The Severe Spotlight: Tatsuro Taira

This segment is made for fighters like Tatsuro Taira. 23 years of age, 15-0 (5-0 UFC) is primed to explode into the limelight of a stacked flyweight division. In most other divisions, a five-fight win streak with three of those wins by finish would propel any fighter not only to a ranking but a big-name fight. Taira has been building, mostly in perfect silence, slowly building his experience, and rounding out his game.

This performance against Carlos Hernandez is headlined: CONFIDENCE. From the walk to the cage, his ascent into the octagon, the body language as his name was read out into the shamefully quiet UFC Apex, the embrace to the camera. Even the first embers of his performance – the reluctant touch of hands with his opponent, did not speak to malice or even arrogance. Instead, it boasted, even barked a radiant aura of confidence and self-assuredness.

From that glove touch we saw a Taira navigate the first fifteen seconds in a mature, and focussed manner. Previously there have been concerns with his early round one focus, having to clamber back the momentum of the round and the fight. Instead, he bounded around the cage, keeping his left foot directly in the centre line of Hernandez’s stance. Cutting the fighters centre line in half makes way for weapons coming from hooking ranges.

We did not get to see any of the offerings that may have been in the gameplan for Taira, as he inadvertently slipped whilst through a right teep. Falling to the mat Hernandez pounced. Before a shot was landed Taira had collected the left leg of Hernandez and worked to an underhook, deciding as to whether play deep half guard or to immediately wrestle up. He used a right leg pendulum to create some momentum, rocking to his right hip and turning up into Hernandez. From here he progresses to a far tight waist and drags Hernandez to the mat.

The next three minutes and change is dominance. A clean pass from half-guard paved way to Taira oscillating between back control and the mount. Hernandez for his part did an excellent job of constantly looking for a way out, but Taira’s top pins and thigh riding was too much for Hernandez’s defensive work. Working between full claw grips, half nelsons and dropping menacing elbows and ground and pound kept Hernandez stuck to the mat.

The ending of the round saw Taira move from top pins to searching for chokes, alongside his ground and pound.

Hernandez walked back to his corner, being handed a slice of shellshock pie.

The second round lasted all of 55 seconds. In those 55 seconds, we got to see Taira’s improved range management. Low kicks opened up his playbook for the second round, followed by a right-hand counter to the jab of Hernandez. In previous fights Taira might have taken that right hand land and surged forward, getting into an unnecessary firefight. Instead, he reset, circled off and landed an outside low kick.

Taira now smoothly washed away from the ebb and flow of Hernandez footwork and jabs, always looking to create an angle for his right hand. He found the angle with an aggressive low feint, a step out to his right, and a detonation of a straight shot the Hernandez eye. Stunned and wobbled, Hernandez staggers back. He is viciously dropped by an uppercut.

The fight from this point is a formality. The bravery from Hernandez should be commended, Taira had to flow through mount a half crucifix and the eventual turtle before the referee called the bout, as in the first round, he did his upmost to stay in the fight, and his upmost to improve his position. But the avalanche of pressure from Taira on top is proving to be one of his best attributes.

As MMA fans we have an incredible prospect on our hands in Tatsuro Taira. He has a big 2024 on his hands.

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