Octagon Oracles: Tatsuro Taira vs. Carlos Candelario

Tatsuro Taira

Grade: A-

Flyweight Tatsuro Taira has put together undefeated amateur and professional records in his native Japan, and on Saturday he’ll make his UFC debut against fellow newcomer Carlos Candelario.

The 22-year old Tatsuro is a perfect 10-0 since turning pro in 2018. The majority of his amateur and pro bouts have been contested under the Japanese Shooto promotion, and Tatsuro has finished eight of his ten opponents as a pro. The Japanese fighter has competed as low as strawweight and as high as bantamweight in his career. His last two fights were contested at flyweight, including a first-round submission over Ryuya Fukada in 2021 to win the Shooto flyweight belt.

The most impressive part of Tatsuro’s game is his grappling. Once he gets an opponent to the mat he’s extremely difficult to shake off, as he maintains strong chest pressure while actively looking for chances to pass his opponent’s guard. That guard passing ability is his most dangerous weapon on the ground. The Japanese flyweight has three wins by ground and pound and five by submission, but his ability to control opponents and continually change positions provide very few opportunities for opponents to get any offense off. He won’t be dissuaded if an opponent does manage to reestablish guard, as he’ll remain patient and get right back to work with his top pressure.

Tatsuro isn’t quite as comfortable striking as he is on the ground, but he gets by with a few reliable weapons. He’ll frequently kick the inside of his opponent’s lead leg and flashed a few hard outside leg kicks in his most recent bout against Alfredo Muaiad. Always circling and rarely caught standing still, Tatsuro also likes to work his jab to the head and body. He’ll occasionally mix in high kicks as well, and Tatsuro does have some power in his hands; he caught Muaiad with a sharp counter-punch that sent Muaiad to the canvas and set up the eventual rear-naked choke finish.

The Japanese flyweight’s grappling could certainly cause trouble for a lot of fighters, and at only 22-years old Tatsuro has plenty of time to round out his striking skills. While he gets a fellow newcomer here for his debut, the competition he’ll face in the UFC’s flyweight division is going to be significantly higher than what he’s faced so far in his career. Tatsuro is a great addition to the division, and as long as he develops well he should have an exciting UFC career ahead of him.

Out Within 1-2 Years
50/50 Winner
Bonus Winner
A Mainstay Through the Years

Top 15
Top 10
Top 5
Title Contender
Champion

Carlos Candelario

Grade: B-

CES veteran Carlos Candelario originally appeared on Contender Series 2017, earning a unanimous decision over Ronaldo Candido that failed to get him a UFC contract. He returned to action at CES 63 after a four-year layoff and won a fairly lackluster decision over Miguel Restrepo, then got his second Contender Series chance just a few weeks later as a late-replacement against Victor Altamirano. While Candelario officially picked up his first pro loss against the former LFA champion, the controversial scorecards and Candelario’s performance still earned him a chance in the UFC.

A southpaw, Candelario relies heavily on his left straight when striking. The Connecticut-native will load up on the punch as a solo shot or throw it as part of a 1-2, sometimes flicking a noncommittal jab before following up with a hard left hand. Candelario also likes to time short uppercuts as opponents come forward and uses the punch with particular effect in the clinch when he can establish head control. His defense isn’t always the sharpest but he makes up for it with toughness, rarely showing much concern even when an opponent hits him with a clean strike.

Candelario is at his best when he’s able to work his striking smoothly into his wrestling, and he’ll often appear to overextend on his left straight so he can get in tight on opponents for a takedown. He’s comfortable timing shots for double legs in space or grabbing single leg attempts, and against the cage he’ll switch between the two as he tries to drag opponents to the canvas. Candelario’s wrestling was on full display in his fight with Altamirano, as the 30-year old got Altamirano down to the mat fairly early in the first-round. He was able to maintain top control for a lot of that round and for parts of the second, but Candelario did get outgrappled in the third-round of that fight when Altamirano abandoned his striking approach.

This debut matchup with Tatsuro Taira was scheduled to take place last month, but Candelario was forced to pull out late-notice with an illness.

Candelario is well-deserving of this UFC opportunity considering he arguably won that Contender Series fight with Altamirano, but the CES veteran will have his hands full with the flyweight talent in the UFC. He should be able to pick up a few gritty decision wins, which would be his likely path to victory here against Tatsuro Taira.

Out Within 1-2 Years
50/50 Winner
Bonus Winner
A Mainstay Through the Years
Top 15
Top 10
Top 5
Title Contender
Champion