Thiago Tavares vs. Robbie Peralta Featherweight
When we last left our heroes...
Thiago Tavares is making his Featherweight debut after going 8-5-1 in his Lightweight UFC career. Tavares' career has been a mixed bag. He began as a blue chip prospect, scoring a highlight reel triangle choke win over Jason Black and losing his first fight in a wonderful grappling match against then equally-blue prospect Tyson Griffin.
At 29 years of age, Thiago has long since lost that nu-car sheen, and he's clearly hoping that a change of scenery will revitalize his career. When fighters do this late in the game, it's often because they understand, whether they know it or not, that they can't contend in their current division. Which is fine. But for Tavares, the problem is that he's in the wrong trade. You simply can't get by being a grappling specialist anymore. Sure, his striking has improved. Ironically, it didn't exist at all when he was winning more. But he's never grown comfortable on the feet, and that problem will follow him at 145.
After getting pasted by Khabib Nurmagomedov, he rebounded with a win over Justin Salas. Robbie Peralta will prove to be a step up.
Peralta kind of came out of nowhere. He's like a lot of undercard fighters these days: nameless villains in an action movie who can't aim for shit that get necrocycled (Copyright, David Castillo 2014) by the dozens. Yet he has a lot to offer.
What began as a minor upset over once sort-of heralded Hiroyuki Takaya in Strikeforce has blossomed into a successful UFC run. I don't think fans realize just what his record is in the big show: 4-1-1 under Zuffa banners. That's not bad at all, especially with names like Mackens Semerzier and Rony Jason on there.
One could argue that a win over Tavares begins to earn him the Cub Swanson types.
What they can violently do....
One of the things that always made Tavares a sort of dual threat was his wrestling in combination with his grappling. He's got a very strong base, so you wonder how this will translate at FW. Even though we don't think much of Tyson Griffin now, he was a strong guy for his weight class, and I don't remember anyone ever ragdolling him the way Tavares was able to Ronda him end over end in the clinch.
His striking has come a long way. Where before he'd never throw punches, now he throws his right hand with authority and he's got solid leg kicks.
As for Peralta, he's fought with the kind of quiet confidence that's easy for opponents to underestimate. He has some of the better fundamentals in the division in a straight up boxing match. This doesn't mean he's the best boxer. Just that he reads the boxing game well. He moves his head, anticipates his opponent trying to lunge in for offense, and snaps a decent array of left hooks and kicks both high and low. He's got some raw power to boot.
While striking is his forte, he likes to work from top position as well. Working in top control is how fighters pay bills these days, so...
What they can't violently do...
Peralta would be wise to avoid going to the ground with Tavares. Thiago is one of the few fighters who still looks dangerous from his back. I wouldn't bet on a triangle choke win, but it's at least halfway plausible. Robbie has been submitted early on in his career, but he appears to have some sturdy defense.
Besides, he's got the advantage on the feet. This is where Thiago mostly falters. He's been finished by strikes three times in his UFC career, which is a reflection of his poor defense on the feet.
Now that I think about it I have no clue how this fight could potentially go. They're both fighters who are well rounded, but excel in one area without that one area having the ability to really take over a fight.
Don't look at me. I'll go with Tavares by Decision.