KHON2 sports director Rob DeMello is in Las Vegas for UFC’s International Fight Week. Stay tuned for more special reports from the “Ninth Island” through the weekend.
LAS VEGAS (KHON2) — Waiakea High School graduate and UFC middleweight Brad Tavares moved up to 15-4 in his MMA career with a 29-28 unanimous decision victory over Elias Theodorou (13-2) at The Ultimate Fighter Finale 25 in Las Vegas, Nevada Friday night.
Tavares won the first round with crisp striking and a takedown before Theodorou took the second with a volume of strikes. In the third and final frame, Tavares came back from a pair of takedowns to take the back of Theodorou multiple times. Tavares threatened a rear naked choke and arm bar, giving him the victory.
“I knew he would want to clinch, but he was kind of shooting,” Tavares said. “I’ve never really seen him shoot so much, more throw a lot of crazy, weird stuff, close the distance and try to grab his opponent, but I think I shut that down, because I stood right in front of him, and every time he went to throw a kick, a punch, I would step in and counter with my own.”
Friday night marked a long-awaited return for the Hilo native, who hadn’t fought since his victory against Caio Magalhaes in September 2016.
“I honestly wanted to get back out there in January, when I was scheduled to fight Hector Lombard. Unfortunately, I tore my hamstring completely, the tendon from the bone,” Tavares said. “I actually think it was a harder road back, because I was in such tremendous shape after my Caio Magalhaes fight that I was rolling right into another camp, I felt good. But then having my hamstring torn, I had to start all over again, so I probably would have been in better shape if that hadn’t happened, but it’s always good to get rest.”
Despite the delay, Tavares was in fighting form. After three rounds, he seemed ready to go two more.
“You want to keep climbing. I don’t pay much attention to ranks. I had no clue (Theodorou) was ranked number 15 until like last week or something, someone had mentioned to me,” Tavares said. “But the rankings matter if you want to fight for that belt, and that’s the ultimate goal.”
The Hilo native is now 10-4 in the UFC.
When asked who he’d like to see next, Tavares said, “if they give me Michael Bisping, I’d be stoked. But that’s likely not going to happen. But I don’t care, whatever. Whoever they want to put in front of me, I’ll prepare, I’ll come prepared, and I’ll put on a good fight.”
One thing’s for sure: Tavares is 100-percent behind a UFC event in Hawaii.
“I’m always huge for UFC Hawaii, tweeting about it, talking about it, #UFCHawaii. Now that we’ve got a champion from Hawaii again, it only makes sense,” he said.
We asked Tavares if he’d like to send a message back home: “Hey everybody, I’m not sure if you guys saw that walkout, but I carried the Hawaiian flag with me. I love you Hawaii, and I love all of you that support me and the rest of the Hawaii fighters. Mahalos.”