Yair Rodríguez is looking to upset the balance at UFC 290.
If Rodríguez defeats Alexander Volkanovski later that night, he will disrupt more than the featherweight division, but also the entire upper echelon of the UFC.
“This is an opportunity for me to get to the next level of competition,” said Rodríguez, who came in as interim champ. “Alexander Volkanovski is just an amazing opponent. Although I have many opportunities to show my ability, this is different. Alexander Volkanovski will push me to the edge.
The fight between Volkanovski and Rodríguez headlines 290, the most complete card so far this year. There is certainly potential for the main event to become a feature event—Volkanovski has absolutely destroyed the division over the last six years.
Volkanovski eliminated arch-rival Max Holloway last summer. It was especially troublesome for Rodríguez, who lost to Holloway in November of 2021. In total, Volkanovski defeated Holloway three times, crippling him–and, for that matter, almost every opponent–with his lethal punch. speed.
“He’s impressive,” said Rodríguez. “His quickness, his explosiveness, his strength. I don’t think he can find me. “
From bottom to top, the 290 card is incredible. Rising star Cameron Saaiman battled in the early prelims, and the prelims offered matchups–including Jimmy Crute-Alonzo Menifield, Jack Della Maddalena-Josiah Harrell, Robbie Lawler-Nike Prico–better than some. Fight Night cards.
The main card has plenty of firepower, especially in the co-main with Brandon Moreno defending his flyweight title against Alexandre Pantoja. Bo Nickal-Val Woodburn, Jalin Turner-Dan Hooker, and Robert Whittaker-Driscus du Plessis complete the lineup, along with the Volkanovski-Rodríguez centerpiece.
“It was a career-changing moment,” Rodríguez said. “There are times when someone younger and hungry will come to your forest. My moment is now.”
Rodríguez entered the fight as an underdog, which did not bother him at all. Volkanovski is undefeated in the UFC’s featherweight division, but Rodríguez plans to change that.
“I always find a way,” said Rodríguez. “I know when to use my weapons to take advantage of fight situations. Volkanovski has never fought someone like me who can attack from different angles.
“He’s one of the all-time greats, but it’s different for him. I’ve got to be smart about what’s in front of me, and I’ve got to take advantage of it and get that W.
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @Justin Barrasso.