Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight contenders, Brian Ortega and Yair Rodriguez, collide today (Sat., July 16, 2022) in the main event of UFC Long Island, which will take place inside UBS Arena at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York.
Ortega vs. Rodriguez is a fight that should determine who should fight next for UFC’s 145-pound title. The only fighters ranked ahead of them are Max Holloway and division champion, Alexander Volkanovski. Recently, Volkanovski has stated his desire to move to Lightweight, so it’s very likely that the winner on Saturday night may draw Holloway for a fight for the vacant title.
Both main eventers have amassed a thrilling highlight reel over their UFC tenures. However, they’ve both come up short when given the chance to face-off with one of the true elites of the division. This fight offers either fighter the chance to gain redemption on that front. Meanwhile, a loss will stall their progress up the rankings and, possibly, see them lapped by the other contenders who are hot on their heels.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Chan Sung Jung (UFC Fight Island 6), Frankie Edgar (UFC 222), Cub Swanson (UFC Fight Night 123), Renato Moicano (UFC 214).
Key Losses: Alexander Volkanovski (UFC 266), Max Holloway (TKO).
Keys to Victory: The scouting report on Ortega will always begin with his Brazilian jiu-jitsu prowess. The Rener Gracie black-belt has shown on multiple occasions that he will make an opponent pay for a mistake. During his early UFC run he scored submissions over Diego Brandao, Renato Moicano and Cub Swanson — going with his favored guillotine for the last two.
However, Ortega is an atypical submission threat. His submission attempts average per 15 minutes is just 1.2. The UFC record is Paul Sass, who racked up an incredible 7.38 average attempts per minutes with his “Sassangle” attacks. Ortega’s low number of attempts doesn’t indicate passivity, though. It highlights his patience and lethality when it comes to his submission game.
He doesn’t hunt for chokes, he waits for them to come to him. His takedown accuracy and averages are also very low, too, pointing to how he’s not overly concerned about forcing a fight to the ground and then locking up a hold. Instead, he’s prepared to take advantage of the situation if and when it arrives. He also doesn’t need a sub to finish a fight, he can get it done on the feet, too (just ask Frankie Edgar and Clay Guida).
The low number of attempts also points to the fact that Ortega doesn’t over-commit to a submission from a less than ideal position. He doesn’t use submissions to score points. He uses them to finish a fight and often he only needs a small amount of chances to do so.
Against Swanson, he needed just one prior attempt before locking up the fight-winning guillotine. Against Moicano, his winning submission was the only one he attempted. He almost won the title from Volkanovski with a guillotine, one of just three submissions he attempted over five rounds.
For this fight with Rodriguez — a talented and frenetic striker — Ortega will stand a good chance of winning if he can stay out of danger and analyze his opponent for a few rounds. If he can get Rodriguez’s rhythms down (which is no easy feat) he might be able to seize on a mistake and grab a hold of a neck, arm or leg and not let go until the fight is over.
However, Ortega needs to find a fine balance between being patient and controlled and not getting overwhelmed, outpaced and ultimately beaten down (like we saw with Holloway).
Key Wins: Jeremy Stephens (UFC on ESPN 6), Chan Sung Jung (UFC Fight Night 139), B.J. Penn (UFC Fight Night 103), Dan Hooker (UFC 192).
Key Losses: Max Holloway (UFC Vegas 42), Frankie Edgar (UFC 211)
Keys to Victory: Rodriguez is one of the most exciting fighters to watch in the promotion. And this is because of his striking creativity and output. In providing this entertainment he takes a lot of risks, but when they pay-off they are often spectacular.
Though Rodriguez’s striking arsenal is fun to look at it, when you look at the numbers, as a whole, you see there is a lot of venom to those strikes as well.
Rodriguez’s significant strike accuracy is 45 percent and significant strikes per minute is 4.65. Both are those are better than Ortega’s (38 percent and 4.15). Rodriguez bests Chan Sung Jung, Josh Emmett, Arnold Allen and Giga Chikadze in both those statistical categories, too.
We’ve seen Ortega struggle against high output and accurate strikers in his only two professional losses. Rodriguez’s numbers are lower than Holloway’s and Volkanovski’s, but those two men are special fighters — especially when it comes to significant strikes landed per minute (7.24 for Holloway and 6.79 for Volkanovski).
We know Rodriguez is going to show us some flash in the Octagon this afternoon. But, he will also need to show some grit and get the most out of his strikes. If he can land like he usually does, or take it up a notch, it could be a long night for Ortega. Rodriguez has an especially good chance at pulling this off considering that Ortega has a lower striking defense (49 percent) than any of the fighters Rodriguez has faced in his last nine fights.
This fight is an interesting clash of both styles and personalities. Ortega exhibits a cool demeanor in his fights, showing a willingness to wait for his opportunity to strike and end the bout. However, in his high profile losses, biding his time lead to absorbing a lot of punishment and fading as the fight went on.
Rodriguez, though he did suffer a loss to Frankie Edgar much like Ortega’s brutal loss to Holloway, has shown he can improve as a fight wears on. Much of that seems to stem from his emotional and passionate style of fighting. It feels like when he gets hit he cranks up his intensity and surges onward. This frantic style does have its potential drawbacks, though — especially against a man who is so good at capitalizing on the mistakes of others.
This fight might boil down to who has the most success in the early portion of the fight. If Rodriguez can land early, Ortega may start shutting down and if Ortega lands early, he may fully unleash Rodriguez. And if the fight starts tepid, with Ortega measuring and frustrating Rodriguez, we could see “El Pantera” lose focus and swing his way into guillotine.
No matter what happens, it’s going to be a fascinating fight.
At UFC Long Island, two of the best Featherweights on the planet will duel. Both men have come up short against divisional legends, but now they have an opportunity redeem themselves for those losses and possibly fight for the ultimate prize.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Long Island fight card right here, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ABC/ESPN+ at 2 p.m. ET.
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