Yair Rodriquez is on the rise
Another UFC pay per view has passed and yet another champion has been dethroned. So attention now turns to UFC Fight Night 92 and a main event that will feature Mexican up and coming star, ‘El Pantera’ Yair Rodriguez.
El Pantera is 4-0 in the UFC since becoming the Ultimate Fighter Latin America champion back in November 2014. The most recent of his victories came in spectacular fashion. When he knocked out his toughest opponent to date Andre Fili with a flying head kick.
Some corners are touting Rodriguez’ next opponent Alex Cacares as his toughest opponent to date. However, I see it as more of a side step in competition rather than a step up. This is by no means a mistake by the UFC as someone as raw as Rodriguez. But with that amount of potential needs to be carefully managed.
There are very few fighters in the world with the potential of the 23-year-old Mexican, both technically inside the octagon, and commercially outside of it. Yair is a potential goldmine in terms of revenue for the UFC as he holds in his pocket. The key to open the door of the world of MMA to an entire country.
We have seen it happen before, most recently through the rise of Conor McGregor and how he managed to generate an unbelievable amount of hype and support from his native Ireland. Who like Mexico is traditionally a proud boxing nation. Whereas McGregor’s exciting fighting style was helped along by his brash confidence and smack-talking of opponents, Rodriguez is a different character.
Rodriguez Keeping Cool And Calm
Cool and calm in his preparation for the big stage, respectful of his opponents and intelligently aware of what they bring to the contest. When that bell sounds he marches forward wearing his heart on his sleeve.
With the aim of not only finishing his opponent but doing so in a crowd-pleasing form of self-expression. This is something that will very quickly get the Mexican people interested in watching him fight.
Not only the Mexican people of course. Martial Arts fans all around the world want to see such a gifted young talent express himself in the manner Rodriguez does. When you have someone like Yair who throws caution to the wind and takes risks in his approach with audacious spinning techniques. People start to question how far he can actually go before he is caught out.
And it’s a fair reservation to have when considering how far Rodriguez can go. Of course, as he starts to face people higher up the rankings, the more likely he is to be caught out. Like I said, Casares, in my opinion, isn’t a step up from Fili. But he is however stylistically an opponent that might just force Rodriguez to take a step back, and be the lesser aggressor in the contest.
That’s a side of Rodriguez’ game I’m looking forward to seeing. Can he be more patient in his approach, maybe not look for the instant kill. Could we potentially see a slower kill from ‘The Panther’ on Saturday night? Use what I believe to be a much more crisp skill set to slowly wear Cacares down. Exhibiting to everyone watching that there is no doubt he a level above this man.
There Are Levels To This Game
The oddsmakers and I have been getting it pretty wrong in recent weeks in terms of main event outcomes. But let’s just say we are right this time and Yair Rodriguez does prove himself a level above Alex Casares. Where will that leave him going forward?
In my opinion, he will enter a totally new world of competition, the world of title contention. Yair will have accumulated five straight wins in the UFC. The same number accumulated by a certain notorious featherweight champion before he got his title shot. And only one less than Jon ‘Bones’ Jones who was 6-0 and like Rodriguez only 23 years of age at that time of his title shot.
To some reading, this these may seem like pointless comparisons. But the point I’m trying to make is there will always be world champions, but there won’t always be a Jon Jones, a Conor McGregor, or an Anderson Silva. These are the people that consume even the most casual of followers because of their charisma and superstar qualities.
I can remember the moments of the aforementioned in which I consider to be major turning points in their careers. McGregor’s destruction of Dustin Poirier at UFC 178 and Jones’ ice-cold submission of Ryan Bader at UFC 126. These two moments propelled these men into a different realm of status, and I feel the same opportunity may lay in wait for Yair Rodriguez this Saturday night.
By Neal Martin
Follow on Twitter: @NealKnows
Images courtesy of ufc.com & themmacorner.com