The co-main event of UFC Fight Night 35 is an exciting middleweight bout between emerging contenders Lorenz “Da Monsoon” Larkin and Brad Tavares. The current betting line for the fight at 5Dimes Sportsbook sees Larkin as a -210 betting favorite (bet $210 to win $100), while Tavares is a +175 underdog (bet $100 to win $175). MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas originally opened Larkin at -210 and Tavares at +160, meaning the betting public is split on who they are betting on. Unlike the betting public, though, I have a strong lean here and it’s for the favorite, Larkin, to pick up the W and continue his ascent up the UFC middleweight ladder. Here’s why. Larkin (14-1, 1 NC) made his Octagon debut earlier this year at UFC on FOX 7, losing in controversial fashion to Francis Carmont via decision. However, most thought he won that fight and he proved just how good he really is in his sophomore effort at UFC Fight Night 31 with this three-round drubbing of Chris Camozzi. The 27-year-old Larkin is an extremely dynamic striker who uses a combination of fists, elbows, knees and punches to outstrike his opponents on the feet, and, even though he doesn’t have any knockouts in his last six fights, he’s still been mighty impressive. Armed with sensational takedown defense, Larkin’s biggest career victory came in the summer of 2012 to current UFC star Robbie Lawler, and if the judges in the Carmont fight had seen just one round differently, he would be riding a 16-fight undefeated streak at the moment. We should keep in mind that Larkin does have one loss, a TKO defeat to King Mo in Strikeforce, but that loss was reversed to a No Contest after Lawal tested positive for a banned substance and it’s really hard to say that Larkin has a poor chin because of that one defeat. Also, keep in mind that fight was at 205, where Larkin fought the majority of his career before making the smart move to cut to 185. An emerging contender, Larkin is quickly becoming a fan favorite due to his exciting striking style and if he can defeat Tavares he will move far up the UFC middleweight ladder. Tavares (11-1) is one of the most underrated middleweights in the UFC roster, having racked up a 6-1 record so far with the promotion following his stint on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 11. The 26-year old Hawaiian is a very strong middleweight who likes to push his opponents against the fence and grind them down to decision victories. He also has solid hands and good knockout power, even though he only has one official KO in the UFC. In Tavares’ last fight against Bubba McDaniel, everyone thought that Tavares would steamroll McDaniel and put his name on the map as a top contender, but Tavares struggled in that fight and his cardio looked to be exposed as he slowed down significantly in the third round and could have lost via submission had the fight gone another minute. Still, he got the job done because he won the first two rounds, and if he can take two rounds against Larkin he’ll get the win and continue moving up the ladder. The problem is, Larkin matches up really well against Tavares, and so he’ll have to look better than he did against McDaniel to really show the judges he deserves to get the win as I really don’t see him finishing “Da Monsoon.” And that really might be easier said than done. I see Larkin using his excellent takedown defense to keep the fight standing and on the feet I believe he’s the far superior striker and should be able to use a combination of punches, elbows, and kicks to outstrike Tavares and win the rounds 10-9. My only worry is that Tavares will push Larkin against the fence, but I believe Larkin is a smart fighter and will know this is Tavares’ gameplan, and he’ll do everything he can to stay away from the fence. And even if the fight does end up against the cage, we saw the damage Larkin inflicted on Camozzi against the cage and he should really be able to do the same to Tavares. At -210, I see some value in Larkin as I had capped him at -250. Like any fight in mixed martial arts, it’s not a lock and the judges could made us sweat the bet if Larkin gets pushed against the fence, but I think more times than not Larkin does enough with his striking to win a competitive, yet clear-cut decision and at -210, I like Larkin as the first leg of a two-team parlay. The props haven’t opened up for this bout yet, but there is one total that I am looking at as well, and it’s the OVER 2.5 rounds total, which is currently priced at -175. Both these guys are tough and I think the fight hits the scorecards, so if you think the judges might screw you either way, then perhaps that’s the way to go here.