At UFC 284, the two best fighters in the world today will face off when lightweight champion Islam Makchaev defends his belt against featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski. In a normal event that would be more than enough to sell a pay-per-view but the UFC decided to load this card up with a second title fight.
In their version of a tournament of sorts, the UFC has Josh Emmett battling Yair Rodriguez for the interim featherweight title. The winner will be expected to face off against Volkanovski regardless of how his bout goes and either matchup would be a new challenge for the champion.
In the case of Yair Rodriguez, he is coming off a win over Brian Ortega at UFC on ABC 3, which ended when Ortega injured his shoulder. Prior to that, he had one of the best fights in recent memory with Max Hollaway. He has shown he is building a complete skillset and his striking is sharper than ever. What does that mean for Rodrguez and his chances against Josh Emmett?
Stand-Up Offense and Defense
We all know Yair Rodriguez striking is some of the best, and most unique, in the entire sport of MMA. The combination of kicks and punches paired with the angles he throws them from it is an approach that is unmatched. His boxing specifically doesn’t get the credit it deserves with how crisp and precise it can be in finding its target. The Max Hollaway fight was his best showcase of this where the first time he hurt him in that fight was with a simple one-two combo.
For as unique as his striking offense is, he relies on his chin way too much when it comes to his defense. Hollaway is a much better striker than Josh Emmett but he might not hit as hard. Emmett has the power to shut your lights out anytime he connects and Rodriguez gets hit a lot. He lacks head movement and the presence of mind to step back and collect himself before he is already hurt.
Grappling Offense and Defense
Rodriguez’s grappling will take advantage of his opponent backing up to get them against the cage and look for a potential trip takedown. He doesn’t always secure it but just by attempting he is giving them something else to think about on top of his striking.
In terms of his defense, he has some aggressive offensive moves but when he is not in the dominant position he tries to survive versus escape. What I mean by that is he will give up transition after transition to perhaps get in a position he likes but he takes so much damage in the meantime. Is it really worth it in the end? Perhaps, but that is a dangerous game to play with not just Josh Emmett but this entire sport as a whole.
The highlight reel knockout against Chan Sung-Jung has been played into infinity but outside of that nasty elbow, there aren’t many “kill shots” in his arsenal. What is meant by that is Rodriguez relies more so on his ability to pepper his opponent with strikes and break them down that way.
He has three true knockouts in his UFC career but he hasn’t scored a submission since before the UFC in 2014. He is a tremendous talent but he doesn’t have the power that Emmett does and will have to rely on landing a high percentage of the large amount of strikes he will throw Saturday.
Summary of Yair Rodriguez
I watched Josh Emmett first when filing these reports and my thought was “Rodriguez will steamroll him” but after watching both, this is a much more interesting fight than people realize.
Emmett is very one-dimensional in his striking and his defense will present a small puzzle for Rodriguez. The longer this fight goes the better it is for him and the harder it will be for Emmett to put up with the high output. What it will really come down to is what will Rodriguez do if Emmett starts using his wrestling and dropping hammers with ground and pound. If he can keep things standing, this will be a long night for Emmett but if he can’t then things get interesting for everyone.