Yair Rodriguez – Staying In the UFC Featherweight Division’s Top Five?

The UFC featherweight division is extremely competitive, but this is something on which Yair Rodriguez should thrive

With 13 wins from his first 16 pro MMA fights, Parral-born battler Yair Rodriguez has become one of the most successful UFC featherweights ever to represent Mexico. Despite being out of action for nearly a year, he will go into his October bout with Zabit Magomedsharipov still a top-five ranked contender in that division. It shows just how much esteem Rodriguez is held in, and the optimism surrounding his chances against his next opponent.

How good is Rodriguez’s recent fight record?

As can be seen, by those watching the latest high-value moneyline bets, the matches that move fighters up the rankings are the hardest to call. It is for this reason, along with his year-long absence from the arena, that Rodriguez treads a fine line between success and failure.

Rodriguez has recovered well after losing via doctor’s stoppage to Frankie Edgar in May 2017, firstly knocking out Chan Sung Jung with a deadly elbow a whole 18 months later. He then won via decision against Jeremy Stephens in October 2019, showing tremendous composure and patience after his initial contest with Stephens a month earlier had been ruled a no-contest just 15 seconds into the first round.

In the UFC alone, Rodriguez’s record is 8-1, with four of his last five victories coming via KO or TKO. In turn, each of his last five wins has warranted the Fight and/or Performance of the Night, and he has a good split between knockout and division wins, which shows the extent of his stamina and his drive to win.

The caliber of his opposition has been sufficient to prepare Rodriguez for his upcoming bout, with the knockout of Chan Sung Jung being a notable moment. In UFC lore, Chan is nicknamed the ‘Korean Zombie’ on account of his ability to absorb heavy blows without losing his footing, enabling him to gain ground on any opponent within his weight category.

This makes the decisive elbow strike in their bout all the more remarkable. With Chan also ranked fourth – sandwiched between Rodriguez and his next opponent – there is enough evidence to support his ambitions for victory over Magomedsharipov in October.

Rodriguez’s victory over ‘Korean Zombie’ is considered one of the best knockouts witnessed in 2019.

What If Rodriguez beats Magomedsharipov?

In the event of his victory, Rodriguez will naturally be targeting either of the current top two ranked contenders – Max Holloway or Brian Ortega. That itself could have a knock-on effect as to where Rodriguez goes next. A win for Chan against Ortega may well open the door for a rematch between Chan and Rodriguez.

At present, beating Max Holloway could well be Rodriguez’s next assignment should he vanquish Magomedsharipov. Few can predict how Holloway will bounce back – if ever – after successive losses against featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski.

The champion will be in Rodriguez’s sights for the foreseeable future, and at 27, Rodriguez has ample opportunity to get himself in a position to fight Volkanovski. Of course, Volkanovski is not the champion for nothing, having won each of his previous nine bouts fought under the UFC brand. There is unlikely to be an optimal time for anyone, including Rodriguez, to face him.

Even so, Volkanovski’s second victory over Holloway was far less convincing than his first.

Caption: Though Rodriguez is billed from the USA, he is recognized as Mexican by UFC’s record books


What to expect from Rodriguez’ next fight

With little between them in the rankings, Rodriguez and Magomedsharipov are sure to provide an intriguing clash of styles, with his opponent’s hybrid skills in wrestling and Sanda – known better as ‘Chinese Boxing’, which incorporates elements of kung-fu. 

He will go into the clash as a narrow favorite over Rodriguez, who has built his whole style around a childhood spent learning Taekwondo. Because of this, Rodriguez will avoid clinches and in-fighting at all costs, instead looking to wear his opponent down with strategic blows at range, and move in for the kill in the closing round, potentially having already secured a points win.

The Mazatlan Post