Many see the bout between Brian Ortega and Yair Rodriguez as the title eliminator for the UFC featherweight belt. The winner of this matchup would come out to face the undisputed champion, Alexander Volkanovski. When talking about this division, Volk is the most dominant guy in the last decade, and the organization is searching for a suitable rival for the Aussie. Ortega did meet him recently and lost, but with a win here, Dana White would have no option but to organize a rematch. The same applies to Yair too.
T-City was so close to submitting Volkanovski at the UFC 266. Seconds and inches were separating the American from a big win, but as soon as Volk got back on his feet, Ortega didn’t stand a chance. He would lose that one via unanimous decision, which was his second career loss.
We need to say that, whenever on the mat, Ortega was making massive trouble for the champion, but on the other hand, he wasn’t confident when in stand-up because of Volkanovski’s reach and speed. T-City ate a lot of jabs and hooks, which were eventually the difference makers.
Ortega is known for his grappling and submission skills, and seven of his 15 victories have happened on the ground, while only three came via KO. His most recent victory was against Chan Sung Jung in October 2020, which was his first bout following a two-year layoff. We can see that T-City lacks fights, but if he wins tonight, that would be a signal that he is ready for another episode against Volkanovski.
This guy has the most enjoyable style in the entire division. His leg kicks are beautiful to watch, and El Pantera is one of the fan favorites. He has been an elite for a long time, but the injury issues have prevented him from becoming a challenger in the past years, as he didn’t enter the ring between October 2019 and November 2021.
His comeback was against Max Holloway, against whom he lost, after a wonderful fight. El Pantera pushed the Blessed on the brink, but ring rust was too much for him to handle, besides the fantastic former champion. Overall, the analysts were thrilled with how he looked after such a long pause, and it was immediately apparent that the UFC would put him in the main event in his next bout.
El Pantera isn’t very gifted on the mat, and he didn’t post a single submission win since joining the UFC, but when it comes to stand-up fighting, he is one of the best. Incredibly efficient and lethal leg kicks are his trademark, but he is also very dangerous with boxing. Rodriguez has a very rich fighting background, winning in the past against BJ Penn, Chan Sung Jung, Jeremy Stephens, Dan Hooker, and many more.
The only reason we give Ortega a slight edge here is more frequent trips to the octagon. He fought Volkanovski and has one battle more than Yair since they came back from respective pauses. Also, he was in the training regime an entire year longer than the Mexican. Rodriguez is more or less limited on the ground, which opens a lot of possibilities for Ortega to finish the battle. To make it simple, T-City isn’t as bad on the feet as Rodriguez is on the ground.