Yair Rodriguez is stepping up in a big way later tonight (Sat., Aug. 6, 2016) at UFC Fight Night 92 from Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, Nevada. Not only is the 23-year-old prospect headlining his first main event, but he's taking on an unpredictable and unranked opponent in former TUF standout Alex Caceres.
As one of the most exciting strikers in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight division, Rodriguez has been on a tear since making his promotional debut in 2014. He has racked off four-straight wins including a vicious flying head kick knockout of Andre Fili at UFC 197 (watch here). He's unorthodox, flashy, tough and willing to push the limits for a finish. In many ways, Rodriguez represents the new wave of talent that mixed martial arts (MMA) is producing.
However, within one of the most jam-packed divisions in all of MMA, "El Pantera" must seriously impress over the next year if he's wishes to contend for the 145-pound strap. Current champion Conor McGregor is busy with Nate Diaz for you knows how long, veterans Frankie Edgar and Max Holloway are continuously knocking on the championship door and interim Featherweight champion Jose Aldo gets the first crack at "Notorious" if he ever returns to defend his crown. It's going to take a whole lot out of Rodriguez to leap frog deserving contenders in his way, but it's a possibility considering how quickly he's evolving.
When Rodriguez steps inside of the Octagon later this evening at UFC Fight Night 92, the majority of MMA eyes will be watching him. The previously mentioned divisional roadblocks often force a young rising star to fight out of their comfort zone. And when a offensive spark plug like Rodriguez is required to produce fireworks, anything can happen. Against Caceres, who sports a reputable standup game based on range and explosive technique, Rodriguez must pull the trigger without hesitation. Under the biggest spotlight of his career, the Mexican-born striker must display the fan-friendly skills that got him to this point in the first place.
While a main event showing on a FOX Sports 1 card from Salt Lake City isn't going to break any UFC viewership records, Rodriguez can seize the moment, handily finish Caceres, gain more notoriety among casual fight fans and use that momentum to land a big spot on a top-level pay-per-view (PPV) event before year's end.
But if he falls, it may take him a good two years to regain the top 5 potential he currently owns.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 92 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, and then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET, before the main card start time at 10 p.m. ET, also on FOX Sports 1.