“It’s just [my] style. I cannot do another style because it’s just the way that I fight. It’s the way that I’m used to fighting since I’m a kid.” ~ Yair Rodriguez
Name: Yair Rodriguez
Record: 9 – 1
Likes: Chun-Li, Helicopters
Dislikes: Efficient offense, Motion Sickness
Legend says that Yair Rodriguez came out of the womb spinning. As a child, he was entranced at a fair by the cotton candy machine. He saw it weave unorganized strands into something that everyone enjoyed, and vowed he would do the same. And so Yair decided to spin and spin till he could spin no more.
I kid (mostly, but Yair Rodriguez really is a home run for the UFC. Cain Velasquez was Mexican-American, couldn’t speak Spanish nor fight as well as Fabricio Werdum, and had tissue paper ligaments which has stalled the UFC’s hopeful foray into Mexico. Yair is a young, dynamic, native-born Mexican who also speaks fantastic English. In a league in which marketability is paramount, Yair fills up the highlight reels in ways that make promoting him an absolute joy.
Strengths: Athleticism, Improvisation, Command of Centripetal Force
To do what Yair does takes incredible athleticism. Many fighters, even those with considerable skill, look labored as they spinning or jumping strikes. Until I figure out how to put GIF files on this site, please entertain yourself with the following video which neatly encompasses Yair’s ridiculous kicking abilities.
He has the core strength and flexibility to rotate his hips into legitimate, skull rattling kicks. If we’re keeping the cotton candy machine BS going, Yair Rodriguez could give you diabetes with both feet off the ground.
And these aren’t singular, isolated strikes either. The video alone shows Rodriguez linking tapping leg kicks into full rotation switch kicks, but it doesn’t show him using missed strikes to get close enough for explosive takedown attempts or swinging arm punches. Even if the opponent dodges or blocks its clear Yair had a target in mind and made every attempt to hit it.
The ability to make an opponent believe that every strike has another equally blistering strike behind it stops Yair from being countered, a normally omnipresent risk for any wild fighter.
He’s also incredibly adept at countering takedowns. When people think about “countering” a takedown, they commonly think of an uppercut or knee intercepting the bent opponent. What Yair does is one of two things. He will either use the opponent’s moment to hit a sweep, ending up in top position or he will allow himself to be taken down in a position in which he can begin attacking off his back.
Weaknesses: Boxing, Ringcraft, Risk Taking
Yair Rodriguez is a king of one trade, pauper at nearly all others. It’s bizarre, as the skill he’s chosen to polish is excessively difficult, yet he lacks in oh so many basics.
For one, Yair does not know how to box. It’s important to make this distinction for newer fans, but punching and boxing are different. Yair can certainly punch; he will throw his fists by themselves or linked off kicks with enough force to decapitate his opponent. But he doesn’t understand how to set up his punches or economize movement to increase his connection rate. His punching combinations involve him wading forward rather than advancing, winging powerful punches rather than picking his shots.
His lack of ring positioning and aggression were on full display against Alex Caceres.
For all his spinning, Yair couldn’t land anything significant. Even with Caceres’s habit of swaying like a palm tree in a typhoon from glancing blows, even casual viewers realized Yair was hitting air. Caceres simply retreated on a line or moved laterally every time he saw Yair gearing up to hit him, and was well out of range of any real damage. And it was clear that Yair didn’t understand how to land, and instead resorted to fancier techniques, which became progressively less effective. Interestingly, Yair did the exact same thing when Caceres attempted his own inefficient offense. Being unable to get close enough or herd experienced opponents into his flashy strikes and galloping away from any sign of danger, Yair is a tier below other flashy fighters.
Cub Swanson pairs cartwheel kicks and winging haymakers with excellent head movement and beautiful counters to deter advancing opponents. Conor McGregor uses his spinning heel kick and bicycle kick almost exclusively to keep opponents from moving laterally and out of the sweet spot of his left hand.
Yair Rodriguez is like a middle schooler driving a Maserati; he’s got the juice but no idea how to use it.
What’s Next: BJ Penn
BJ Penn is the greatest lightweight in mixed martial arts history and the perfect antithesis to Yair Rodriguez. His nickname was “The Prodigy”, and for good reason.
I am being dead serious when I say that BJ is the best boxer to ever step foot in the octagon. He can throw his jab from anywhere smoothly and relaxed, yet retain the type of power that swells eyes and shatters noses. His right hand never reached the legendary status of Takanori Gomi’s, but just like his jab he could throw it from anywhere and stop opponents in their tracks. Sean Sherk was, by every measurable standard, a better athlete than BJ. His punches had obscene power and his hand speed was unbelievable yet he couldn’t touch BJ, while seemingly pitter patter strikes from the champion reduced his face to a bloody visage.
Despite his glory days behind him, BJ is still an absolute monster of a grappler. Before his gas tank failed him and he gave away the third round for a draw, BJ took down and dominated Jon Fitch. He took down a gigantic (even by welterweight standards) wrestling phenom and held him there, even as he was an undersized lightweight.
Yair faces a fighter who is everything he is not.
Whereas Yair is flashy and fiery, BJ is strategic and economical. Where his boxing is heavy on power and light on technique, BJ’s is tempered but efficient. When Yair darts away from a potential threat, BJ will stand and counter with heavy leather.
This Sunday, we will see if there is substance to Yair Rodriguez’s flash.
Want to share your opinion? Why not write for us?