF. Tavares made it to the semi-finals on the show before being eliminated by eventual winner Court McGee, but he was still signed to the roster following the show. He won his first two UFC fights, a decision win over Seth Baczynski and a knockout win over Phil Baroni. However, his perfect record was ended in his third Octagon appearance as he dropped a decision to Aaron Simpson at UFC 132 in July 2011. Tavares then started his current win streak with a decision win over Dongi Yang at UFC On FUEL TV 3 in May 2012. Three more decision wins over Tom Watson, Riki Fukuda and Robert McDaniel have earned him a chance to be in a co-main event. It will mark Tavares’ second appearance on a UFC main card as he looks to break into the top 15 of the UFC’s middleweight rankings and earn his first stoppage win in three years.
Both men are solid strikers who are flying under the radar in the middleweight division. Larkin blends his kickboxing and boxing nicely, and he does hold a win over Robbie Lawler, so he knows how to defeat quality opponents. Tavares has quietly won four straight, but with a lack of finishes, he doesn’t get the recognition most in his position would. He has the chance to change that against Larkin, and he may need to look to shy away from the attack on the feet and move towards a ground-based attack. Tavares is more solid than Larkin on the ground, and he has solid takedown ability. Larkin will want to keep this fight on the feet more as that is where he is at his best. Tavares has been able to outpoint his last four opponents on the feet, leading him to the wins, but he is unlikely to outpoint Larkin on the feet, so Tavares needs to mix in the takedowns and ground attack.
Larkin is more willing to strike and he will work hard to keep the fight on the feet. He has excellent knockout ability, but Tavares has shown to have a very durable chin. Larkin may look to mix in flying attacks and attack with head kicks, and his punching power is very solid. He mixes everything up well, but if there is one thing holding him back, it is that he is not as aggressive as he should be, and he knows it. He is going to have to push the pace if he is going to win. If Tavares is able to dictate the pace of the fight, he should be able to find the takedowns, and it will score him some points. Tavares knows he needs a finish to move him up the rankings, and it may make him decide to mix it up on the feet more. He should decide if he wants a straight up win or a flashy win, and going for a flashy win may hurt his chances of winning. Both men are tough fighters, and this is an excellent match-up and it will put the winner in a good position in the division. This one likely goes the distance with Larkin winning the battle on the feet and ultimately taking home the decision.
Why It Matters- Now that the UFC’s Official Rankings have moved into a Top 15 format, Larkin is listed in there at number 13. Tavares, despite his 6-1 UFC record and four straight wins, is not in the composite rankings, but he is on the cusp of breaking into them. A win over a ranked opponent like Larkin will likely get Tavares in the bottom part of the top 15, and it will move Larkin out. Both men are working their way up the middleweight ladder, and while Tavares has a longer win streak, Larkin may be ahead due to his finishing ability. A finish by Tavares would greatly improve his standing at 185 pounds. The winner is headed for a big fight in their next Octagon appearance while the loser will find themselves knocked back down and having to work their way back up to contender status. This is a test for both men in what has the makings of a fun battle.