It’s a critical and pivotal fight for Brad Tavares and his opponent Omari Akhmedov at UFC 264, scheduled for Saturday at T-Mobile Area in Las Vegas, serving as the appetizer for the main event trilogy between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier.
Tavares, 33, and Akhmedov, 33, are both middleweights and are 15th and 13th, respectively, in the UFC’s rankings. The winner, obviously, will climb the ladder and inch closer to a title shot against champion Israel Adesanya. The loser will fall and be less of an attraction because of age and the result, unless the bout attracts eyeballs because of its brutality, always a selling point in the fight business.
The Waiakea graduate knows time is an opponent catching up to him. He’s been in the UFC since 2010 and will make his 20th appearance in the UFC, only the third MMA fighter from Hawaii to do so, joining Max Holloway and BJ Penn.
“At the end of the day, it just goes to show my hard work and dedication,” Tavares told KHON2. “As much as they loved or didn’t love me, if I wasn’t winning fights and being successful, there is no way they could keep me.”
As is his style, Tavares was direct in his strategy. He pulls no punches about what he’s going to do.
“I’m not getting any younger so I’ve put streaks together in the past, and this fight is a stepping stone in that right direction. I need to go out there, smash this guy and just keep winning fights until I can ultimately get my title shot,” Tavares said on KHON-TV.
Tavares is coming off a decision victory over Carlos Antonio Jr. in Abu Dhabi seven months ago, where he stuffed 10 of 11 takedown attempts in their middleweight (185 pounds) bout.
Prior to UFC 257, Tavares (18-6) had two straight losses – including in a unanimous decision setback to Adesanya – so the win over Antonio was a nice rebound to continue his career climb.
Akhmedov (21-5-1) is also on a one-win fight streak, submitting Tom Breese by arm-triangle choke at UFC Fight Night in January in Abu Dhabi.
The two fighters couldn’t be more similar. Both standing on a UFC career cliff’s edge, hoping to push the other off.
Tavares is scheduled to battle on the UFC 264 early prelims, which will be televised on ESPN and streamed on UFC Fight Pass starting at noon HST.