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Alexander Volkanovski vs. Yair Rodriguez full fight preview | UFC 290

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight talents Alexander Volkanovski and Yair Rodriguez will clash TONIGHT (Sat., July 8, 2023) at UFC 290 inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Volkanovski battered the Featherweight division so badly that he was awarded a free Lightweight title shot. He came within inches of dethroning Islam Makhachev but didn’t earn the nod, returning to 145-pounds without sacrificing a bit of his luster. Now, the Australian champion looks to reestablish his grip on the title picture and unify the title once again. Standing opposite him is “Pantera,” one of the most gifted fighters to ever step into the Octagon. His athletic talent didn’t always equate to elite victories, but Rodriguez seems to be in the best fighting form of his career in the last couple years. He differs wildly from the usual MMA mold, and we’ll see if that style matches up well with the champion.

Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:

Alexander Volkanovski

Record: 25-2
Key Wins: Max Holloway (UFC 276, UFC 251, UFC 245), Brian Ortega (UFC 266), Jose Aldo (UFC 237), Chad Mendes (UFC 232), Chan Sung Jung (UFC 273)
Key Losses: Islam Makhachev (UFC 284)
Keys to Victory: Volkanovski is a strategist with the well-rounded skill set and top-tier athleticism necessary to adjust to even elite opposition. He can crack moving forward or from his back foot, wrestle spectacularly on offense or defense, and survive even the nastiest of positions.

It’s been a while since Volkanovski really pressured an opponent into dust. Since he stepped into the championship picture, he’s largely been fighting at distance and wrestling occasionally. Against one of the sport’s meanest kickers, it’s time to pull the old game plan from the closet and get in his opponent’s face.

Volkanovski is a really smart pressure fighter. He knows how to cut off the cage in the safest manner possible, how to threaten his opponent simultaneously with takedowns and punches, and how to take advantage when their back hits the fence. Volkanovski doesn’t have to dive into the fire and walk through heavy shots to pressure — he’s better than that.

Patient pressure, kick counters, and takedowns are the path to victory for the champion.

LIVE! Watch UFC 293 PPV On ESPN+ Here!

MASSIVE MIDDLEWEIGHT MATCH! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) makes its highly anticipated return to Sydney, Australia, for the first time in five years on Sat., Sept. 9, 2023, with a 185-pound world title fight inside Qudos Bank Arena. In the ESPN+-streamed pay-per-view (PPV) main event, Middleweight roost-ruler, Israel Adesanya, plans to silence No. 5-seeded contender, Sean Strickland. In UFC 293’s hard-hitting Heavyweight co-main event, No-6-ranked fan favorite, Tai Tuivasa, locks horns with towering Russian, Alexander Volkov (No. 8).

Don’t miss a single second of EPIC face-punching action!

Yair Rodriguez

Record: 15-3
Key Wins: Josh Emmett (UFC 284), 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: Rodriguez is an absurd natural athlete with a deep background in Taekwondo. The result of that combination is an unusually deep arsenal of powerful, fast kicks that really can come from any direction. His boxing and wrestling are far less proven, but the Mexican athlete is a dangerous submission fighter, meaning he’s always capable of forcing the finish.

Rodriguez wants this fight on the feet. Specifically, he wants the exact range where he can relentlessly pummel Volkanovski’s torso with left kicks. From his first professional loss to his most recent showing against Makhachev, Volkanovski has shown that he doesn’t have any easy answer for long, powerful Southpaw left kicks.

Well, nobody does really. It’s one of the best weapons in striking, and Rodriguez has a great one.

If Rodriguez can establish his distance weapons and keep Volkanovski off him a bit, his game opens up. When “Pantera” is flowing and tying his feints together with actual lightning fast kicks, his offense is incredibly difficult to deal with. Plus, his heavy focus on body and low kicks will help slow Volkanovski, making his quickness even more spectacular.

Bottom Line

There’s only one Featherweight champion come Sunday morning.

Volkanovski is in the hunt for the current top pound-for-pound slot as well as working his way up all-time lists. Every win bolsters his argument in both, and more title defenses create further opportunities to jump to 155 lbs. and try again to claim a second title. He still looks at the top of his game, and Volkanovski clearly wants to maximize the juice he can squeeze while at this peak.

As for Rodriguez, Volkanovski’s close loss to Makhachev wouldn’t diminish the potential upset. Aside from granting Mexico a third undisputed champion, dethroning Volkanovski would be a huge moment. It’s a massive feather in Rodriguez’s cap, proof that his long journey to the belt was the correct move.

At UFC 290, Alexander Volkanovski and Yair Rodriguez will go to war in the main event. Which man leaves the cage as champion?

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 290 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard on ESPN/ESPN+/ABC at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 290: “Volkanovski vs. Rodriguez” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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