The Severe Spotlight: Tatsuro Taira

The Severe Spotlight: Tatsuro Taira

In the bowels of the MMA pantheon, the community is always looking up to the altar of the Gods, questioning when the next prospect will emerge, and what their names will be. Prospects come in a variety of shapes, weight classes and fighting styles. At UFC Vegas 62, Tatsuro Taira stamped the prospect moniker into the same gloves that hyper-extended C.J Vergara’s arm and forced the Texan into submission.

Taira started slowly on Saturday night, taking a few shots to birth him into the fight. A 70” reach at 125lbs is something that needs time to adjust and build into. That range is a tumultuous path to walk, in the first minute of the opening round we saw the highs and lows of that path to perfect range understanding. The lows came with the plum clinch knee thrown at the beginning of the first but eating two body hooks for his attempt – it is obvious there is some adjustment still to be made. The high’s shone immediately after as he circles to his right, sticking Vergara with a clean right hand, as he bounds slightly to his left and lands an even cleaner left hook.

The grappling began after Vergara fell into a trap. Taira had once before thrown a slow lead roundhouse kick, to bait Vergara to either come inside, or to counter with a head strike. The second time of asking Vergara took a bite of the bait. After stepping just out of range of the kick, he bounced back in with a jab, that jab Taira saw, and ducked under immediately back up on a double leg, his right hand overhooking the left leg of Vergara he transitions momentarily to a single leg setup, wedging the left leg of Vergara in between his two legs, pincering them to lock that leg in place. The right hand of Taira had been stuck to the far hip from the start of the takedown attempt, he now removes his left overhook grip, and clasps his hands in a bodylock, relinquishing the pincer on Vergara’s legs and taking the back bodylock. Lift, slam.

In this sequence Taira shows the layers to his trapping, the layers to his sequences. Whilst rushing on his way to mount, he does a fantastic job of wrapping the head and using that to transition to north south.

Adjustments are then the next interesting factor of a prospect; Taira at the second time of asking did not rush the mount position, he had a dominant head and arm control, with a pull on the near tricep, pushing into knee-on-belly and into mount. Vergara capitalised well and bridged back to top position. Taira showed some magic, however. Often you will see fighters get caught up in the bridge and accept bottom position, Taira instead scrambled, and reset to standing. That is an aware fighter.

For the rest of the round, he put a pace on Vergara, returning him to the mat with a gorgeous collect of the leg, off balance and turn. Battling through some adversity with 40 seconds left as Vergara took a head and arm from bottom and bridged himself to top.

There is an impressive fluidity to the movement on the feet for Taira, as he circles, he bounds in and out of the pocket, stinging shots and sting counters, accented by head kicks and eventual takedowns.  The finishing sequence came from the same setup that began the grappling cycle in the first round, this time Vergara managed to hold off the mat return for a longer period, as he crashed his way to the cage wall.

From the cage wall Taira showed some lovely footwork to again collect the legs, and mat return Vergara with a reverse broomstick, chest to back exposure, and immediately locking a body triangle, on the underhook side. Taira however did not have an underhook, and the only thing keeping Vergara in this back position was the body triangle. The Texan had a two-on-one grip of the underhook arm, and was in motion to peel it over his shoulders, and escape his back to the mat. Taira is aware, and forces Vergara over to the overhook side to shut off the immediate escape route. Having successfully passed the body triangle to the far hip, Tiara was now in a traditional back control situation, underhook engaged, head on the correct side, and looking for cross grips.

Multiple times Taira managed to threaten with chokes, none however found the holy grail of forearm to Adam’s apple, wrist to carotid artery, all of the attempts were over the jaw and Vergara managed to peel his way out. In the last 3-4 attempts at chokes, Taira had started to look for kimura grips, which is the first step on the ladder to switching off to an armbar from back control. This created a dilemma with which Vergara needed to manage. Committing too much to the back escape may give up an arm, but committing to stripping the armbar attempts too much, could leave his neck open.

He did commit too hard to the back escape, looking to use the elevated angled position of Taira to bridge in; Taira had already gotten to a near side kimura grip, and as the shoulders of Vergara rose to the air, Taira unlocked the body triangle and threw his outside leg over the head, landing in the armbar. Vergara did a good job of gripping his hands together and rotating inwards to begin to stack Taira. But the young prospect used gravity, and the hamstring curl of his legs over the shoulder, lat and head of Vergara to keep his posture broken. A shimmy to the inside space and the armbar was on.

Fantastic submission.