Round 1 – The two fighters exchange and Taira ties Candelario up. They separated after a brief struggle against the fence. Candelario shoots for a single-leg. He almost gets it, but Taira spins out and lands an inside leg kick. A clean right hand clips Candelario, but he remains relatively unfazed. Candelario spams a head kick but Taira avoids and ties him up. Taira shoves Candelario to the fence and then takes him down. Candelario leverages himself upward and nearly breaks Taira’s grip. Taira lets it go on its own accord and connects with an uppercut. Candelario grabs hold of a leg and beautifully drags Taira to the ground. Taira briefly threatens a guillotine but lets go. Candlestick on top as the round ends. 10-9 Taira.
Round 2 – Taira’s corner instructed him to go for the finish, and he apparently listened. A big punch floors Candelario over sideways. Candelario covers up and Taira rains down punches. Candelario eats a few in order to move upward. Taira gets the back mount and seeks a rear-naked choke. He turns his attention to ground-and-pound before the choke again. Now, he’s back to ground-and-pound. Candelario needs to move. He’s doing just enough for referee Mike Beltran not to stop it. Candelario nearly escapes, but Taira shifts in order to maintain the back. Taira is going for the rear-naked choke again. Candlestick rolls and rolls. Taira briefly cranks his neck and lets go. Now, they are in a bizarre position, almost like a twister set-up for Taira. Candelario shows off his flexibility though and continues to try to turn inward toward Taira. He can’t get Taira off his back, but Taira can’t get a submission. We’ve hit a weird repetitive stalemate. Finally, Candelario twists himself on top, into Taira’s half guard. The round finishes with Candelario on top, hitting Taira in the body. 20-18 Taira.
Round 3 – In classic MMA fashion, the round begins with a groin kick. Taira split the uprights and connected flush on Candelario. After a brief breather, Candelario is good to go. The fight resumes. Taira whiffs on a big right hook. Candelario nicely ducks under it and shoots. A workmanlike effort gets Taira to the canvas. Taira tries to get up but leaves his neck out. Candelario snatches it and drops for a guillotine. He has a butterfly guard on one side, so it’s hard to tell how tight it is. He uses it to leverage Taira over. However, the squeeze isn’t there, so he briefly lets go. Taira rises up and Candelario pulls for a guillotine again. That one was much more ill-advised. Not the brightest move from Candelario, who just gave up top position and is now on the bottom half guard. Taira spins from the top and shoots up a triangle choke on Candelario. That was slick. Candelario slips out but Taira flips to his back again. They tumble. Taira has a mean body lock, I’ll tell you. Taira is seeking a rear-naked choke, but he keeps putting his arm across Candelario’s jaw. They roll and Taira lands a pair of massive elbows from mount. Taira pauses, then poses up. Taira rains down ground-and-pound. Candelario is trying his best to sit up and get out of it, but he keeps eating punches and elbows. The round ends with Taira firing away. That’s a great debut from the 22-year-old youngster. 30-27 Taira.
Result: Tatsuro Taira def. Carlos Candelario via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)
Records: Carlos Candelario (8-2 MMA, 0-1 UFC), Tatsuro Taira (11-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC)
Broadcast: ESPN2 / ESPN +
Referee: Mike Beltran
Judging: Derek Cleary, Ron McCarthy, Adalaide Byrd