BANGOR, Maine — It took a while for “The Barbarian” to re-emerge, but when it did it may have saved Tim Boetsch’s career in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Battered and bloodied after more than a round-and-a-half of absorbing punishment, the Lincolnville native nicknamed “The Barbarian” used a left hook and straight right hand combination to score a stunning second-round technical knockout of Brad Tavares on Saturday night before a crowd of 5,329 at the Cross Insurance Center.
“It was amazing. I’ve had some big wins in the past but this win here in Bangor tonight is definitely No. 1 in my memory,” said Boetsch, a middleweight who was fighting in his home state for the first time as part of the internationally televised UFC Fight Night 47 card — the inaugural UFC show in Maine.
“Just knowing the entire arena was behind me, I definitely wanted to leave it all in the cage and I definitely think I did that.”
The 33-year-old Boetsch, an eight-year veteran of the professional mixed martial arts ranks, had lost three of his last four fights and was in danger of being released from the world’s top mixed martial arts promotion with a loss to Tavares — and he entered the bout as a 3-to-1 underdog, according to Las Vegas oddsmakers.
“You can’t focus on that,” said Boetsch, now 18-7 and ranked 14th in the UFC’s 185-pound division. “I have the task at hand I need to take care of, and even though I might have been behind on the scorecards a little bit, once I got rolling I was going to run him over.”
Now once he recovers from his abrasions Boetsch now is certain his UFC career will continue.
“This is a whole new beginning and it all started at home here in Maine,” said Boetsch, who overcame cuts both above and below his left eye. “I’m going to go see the doc and get stitched up and then I’ll wait for a call from the UFC and find out who’s next in line. I’ll get another call. It will be a good call, for sure.”
Securing that next conversation with UFC officials wasn’t easy.
Tavares (12-4) bruised the former four-time state wrestling champion from Camden-Rockport High School in Rockport during the first round of their scheduled three-round middleweight bout, opening a cut over Boetsch’s left eye with a well-placed elbow and concluding the round with a series of left knees to the temple.
“He was working his technique, he cut me early with a real clean elbow,” said Boetsch. “But this is fighting, it can change fast.”
Tavares continued his stand-up attack early in the second round, causing a new contusion under Boetsch’s eye.
“I’m glad I’m not afraid of seeing my own blood,” Boetsch joked, “because there’s plenty of it around.”
But moments later such aesthetics didn’t matter.
Tavares pinned Boetsch against the cage wall for nearly a minute before referee Kevin MacDonald separated the fighters from their stalemate and sent them back to the middle of the cage.
“[Tavares] was doing a pretty good job, position-wise, of holding me up against the cage but I knew I just needed a little bit of space to land those strikes,” said Boetsch. “The action was slow and the ref did his job properly, but I think what happened was going to happen eventually anyway.”
Boetsch landed a stinging left hook that sent Tavares reeling, then followed his opponent toward the cage wall and struck with a devastating right hand that sent his opponent to the ground and suddenly ended the fight at 3:18 of the second round.
“A little bit of space opened up, enough so I could start letting my hands go,” said Boetsch. “Being in there that tight I was at a perfect range where I hit really hard and that’s what happened. A glancing left started it and the right hand finished it.”
It was a combination that had been the subject of frequent repetitions during Boetsch’s pre-fight training camp in Brewer with former pro boxer and UFC contender Marcus Davis.
“He got to the point where those people were cheering for him, screaming ‘Boetsch, Boetsch,’” said Davis, “and then I don’t think he even thought about it but that left hook-right hand with him varying his levels, in less than a month we’ve done that technique a thousand times with him mowing me over and killing me every time. It just worked out.”
Boetsch was awarded a $50,000 post-fight bonus for performance of the night, a status he shared with Thiago Tavares, who opened the main card with a first-round stoppage of Robbie Peralta.
“There was a sense of urgency,” Boetsch said. “He was beating me positionally a little bit but I knew all I had to do was [connect] with my right hand and the game would change drastically.”
And while Boetsch’s training sessions with Davis helped produce the decisive combination in this bout, Davis said plenty of work remains as the duo anticipates continuing to work together.
“Tim has this nasty habit of letting people get ahead of him and trying to find a reason to really let go,” said Davis. “I told him, ‘We need you start a little earlier.’
“He waited 10 minutes tonight but he finally did it.”