Brad Tavares knew what was coming from Antonio Carlos Junior, and he had his takedown defense working to perfection at UFC 257.
Hilo’s Tavares stuffed 10 of 11 takedown attempts and earned a unanimous decision over Carlos in a middleweight (185 pounds) fight on Saturday at Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Despite a five-inch reach advantage, the Brazilian was unable to land any significant strikes against Tavares (18-7).
Carlos (11-5) had a tough time defending Tavares’ strikes. He had poor head movement, and all the landed punches turned his face into the color of raw steak.
Tavares also kicked Carlos’ left lead leg, which also turned an ugly shade of red. He’s likely to walk with a limp in the morning.
The Waiakea graduate was simply too strong for Carlos, who had difficulty getting Tavares to the ground on single-leg takedown attempts.
Tavares showed excellent balance when Carlos had a hold on a leg and strength when backed into the fence during clinches.
Tavares also looked to be in good shape despite not fighting since Nov. 2, 2019. He suffered an ACL knee injury and missed the entire 2020 season.
For most of the 15-minute bout, Tavares pursued Carlos, who offered no counterattack to the underdog’s strikes and allowed his head to serve as a punching bag.
It was a triumphant return to the octagon for Tavares, who carried the Hawaiian flag during his introduction on national TV.