Yair Rodriguez’s Method Behind The Madness

Yair Rodriguez High Kick

Yair Rodriguez vs. B.J. Penn – UFC Fight Night 103

From a betting perspective, we have the opportunity to start 2017 with the best foot forward, and it all begins with the upcoming Sunday edition of UFC Fight Night in Phoenix. Thankfully, the UFC allowed us a fortnight to recover from the emotional rollercoaster that was UFC 207. Now, look forward to a UFC Fight Night with plenty of rising talent, most notably the impressive Yair Rodriguez who faces off against MMA legend B.J. Penn in his return to the UFC.

UFC Fight Night 103 marks the first time B.J. Penn enters the octagon since losing to Frankie Edgar in July 2014 and just the third time since December 2012. Penn has been in the fight business for 15 years now and has racked up as many accolades in the UFC as he has in frequent flyer points.

BJ Penn’s Accolades on Tapology

Penn is renowned for attaining his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt in just three years, a feat which earned himself the nickname ‘The Prodigy’. His grappling expertise carried through to mixed martial arts, and he cemented himself as one of the greatest fighters in UFC history. It’s crazy to think that a fighter who was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in 2015 is still fighting to this day. His legacy will be forever contained within the world of mixed martial arts. As of 2017, however, facing off against the phenomenal up-and-coming fighter in Yair Rodriguez, was probably not what he had in mind.

Yair Rodriguez is undefeated through his first five bouts in the UFC after winning The Ultimate Fighter: Season One in the Featherweight division. In every sport, there are the one or two athletes you ‘need to know’, because they are likely to transcend to the top of the sport – Yair Rodriguez could very well be that athlete for the UFC. While Rodriguez is yet to be thrown into the UFC spotlight just yet, he’s taken promotion into his hands by claiming the UFC 197 Performance of the Night Award for knocking out Andre Fili and being awarded the UFC 188 Fight of the Night Award in his electrifying fight against Charles Rosa. Take a look at the knockout of Andre Fili below, a flying scissor kick disguised as a flying knee attempt.

The Breakdown

The problem with breaking down this fight is the unknown that surrounds B.J. Penn’s current state of health and how he has progressed through training at Jackson-Wink MMA. I’m going to make the assumption that Penn is in excellent condition for two main reasons. Firstly, Greg Jackson wouldn’t have taken Penn under his wing if he wasn’t thoroughly dedicated to the cause – they are not the type of gym to tarnish their name by potentially bringing in a unmotivated fighter. Secondly, Penn is cutting back to Featherweight which in itself is a major task. Remember when Penn battled Lyoto Machida at Heavyweight? With the assumption that Penn is in great shape, we can move forward to breaking down the skills and attributes that both of these talents bring to the table.

Rodriguez is a tricky customer, a taekwondo black belt who incorporates diverse, unorthodox and innovative striking into his stand-up game. While at first, it looks like Yair is wild and uncontrollable, there’s method to the madness which needs to be understood. Take Rodriguez’s oblique kick as an example. He uses this kick consistently to keep his opponent at a distance and establish a comfortable area to operate, similar to the side kick which Bruce Lee explains below.

The oblique kick alone, is one of the most powerful weapons in Yair’s striking toolbox. But, the evolution of martial arts and modern striking has seen Rodriguez further develop upon this strike. Depending on the opponent’s reaction, he can sweep, add a spinning kick or back-fist, punch, or evade. B.J. Penn will find it difficult to engage with Yair Rodriguez because of the way that Rodriguez plays the striking game.

Next, let’s analyse the ground game, where many would believe ‘The Prodigy’ to have a significant advantage. In the past, yes, Penn would have been able to work Rodriguez on the ground, but again, MMA has evolved. Yair is just as unorthodox on the ground as he is standing up and can either scramble in a frenzy or initiate a completely unexpected reversal on his opponent. I think Rodriguez’s natural athleticism will cause troubles on the ground for Penn, similar to how Ray Borg’s athleticism carried him past the technically sound Louis Smolka at UFC 207.

Unfortunately for fans of B.J. Penn, there’s every chance that this fight will just be the platform that Yair Rodriguez needed to continue his ascension in the sport of mixed martial arts. I’d be pleasantly surprised if B.J. Penn can withstand the constant pressure of Yair Rodriguez. I expect this fight to end up resembling the bloody affair that was Rory MacDonald vs. B.J. Penn in 2012, in which Penn was dominated in a striking contest.


Yair Rodriguez vs. B.J. Penn
Total Rounds – Under 2.5

Sunday 15th January, 04:40 GMT
Odds: +100  –  Unibet

Yair Rodriguez vs. B.J. Penn
Yair Rodriguez to Win by KO/TKO/SUB
Sunday 15th January, 04:40 GMT
Odds: -150  –  Skybet

B.J. Penn
UFC Fight Night 103
Yair Rodriguez

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