- Alexander Volkanovski is the heavy betting favorite at -450.
- Yair Rodriguez is the overwhelming betting underdog at +325.
- The winner of this title showdown will be crowned as the undisputed UFC Featherweight Champion.
The UFC Featherweight title unification bout between reigning champion Alexander Volkanovski (25-2) and interim champion Yair Rodriguez (16-3) will be the featured fight for UFC 290, which goes down this Saturday, July 8, inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Volkanovski, who came up short in his quest to be a two-division champion, is still the heavy favorite in the UFC odds at -450.
#UFC290 Fight Week starts NOW!!
— UFC (@ufc) July 3, 2023
On the other hand, Rodriguez, who is fresh off a second-round submission win over Josh Emmett to claim the 145-pound interim belt, comes in as the overwhelming underdog at +325. This will be “El Pantera’s” first title opportunity since making his UFC debut in November 2014, while Volkanovkski is making his fifth title defense of the featherweight belt, which he won in December 2019.
Volkanovski’s immaculate run and unbeaten 12-fight streak in the featherweight division (as Islam Makhachev defeated him in the lightweight division) is another big factor in his role as the betting favorite. Additionally, Rodriguez received a unanimous decision loss from Max Holloway, who was bested by the Australian champion three times, all by decision victories.
Alexander Volkanovski Recent Fight Results
Because of his incredible 13-1 record, Alexander Volkanovski found his way to the UFC in November 2016, making an outstanding debut by stopping Yusuke Kasuya in the second round. “The Great” followed this with six straight wins, defeating Mizuto Hirota, Shane Young, Jeremy Kennedy, Darren Elkins, Chad Mendes, and Jose Aldo to earn his shot for the title. In December 2019, the City Kickboxing representative overtook Max Holloway as the new king of the featherweight division.
Since then, he has fended off the challenges from Brian Ortega, Chan Sung Jung, and Holloway (twice) to remain the 145-pound champion and become one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the UFC. Volkanovski failed to become a two-division champion, as Islam Makhachev eked out a decision win in their February 2023 clash to give him his first UFC loss and snapped the Aussie’s 12-fight winning streak.
— UFC (@ufc) July 3, 2022
Yair Rodriguez Recent Fight Results
Yair Rodriguez’s route to the UFC was via the Ultimate Fighter Latin America version in 2014, where he outlasted Leonardo Morales in the finale to win a UFC contract. He made his Octagon debut against Charles Rosa in June 2015 and edged him via a split decision. After that victory, the Mexican amassed four more wins over Dan Hooker, Andre Fili, Alex Caceres, and BJ Penn before absorbing a loss at the hands of Frankie Edgar in May 2017 via a second-round doctor’s stoppage.
Since that setback from Edgar, “El Pantera” racked up three wins (versus Chan Sung Jung, Jeremy Stephens, and Brian Ortega), one no-contest with Jeremy Stephens, and a loss from Max Holloway. Rodriguez’s latest fight resulted in a second-round submission win over Josh Emmett in February 2023 to win the UFC Interim Featherweight title. This will be Rodriguez’s biggest fight in his career, as he has the opportunity to dethrone Volkanovski and reign as the new division king.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) February 12, 2023
Alexander Volkanovski vs. Yair Rodriguez: Tale of the Tape
Alexander Volkanovski vs. Yair Rodriguez: Fight Analysis
The physical attributes favor Yair Rodriguez, as he holds five inches of height and five-and-a-half inches of leg reach; however, Alexander Volkanovski will have a half-inch reach edge. Both are still in their prime years of fighting, with Volkanovski at 34 and Rodriguez at 30. Record-wise, the reigning champion has a slightly better record, as he only sustained two losses, while the interim champion already has three.
Stylistically, Volkanovski and Rodriguez share a similar fighting style of being a striker, evident in their TKO/KO percentage of the Aussie’s 50% and the Mexican’s 40% rate. These numbers are backed by their significant strikes, with Volkanovski flexing his 6.35 landed per minute for 56% accuracy and Rodriguez’s 4.78 landed per minute for 46%. Defensively, “The Great” still holds an edge against “El Pantera,” with the former’s 3.40 absorbed per minute and 59% rate against the latter’s 4.03 and 53%.
In the grappling department, Volkanovski continues to be ahead because of his 1.52 takedown average per 15 minutes (compared to Rodriguez’s 0.79), 34% takedown accuracy (versus Rodriguez’s 28%), and 69% of takedown defense (against Rodriguez’s 63%). The only grappling category that Rodriguez leads is the submission average per 15 minutes with 0.79, in contrast to Volkanovski’s 0.20.
Based on their fighting style and latest performance, this featherweight fight has all the makings to be one of the year’s best fights inside the Octagon. The accuracy, crisp combination, and variations of strikes will be displayed fully on Saturday, as both fighters are expected to bring their all in this crucial title clash. Despite the similarity in styles, Volkanovski and Rodriguez have different keys to victories.
Volkanvoski’s core strengths are his cardio, volume, and pressure. These three have been key to his undefeated and dominant reign as the featherweight champion. He likes to take control of the center of the Octagon from the opening bell and utilizes his quickness to land multiple shots. His favorite technique is using power jabs and a one-two punch combination to back up his opponents and throw a leg kick behind them.
This way, he allows himself to find more angles and openings to inflict more damage. Apart from this relentless offensive approach from Volkanovski, he also proved that he could take big punches from heavy hitters and defend well in grappling exchanges to avoid being submitted. Previous opponents that attest to this toughness from the reigning champion were Chad Mendes, Jose Aldo, Max Holloway, Brian Ortega, and Islam Makhachev.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez is already known to be an unorthodox striker who attempts a wide range of unconventional, yet effective combinations. Aside from his punches and kicks, he utilizes his knees and elbows to land big shots that wear down his opponents. During his early UFC career, this style by the Mexican looked reckless, as he attempted these shots just to miss them. But because of refinement from his coaches and his maturity, his style is now enhanced.
Rodriguez incorporated patience and timing into his unorthodox style, which was on full display in his fight with Josh Emmett. His unpredictability showed because he didn’t throw unnecessary strikes and used his youth and athleticism to explode. In that fight, he also used a ton of kicks to fend off Emmett’s power and set up his power strikes that eventually maneuvered his way to the submission victory.
If Volkanovksi wants to retain his title, he needs to continue the unforgiving forward-moving pressure with volume strikes to tire out Rodriguez and get the decision victory; but Rodriguez can counter that by throwing more kicks, particularly the front and teep kicks to establish the distance and neutralize the pressure from the defending champion. Nonetheless, the heart and experience of Volkanovski should be enough to keep his title against Rodriguez.
Official Prediction: Unanimous decision victory for Alexander Volkanovski.
See the entire UFC 290: Volkanovski vs. Rodriguez odds and wagers here.
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