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Once of the verge of being shut down, the
Ultimate Fighting Championship
’s now-thriving flyweight
division continues its roster expansion with the addition of
undefeated Japanese prospect Tatsuro
Taira
. The 22-year-old will walk to the Octagon for the first
time when he faces
Dana White’s Contender Series
graduate Carlos
Candelario
as part of the UFC
on ESPN 35
undercard this Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las
Vegas. The Paraestra Okinawa standout boast a perfect 10-0 record
that features eight finishes. His opponents own a cumulative .563
winning percentage (121-83-11).

A former Shooto
titleholder, Taira can strike and grapple as a modern mixed martial
artist, but he feels more at ease on the mat. Five of his eight
finishes have come by submission. His arsenal offers a variety of
techniques, but he has proven particularly versatile with
rear-naked and triangle chokes. Taira has competed across multiple
divisions during his career, fighting as low as 115 pounds and as
high as 135 pounds. He made his professional debut in August 2018,
when he was barely 18 years old. He submitted Yo Otake via
triangle choke at This Is Shooto, Vol. 2. Taira has alternated
between seasoned opponents and fellow prospects in the years since,
showcasing a maturity and fight IQ that belies his age.

The most notable test Taira has faced was against
World Extreme Cagefighting
veteran Yoshiro
Maeda
at Professional Shooto 2021 Vol. 2 a little more than a
year ago. The bout barely broke the one-minute mark. Taira accepted
a grappling exchange after his counterpart pulled guard in an
attempt to sweep. After winning the subsequent scramble, Taira
moved to his opponent’s back as he tried to return to his feet. He
then forced Maeda to carry his weight before locking in the
rear-naked choke. Maeda collapsed to the canvas in a last-ditch
attempt to resist, but it was all for naught. Still, he went out on
his shield and chose to pass out instead of tapping out, the end
coming just 61 seconds into Round 1.



The resounding victory, his eighth in a row, earned Taira a chance
to capture the Shooto 125-pound championship held by Ryuya
Fukuda
at Professional Shooto 2021 Vol. 4. Right out of the
gate, Taira shot for a successful takedown, spending almost four
minutes on top of his opponent. On the mat, Taira controlled Fukuda
and landed a few shots to improve his position. Once he achieved
full mount, Taira opted to go for a triangle choke, and the
unorthodox move paid off within moments. Trapped in a tight
submission, Fukuda was forced to raise the white flag with only 29
seconds left in the opening period.


In his most recent appearance, Taira headlined a Vale Tudo Japan
event in November and collided with Alfredo
Muaiad
. There, he proved he could stand his ground on the feet
and engaged Muaiad in the standup. Near the four-minute mark, Taira
scored with back-to-back punches, buckled his opponent’s knees and
landed a knockdown. Once on the mat, he quickly jumped to Muaiad’s
back and put the rear-naked choke in place for the finish.
Afterward, Taira agreed to terms with the UFC on a contract and now
looks toward showcasing his skills on the sport’s grandest stage.


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