The climb continues for Brad Tavares, who’s looking for his fourth straight win at UFC on Fox 29 in a middleweight (185 pounds) bout Saturday in Arizona.
Hilo’s Tavares (16-5), who’s 15th in the UFC rankings, takes on Poland’s Krzysztof Jotko (19-3), who’s No. 13 and on a two-fight losing streak, in the Fox prelims starting at noon.
“With this momentum that I have, now is the time,” Tavares told MMAjunkie.com. “I have to make that run. What a better time than now?”
Tavares, 30, has been in the two-loss situation that Jotko faces.
He fell to Yoel Romero by unanimous decision and to Tim Boetsch by TKO in 2014.
In his last fight, Jotko, 28, dropped his guard and got clobbered by Uriah Hall for a second-round TKO loss at UFC Fight Night 116 last September.
It’s a critical swing fight for both. Tavares is a slight favorite with -130 fighter odds on the UFC website. (Bet $130 to win $100.) He’s trending upward, but a loss would drop him in the standing and seriously damage his title considerations.
In Tavares’ last loss, he fell to Robert Whittaker, the UFC middleweight champ, by first-round knockout in 2015. Romero is the No. 1 contender, so Tavares has battled his division’s top two guys.
A dominant win could boost Tavares on a faster rematch path.
“We have a bunch of guys in the top of our division leaving, retiring and getting a lot older,” said Tavares, who weighed in at 186 pounds Friday, a half a pound heavier than Jotko. “This is the time.”
Jotko has youth on his side and a strong resume of wins but so do a lot of other UFC middleweights. Suffer a third consecutive loss and he’s in danger of being labeled as Just Another Guy, a cut candidate when the next aspiring fighter enters the market.
In his last fight against Thales Leites, a common opponent with Jotko, Tavares earned a unanimous decision at UFC 216 last October. Tavares showed tough takedown defense against Leites and drilled him off clinches.
“I definitely feel that as far as a fighter and athlete, I can still get better,” Tavares said. “But I noticed in training that I’ve been doing a lot better.
“Everything is clicking for me.”
Meanwhile, in Jotko’s last fight, the southpaw pressed Hall in the second round, went backward when Hall countered and got caught after a lazy jab left his head out in the open.
Jotko is the type of stand-up aggressor who’s an invitation for Tavares to score his second UFC knockout. His first was against Phil Baroni at UFC 125 in 2011.
“I look at (him) as a complete fighter,” Tavares said. “I believe he wants to strike, but I don’t think he compete with me there. If he want to stay there all night, so be it. That’s the name of my game.”