Alex Perez vs. Tatsuro Taira prediction, pick: How will youth vs. experience play out?

MMA Junkie analyst Dan Tom goes in depth to break down the biggest fights in the UFC. Today, he takes a closer look at the UFC on ESPN 57 main event between former flyweight title challenger Alex Perez and Tatsuro Taira.

Alex Perez UFC on ESPN 58 preview

Alex Perez

Staple info:

  • Record: 25-8 MMA, 7-4 UFC

  • Height: 5’6″ Age: 32 Weight: 125 lbs. Reach: 65.5″

  • Last fight: Knockout win over Matheus Nicolau (April 27, 2024)

  • Camp: Team Oyama (California)

  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing

  • Risk management: Good

Supplemental info:
+ Tachi Palace flyweight title
+ Wrestling base
+ Multiple wrestling accolades
+ 6 KO victories
+ 7 submission wins
+ 11 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Consistent pace and pressure
+ Improved striking ability
^ Combinations and bodywork
+ Hard calf kicks
+ Excellent wrestling ability
+ Solid transitional grappler
^ Dangerous from front-headlock
+/- 2-2 in the UFC Apex

Tatsuro Taira UFC on ESPN 58 preview

Tatsuro Taira

Staple info:

  • Record: 15-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC

  • Height: 5’7″ Age: 24 Weight: 125 lbs. Reach: 70″

  • Last fight: TKO win over Carlos Hernandez (Dec. 9, 2023)

  • Camp: Paraestra Okinawa (Japan)

  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing

  • Risk management: Good

Supplemental info:
+ Shooto flyweight title
+ Amateur MMA accolades
+ 4 knockout victories
+ 7 submission wins
+ 8 first-round finishes
+ Consistent pace and pressure
+ Steadily improving striking
^ Hard kicks from the left side
+ Serviceable takedown ability
^ Chains well against the fence
+ Excellent transitional grappler
^ Superb back-taker
+/- 4-0 in the UFC Apex

Alex Perez vs. Tatsuro Taira point of interest: Flyweight fisticuffs

Alex Perez

The main event in Las Vegas features an interesting pairing of flyweight talents who continue to progress in the striking realm.

Despite growing up as a wrestler, Alex Perez has developed more and more of a taste for the striking arts since stepping onto the MMA scene.

Initially implementing more of a wrestle-boxing style to start his career, Perez has steadily refined his approach after years spent working with Team Oyama and company. Applying better feints and footwork, Perez will typically prod with jabs off of a high guard as he looks to make his way inside.

Perez displays a decent ability to slip to the outside, usually looking to change levels off it by going to the body. This range of motion also lends itself to the left hooks and leg kicks that the 32-year-old contender has been punctuating his combinations with – skills that were on full display in his fight opposite Jussier Formiga.

Nevertheless, Perez will still need to respect continual striking improvements of Tatsuro Taira.

Fighting his frame and stylistic sensibilities, Taira will typically look to play all the way in or all the way out when it comes to his operating range.
At distance, Taira looks to set up long straight shots off his in-and-out movement. When feeling in stride, Taira will attach solid kicks to his combinations.

Although Taira’s switch kick from his left side could serve him well against a wrestle-boxer like Perez, the Japanese fighter will likely be looking to get to his A game given that he’s the less proven competitor in the pocket.

Alex Perez vs. Tatsuro Taira breakdown: Winning the wrestling

Jul 8, 2023; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Tatsuro Taira (red gloves) fights Edgar Chairez (blue gloves) during UFC 290 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Considering the arguable crux of Taira’s game, winning the wrestling will be paramount for both fighters this weekend.

A talented back-taker who is steadily rounding out his surrounding skill set, Taira appears to have no illusions as to where his bread is buttered.

Not only is Taira patient when it comes to setting up his shots, but the Japanese fighter does not seem easily discouraged when failing on his first attempt.

Akin to great MMA grapplers like Khabib Nurmagomedov, Taira looks to be perfectly content with using his first shot to drive his opposition toward to octagon walls. From there, Taira will chain to and from single-legs to trip takedowns that allow him to drag the fight into his world.

Nevertheless, I’m not sure how much success Taira will have when it comes to dictating grappling exchanges with a wrestler like Perez.

Indoctrinated into wrestling from a young age, Perez followed the path of his brothers, Julian Perez and Silverio Esparza (who were also Lemoore High School wrestling champs), excelling as a two-time divisional champ who maintained a top-12 state ranking for his weight class. And by his sophomore year at West Hills College Lemoore, Perez received All-American honors before eventually crossing over into MMA.

Stumbling into his fair share of submission losses on a deceptively tough regional circuit, Perez’s transition into MMA certainly wasn’t an easy one. But since his time spent on the Tachi Palace scene, Perez has appeared to make some serious strides, displaying the ability to both finish and control fighters at a high level.

Whether Perez is chaining off of singles and doubles in the open or getting things done inside of the clinch, the former Selma High School wrestling coach can pretty much do it all. And when he’s able to establish his favored front-headlock position, Perez is quick to abuse a plethora of options that range from front-chokes to back-takes, often chaining them off of each other (as seen in his fight with Carls John de Thomas).

However, if Perez does find himself underneath Taira this Saturday, then he’ll need to be careful with the back exposure that his wrestling-style getups typically offer.

Taira may still be developing large parts of his game, but the 24-year-old’s back-taking abilities are potent beyond his years. Whether Taira is looking for rear-naked chokes or baiting escapes that lead to armlocks, the native of Japan will be extremely dangerous anytime he attaches himself to Perez.

Alex Perez vs. Tatsuro Taira odds

The oddsmakers and the public are favoring the undefeated fighter, listing Taira -205 and Perez +158 via FanDuel.

Alex Perez vs. Tatsuro Taira prediction, pick

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – JUNE 06: Alex Perez celebrates after his TKO victory over Jussier Formiga in their flyweight bout during the UFC 250 event at UFC APEX on June 06, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Despite my excitement for a new Japanese prospect with promise, I can’t say that I agree with the betting line listed above.

I get that Taira is undefeated and the younger party at play, but the 24-year-old has only been training martial arts for 9 years and is still largely unproven against top-level talent.

More importantly, I’m seeing way too many advantages for the underdog Perez from a stylistic perspective.

Not only does Perez have the wrestling ability to dictate grappling exchanges (as seen in a fight that he arguably won against another super prospect in Muhammad Mokaev), but the 32-year-old also has some crushing calf kicks that can potentially punish the stance of Taira considering the success past opponents have had on the Japanese fighter.

And though Taira is the more noted submission threat on paper, I also wouldn’t be shocked to see Perez catching him from the front-headlock position given that Taira will willingly put his neck in precarious positions in order to get his grappling going. For that reason, I can’t help but side with the American to deal out a classic “vet lesson” this Saturday.

The official pick is Perez to force a stoppage via strikes in round 2.

Prediction: Perez inside the distance

Alex Perez vs. Tatsuro Taira start time, where to watch

As the main event, Perez and Taira are expected to make their walks to the octagon at approximately 12:30 a.m. ET. The fight broadcasts live on ESPN2 and streams on ESPN+.

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC on ESPN 58.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie