When we last left our heroes...
This bout really feels and looks like kindred spirits punching each other in the ethereal face.
Two guys who are much better than often given credit for who are destined to be gatekeepers. Well, that's not really true of Boetsch. I think people give him proper credit. Plus it helps that we all know him fairly well. He's been fighting in the UFC since 2008 (!).
You probably didn't know the date, but I know everyone remembers his debut as we witnessed the debut of something else: hillbilly judo.
Poor David Heath. Boetsch is a guy you're kind of afraid to send to your prospects because he's not just tough and durable but highly skilled, and fights urgently. Wins over Yushin Okami and Hector Lombard are major wins for any Middleweight. I'm just not sure where he goes from here.
Tavares is exactly the kind of fighter Boetsch either marginally beats, or marginally loses to. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Tavares could prove to be one of the better second generation TUFers, which is saying a bit more than you might suspect.
He wasn't too impressive early on, but he's clearly kicked into high gear. At 26 years of age, he's also in his athletic prime. So this fight will theoretically tell us a lot about where he goes from here, and who he is. As in, is he under 9000, or over?
His strength of competition is relatively low for someone who has had nine bouts, and is 7-2. But he's coming off a loss to Yoel Romero, which is nothing to be ashamed of. While he was controlled and dominated throughout, it wasn't something to be ashamed of.
What both men can violently do...
One of the things I like about Tavares is that he gets the defensive side of the game. There are just some things that can't be taught, and instincts rank right up there. Some fighters are just automatic when it comes to overextending and taking risks. Like a shortcut, they're preferred, but not always necessary. Tavares doesn't take those short cuts. He fights a patient game, but knows when to pressure his opponent.
While he's not a specialist, sometimes not being dynamic can be substituted for raw strength, and Tavares is able to shine in close where he's capable of effective violence in the clinch. His boxing skills have a come a long way as well.
As for Boetsch, it's all well established. He's got a legitimate arsenal at his disposal. He's well rounded too of course. But his most essential weapon comes from those pesky intangibles. The dude can take a beating, and keep on ticking right along. While Joe Rogan went notoriously overboard over his comeback against Okami, I can never get too critical over Rogan's hyperbole: after all, it was a brilliant comeback. And it's not like any of us have all the great MMA comebacks readily catalogued in our heads.
What both men can't violently do...
The real problem for Boetsch is not even Tavares so much, as it is the fact of senescence. There will be times where his mind is willing, but not his body. I kind of got that impression against Dolloway. I've always found CB pretty underrated, or at least good enough to distract from the usual flack he gets as a fratboy redneck Matt Damon. But Tim has always fought like a young man, and that kind of style wears on your quick.
I could see Boetsch getting roughed up in the clinch a bit, even though he's still superior when we look purely at technique. But Tim doesn't have the kind of raw strength Romero possessed.
While Brad is still susceptible to the average specialist, I'm bullish on his improvement in this one. He can deal with Tim at range as is, which I think is an underrated aspect of Brad's game (his ability to chamber kicks and punches from afar), but my prediction simultaneously hinges on Boetsch just simply losing a step.
I don't bring up the Rockhold loss against him because I think Luke Rockhold is actually a legitimate dark horse to wear the MW crown. But I still think Boetsch from a few years ago would have been a little less of a pushover in that bout.
Brad Tavares by Decision.