Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight strikers Yair Rodriguez and Josh Emmett will collide in an interim title match this weekend (Sat., Feb. 11, 2023) at UFC 284 inside RAC Arena in Perth, Australia.
It’s been a strange road to Rodriguez’s first UFC title fight. He’s fought infrequently in the last few years, and two of his last four fights ended in injury, resulting in one win and one “No Contest.” He enters this title fight off the injury win, but a relative lack of momentum doesn’t make “Pantera” any less dangerous. Conversely, Emmett enters this fight on a five-fight win streak. In his eight-fight Featherweight career, Emmett has established himself as one of the most powerful and toughest fighters on the roster.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Brian Ortega (UFC Long Island), 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: There really is nobody else on the roster who fights quite like Rodriguez. He’s wildly athletic, able to blast power kicks for 25 minutes without issue, and his range of kicking techniques is simply unmatched.
This is a kicker vs. boxer match up if we’ve ever seen one. Rodriguez has a significant reach advantage, and that edge is only heightened by the fact that Rodriguez is the superior kicker. He can damage Emmett from a range that the Californian simply cannot match, so keeping his distance as much as possible only makes sense.
In general, Rodriguez would be wise to focus his kicking assault on the legs and mid-section. Specifically, his snap kick to the body and calf kicks from Orthodox could be huge weapons against the shorter boxer. Both strikes serve to off-balance Emmett as he tries to move forward, as well as start to take away some of the explosiveness that allows him to close distance so quickly.
Lastly, Rodriguez needs to be careful about wildly firing back from his backfoot. That’s one of his go-to habits when pressed, but against a hitter like Emmett, it could see him slept.
Key Wins: Calvin Kattar (UFC Austin), Dan Ige (UFC 269), Shane Burgos (UFC on ESPN 11), Mirsad Bektic (UFC Fight Night 174), Ricardo Lamas (UFC on FOX 26), Michael Johnson (UFC on ESPN 2)
Key Losses: Jeremy Stephens (UFC on FOX 28), Desmond Green (UFC 210)
Keys to Victory: I’ve been in the same room as Emmett hitting mitts on several occasions, and it’s quite the experience. His punches crack the pads like gunshots, a rapid fire barrage that explains why Emmett’s knockdown rate is absurdly high.
In general, Emmett likes to work from the outside, occasionally exploding with big combinations. In this fight, he’s going to have to adapt his style a bit to pressure more consistently, that way he doesn’t find himself stranded at distance for long portions of the fight.
In the immortal words of Ray Longo, “Punch a hole in his f—king chest!”
Indeed, body-head combinations will be very helpful for Emmett, particularly since Rodriguez tends to lean away from exchanges. Additionally, I’d really like to see Emmett make use of shifting combinations. He dropped Shane Burgos with switch steps on a couple occasions, and similar setups here could help him close an extra step of distance and land big.
Lastly, Emmett has a wrestling background. If he’s able to off-balance Rodriguez during a kick and take top position, there’s no reason not to add that element of his game into the fight.
The interim title is on the line!
Rodriguez has been on the UFC roster for eight years now, and at 30 years of age, he should be in the absolute prime of his career. Between layoffs and briefly getting released, Rodriguez actually hasn’t fought that many of the currently ranked Featherweights, so his No. 2-ranked position feels uncertain. Fortunately, he can clear the air fully with a victory here, as well as set up a showdown against Alexander Volkanovski.
On the other hand, Emmett is 37 years of age. His entire career has built up to this moment, and he’s endured some gnarly injuries to arrive at this stage. Quite simply, UFC 284 is his opportunity to become a world champion, and another chance would likely be difficult to come by.
At UFC 284, Yair Rodriguez and Josh Emmett will go to war in the co-main event. Which man walks away strapped with gold?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 284 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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