The ESPN+-streamed show this weekend (Sat., Oct. 31, 2020) is clearly a step down from last weekend’s UFC 254, but at least there’s some fresh talent on tap. On this edition of “New Blood,” the series where I’m increasingly annoyed by the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) splitting its video archive between Fight Pass and ESPN+, we check out a “Contender Series” standout and an Alaska FC champion.
Weight Class: Bantamweight
Record: 11-3 (6 KO, 2 SUB)
Notable Victories: Kyle Estrada, Brady Huang
Yanez entered “Contender Series” having won five of his previous six, the sole loss a split decision to future UFC competitor Miles Johns in a bid for LFA Bantamweight gold. Once there, he took on fellow finisher Brady Huang, whom he knocked out in just 48 seconds to secure a contract.
Switch-hitting power boxing is, unsurprisingly, the highlight of Yanez’s game. Whether via lengthy combinations on the advance or the sort of razor-sharp counters that put down Huang, his hands are absolutely lethal. His offense is as flowing as it is destructive when he’s firing on all cylinders, he’s hard to catch at range, and he can rip the body with some terrific liver shots.
He’s also, unfortunately, highly vulnerable during and after throwing. Recent foe Kyle Estrada, who initially relied on kicks to keep Yanez at bay, found considerable success throwing power-punches as Yanez amped up his aggression. His head simply doesn’t move as much as it should and he has a tendency to linger on the pocket after throwing, which combined to make catch-and-pitch counters a highly effective weapon against him.
That said, Yanez has shown the rock-solid chin necessary to excel despite those flaws, even tanking a flush front kick to the face from Estrada without slowing down. He also managed to somewhat offset his vulnerability to kicks by constantly coming back with heavy combinations and keeping Estrada on the defensive.
I unfortunately couldn’t find much footage of his wrestling, though he did reportedly show good takedown defense and scrambling ability against a very capable wrestler in Johns ... definitely a good sign.
While I’m not sure I’d peg Yanez as a future contender or anything — especially in a division as bonkers deep as Bantamweight, he’s a very skilled fighter whom I could easily see racking up some post-fight bonuses during a solid Octagon run.
Opponent: Yanez had a gimme in original foe Aaron Phillips and figures to have an even easier time with Victor Rodriguez. Not only do Rodriguez’s porous striking defense and unchecked aggression play right into Yanez’s hands, but Yanez is durable enough to take Rodriguez’s best and a skilled enough defensive wrestler to shut down his takedowns. In the end, Yanez takes this in a wipeout.
Tape: His “Contender Series” bout is on ESPN+.
“Vicious” Victor Rodriguez
Weight Class: Bantamweight
Record: 7-2 (7 KO)
Notable Victories: Jared Mazurek
Just about 2.5 years after a pair of stoppage losses, Rodriguez returned to the cage in 2018 to score four consecutive finishes. His most recent effort saw him knock out Jared Mazurek in February, claiming the Alaska FC Bantamweight title in the process.
He replaces Aaron Phillips on around two weeks’ notice.
Rodriguez has the single-minded devotion to smashing you’d expect from that 100 percent finish rate. He marches forward, stays busy with leg kicks, and slings wound-up haymakers from either hand as soon as the option presents itself. If a stand up brawl isn’t to his liking, he’ll shoot in and look for a high-amplitude slam, then pass and pound his way to a finish instead.
It’s not the most complex game in the world, but it’s worked for him so far. Probably won’t for much longer, though. That’s because beyond the extreme lack of polish in his striking offense, he’s inordinately easy to hit, especially with right hands. He managed to take Mazurek’s best shots, but there’s any number of UFC Bantamweights who could knock him cold if given those sorts of opportunities.
While his wrestling could conceivably bail him out, he’s yet to prove its effectiveness against quality opposition. Only one of his pre-Mazurek opponents had a winning record (2-1) and three of them didn’t have a single professional victory.
In case it isn’t obvious, I’m not pegging Rodriguez to go terribly far in the Octagon. Too rough, too untested, too limited. He’ll be plenty fun to watch while he lasts, though.
Opponent: See above.
Tape: His AFC bouts are on Fight Pass.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 12 fight card this weekend right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ 7 p.m. ET.
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