RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JANUARY 14: Referee Mario Yamasaki (R) holds up Thiago Tavares (L) hand as he celebrates after defeating Sam Stout (not pictured) in a lightweight bout during UFC 142 at HSBC Arena on January 14, 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Early on, this fight looked like it was going to tilt decisively in favor of Thiago Tavares. He was beating Sam Stout to most punches, got a valuable takedown and went strongly for a guillotine and clutched at a leglock. However, Stout began to come back in the second round - which could be scored for either fighter - and took the third while briefly wobbling Tavares.
For the most part, this was a complex clash of strategies. Stout looked to fend off takedowns and use his jabs to open up other strikes, while Tavares connected with right hands, the occasional leg kick and charged forwards for takedowns constantly. Both fighters showed signs of damage, but maintained a high work rate and an admirable degree of skill throughout.
What was the high spot of this fight?
In the middle of the second, Stout and Tavares were exchanging strikes, when Tavares dove in for a single leg, got stuffed and the two got back to striking. Tavares managed to cut Stout's ear with a high kick and Stout landed some thudding body blows. That sequence showed the level these guys were on and is a good encapsulation of the fight as a whole.
The temptation to say the nut shot Stout landed on Tavares in the third round., which was so hard that Taveres's pants tore, is successfully resisted.
Where do these fighters go from here?
Tavares is probably another in the "take a number and stand in line" lightweight crowd. Being given the nod by the judges in a close fight with Sam Stout is meaningful, yet all the fighters ahead of him with a win in their last fight are occupied. The standard match-up tactic of doing "Fighter with a win versus Other fighter with a win" and "Fighter with a loss versus Other fighter with a loss" gets annoying sometimes. Just stick him in the cage with Donald Cerrone and let 'em rip.
Stout has to take some measure of comfort in his performance over the last half of the fight. His slow start can be addressed and his skill level continues to improve. Once he rounds back into fight shape, a bout with Rafael dos Anjos makes sense.
Watch the fight now, later or never?
Now. This was the most entertaining of the decisions on the card and both fighters kept busy the entire time.
More Bloody Elbow coverage of UFC 142 in the full entry