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Volkanovski Vs. Rodriguez at UFC 290

Volkanovski is one of the best featherweights in the world, but he’s never faced an opponent with Rodriguez’s creative striking and power. That makes this a unique stylistic matchup.

A clash of heads halts the action, but they’re back to work with Volk putting pressure on Rodriguez. He lands low kicks and a good right hand in combination.

Defending the Featherweight Title

Defending the featherweight title is always a big challenge, but Volkanovski’s opponent tonight is far more dangerous than most. Yair Rodriguez is a dynamic striker who recently finished Josh Emmett, and the young Mexican has the potential to ascend into a top five ranking in this division. However, Volkanovski is widely considered one of the best active pound-for-pound fighters in the world and a win against Rodriguez would further solidify that claim.

Volkanovski, who opened as a minus-400 favorite at FanDuel Sportsbook, will have the opportunity to make a statement and add to his resume in this main event on an international fight week card. The champion fought well against Islam Makhachev in his last outing and could potentially be in the conversation for the greatest featherweight of all time with a win here.

Round 1

Volkanovski pushes forward, switching stance and flashing feints early on. Yair rushes with punches and kicks but Volk avoids the damage. The champion catches a kick and takes him down, scooting into half guard. He clubs Yair with elbows as he tries to take back control, yanking him on the cage and smothering him with head pressure.

In the second frame, Yair pushes and looks for counter strikes but isn’t as effective with his offense. Volkanovski lands a couple of hard shots to the face, then sets up a triangle choke from the half guard. He smothers the young striker on the mat and finishes the round with a slam.

Yair has to find a more consistent offensive approach if he’s going to put together a significant threat against the champ. He’ll need to attack in combination instead of trying to pick off single-shot attacks from the range, and he will have to get his footwork better to prevent being taken down by Volkanovski. If he can do that, he may be able to make this a close fight.

Defending the Flyweight Title

Alexander Volkanovski is the complete package at featherweight. He has well-rounded skills, an elite gameplan, five-round cardio and an indomitable will that has helped him dominate the division for over a decade. Volkanovski even gave a good account of himself up a weight class against Islam Makhachev, and the champion is still considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Rodriguez, a dynamic striker who finished Josh Emmett in his last outing, is a formidable challenger to that rule and looks to become the first man to take down the reigning champ since Jose Aldo.

Rodriguez has a lot going for him, including imposing physicality, creative striking, and solid submission threats. However, he’s not quite at the level of someone like Volkanovski in terms of the precision of his punching and ability to close distance. He’s also been inconsistent with his footwork and lacked the kind of offensive urgency that he’ll need to make this a real title fight.

In addition, Volkanovski has the advantage in most of the grappling exchanges. He’s a superior wrestler who can control opponents with his low-leg kick that cuts off their mobility and he can finish them with crisp, clean ground-and-pound when necessary.

If he’s willing to compete with Rodriguez at range, press him up against the fence, and land his combinations, he should be able to grind away until the interim champ has nothing left to offer. Rodriguez has shown some signs of improving on the back, but he’s not yet a consistent threat from that position and could easily get caught in a triangle or armbar from Volkanovski.

Look for Volkanovski to win this in rounds three, four, or five, if you’re looking for juicy props to back on FanDuel. Rounds two and four are a safe bet at -139 and +1100, respectively. In the co-main event, Brandon Moreno defends his flyweight title against Alexandre Pantoja, a Brazilian who holds a past win over Moreno in their rivalry and who owns three straight “Performance of the Night” finishes in the UFC. He’s a solid +140 favorite on that line at Sports Interaction.

Defending the Middleweight Title

When Volkanovski steps into the Octagon he will be looking to become only the fifth middleweight champion in UFC history to defend his title multiple times. The Russian is an experienced fighter who has been a mainstay in the division and has won eight of his last nine fights.

During his rise through the ranks, Volkanovski has shown great resilience against tough opponents. He was able to neutralize Islam Makhachev’s vaunted wrestling prowess in February, and he has also been able to avoid being taken down by the likes of Holloway and Brian Ortega.

Rodriguez is a different beast than Makhachev, but it’s still not hard to see how the Georgian could be trouble for Volkanovski. The challenger has a unique striking attack that uses quick bursts of power to overwhelm his opponents, but it’s a difficult style to counter.

Regardless of what Rodriguez does in his attack, Volkanovski should be able to pick him apart with his grappling game. The champion went seven for 12 in takedowns against Rodriguez, and he was able to use the first two rounds to establish dominance on the mat and unleash hellish ground-and-pound that “El Pantera” had no answer for.

Round 3: Rodriguez tries to keep his energy up, but Volkanovski is all over him as he looks for the back. The defending champ lands a few hard elbows, and the Mexican begins to struggle to get up from his half guard. Rodriguez tries to stand, but gets tripped down into half guard again.

The defending champion is beginning to pull away, and he will likely close out the final three rounds with more dominant grappling work. Rodriguez has a lot of heart, but he will have a tough time getting a finish in this fight. He has a good submission defense, but his cardio will begin to suffer in the later rounds as he tries to stay competitive. If you’re interested in betting on this fight, look for Volkanovski wins in rounds three, four, and five. They are all available on FanDuel, and they represent fine wagers for risk-averse bettors.

Defending the Lightweight Title

The Aussie has a very good chance to add to his impressive collection of title defenses tonight and he’ll be looking to do so in the same fashion as another of the sport’s greats, a man who also came into the UFC from the featherweight division. Volkanovski’s style is very similar to Aldo’s and he’ll be hoping to surpass the former champ’s record of 18 straight wins – a streak that lasted for nearly 10 years.

In the other featured bout on the card, Brazilian Alexandre Pantoja will look to extend his reign as the number one ranked flyweight when he takes on American challenger Dricus Du Plessis. Both fighters have been very impressive this year and it’ll be interesting to see how they perform in their first encounter as opposing top contenders.

Round one: Volkanovski starts off fast, pinging Rodriguez with leg kicks and looking to use his height to his advantage. He stalks a shaky Rodriguez and lands a hard right hand in combination. He then slams him to the mat and is all over him, hammering away at his body and dropping solid ground and pound before Herb Dean calls off the fight.

Rodriguez is a dangerous opponent and has worked to improve his cardio in recent fights but it will be difficult for him to keep up with Volkanovski. The champ is very dynamic all over the cage and should be able to wear down the challenger and make him submit in the later rounds.

The main event was preceded by a pair of exciting co-main events as Brandon Moreno was eliminated by a hard-fought split decision against Alexandre Pantoja and Israel Adesanya scored a quick stoppage against Robert Whittaker. A great night of action in Las Vegas.