Down on his luck MMA veteran Phil Baroni returns to the middleweight division against Brad Tavares at UFC 125 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Baroni vs Tavares will air on ION TV's broadcast of the UFC 125 preliminary card.
Baroni, who began his first UFC stint in 2001 at UFC 30, has not fought in over a year. He lost to Amir Sadollah at UFC 106. That fight was contested at 170lbs. Baroni is hoping he will have more endurance at 185lbs.
Tavares, who just turned 23 on December 21st, is a veteran of The Ultimate Fighter's 11th season where he made the semi-finals. He beat Seth Baczynski on the Ultimate Fighter 11 Finale in June. Prior to TUF, Tavares built a 4-0 record in his native Hawaii.
Bloody Elbow's own Leland Roling broke down the dynamics at play in Baroni vs Tavares:
Phil Baroni (13-12, 3-6 UFC) vs. Brad Tavares (6-0, 1-0 UFC): Baroni has taken a bit of time off from battling inside the Octagon over the last year to clear his head and train in Thailand at Tiger Muay Thai. From the interviews I've watched of his sessions in Thailand, Baroni was adamant to point out that the trip was to get him back into shape, help him relax, and hopefully help him focus on being a better fighter. Not surprisingly, pacing was an issue that was brought up by Baroni himself in the interviews, and I'd agree that his inability to pace himself had been one of his major downfalls as a fighter.
It's hard not to feel for fighters who have done what they believe is the right thing in training at specific camps and working with tougher training partners, and Baroni is no different. You can truly see the "Bad Ass" gone from his demeanor, and he seems to be focused on the task at hand. Training with AKA for this fight is also a blessing for him, especially with his recent run of losses.
Tavares has the tools to beat Baroni, but it doesn't take much when Baroni throws huge power from the start and gasses by the third minute of round one. I fully expect to see a different Baroni, but that doesn't take away from the fact that Baroni has never been the most skilled striker. Powerful, sure, but can he slip those powerful hooks into Tavares' chin?
Baroni has been right in the interviews he's done in the lead-up to this event. Everyone is counting him out, including the UFC. And it's tough for me to jump off of that bandwagon until I see some improvement or change in Baroni's style. This is by no means an impossible fight for Baroni to win, but he must pace himself to have a chance. With that said, I have doubts, and Tavares has just enough technique to outlast Baroni and edge him out on the scorecards.
Bloody Elbow's Jonathan Snowden spoke to Baroni about the bad timing that has dogged his career:
"The UFC released me just as they got on SPIKE. I think if people had seen me, seen fights like the one with (PRIDE star Ikuhisa) Minowa, I would be a really popular and big name fighter," Baroni told Bloody Elbow in an exclusive interview. "But unfortunately I was always in the wrong place at the wrong time. When PRIDE was at its best, I was in the UFC. When the UFC blew up and PRIDE was crumbling, guess where I was? I was in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Snowden also did a great piece interviewing Baroni and old rival Matt Lindland about their epic two fight feud.