Yair Rodriguez and Alex Caceres didn’t bring a lot of drawing power to the UFC Fight Night 92 main event on Saturday night, but they certainly brought the fireworks to Salt Lake City, Utah.
Rodriguez entered the bout on a four-fight winning streak, looking to crack into the upper reaches of the featherweight division. Caceres, a five-year UFC veteran, was looking to earn his third consecutive victory.
Although Caceres immediately attacked with kicks, Rodriguez wasted no time taking over with an even more dynamic array of striking techniques.
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The Mexican fighter landed a jump kick to the body and followed with a jab that snapped Caceres’ head back, setting the tone for the rest of the fight. While Caceres didn’t back down, Rodriguez mesmerized him and the audience with a dizzying array of spinning techniques, most of which found their target.
One thing Rodriguez started in the first round was a lead-leg side kick that he sometimes attacked with, sometimes feinted with, and sometimes dropped into a stomp and used as a distraction. He kept it up throughout the fight, using it to great effect.
Caceres is one of the more dynamic fighters in the Octagon, particularly with his striking, but Rodriguez was a whirlwind of action, continuing to mix up his techniques at a high pace. Just when it seemed Caceres had timed his spinning attack, Rodriguez threw a reverse elbow or a short snapping backfist, overwhelming Caceres with shear volume.
Although Rodriguez was showing no signs of slowing with a strong opening to the third frame, Caceres forced him to slow down in the latter portion of the round, catching him with a punch flurry late in the round followed by a knee to the body. Rodriguez recovered and took Caceres to the canvas in the final minute-and-a-half, but Caceres scrambled into top position and rained down punches and elbows for the remainder of the round, accounting for his most damaging offense of the fight.
The close of the third round definitely took some of the wind out of Rodriguez’s sail. He became less of a risk taker with his techniques and slowed down a bit, but still managed to outstrike Caceres by about a 4-to-1 margin in the fourth frame.
Caceres never backed down, continuing to put pressure on Rodriguez as his spinning slowed, but Rodriguez dug deep in the final round and again attacked with much more volume than Caceres.
Every time Caceres landed a significant punch or a stinging kick, Rodriguez would answer with three or four of his own, staggering Caceres several times.
When the final horn sounded, the judges scored it close, but the decision fell in Rodriguez’s favor. Two judges gave Rodriguez 48-47 scores, while the third awarded the fight to Caceres by a 49-46 margin.
Having won his fifth consecutive fight, Rodriguez, currently ranked No. 13, should be taking a crack at someone in the Top 10 in his next fight, but he’s not too worried about who is next. He’s just happy knowing that he can perform in the championship rounds.
“I gonna let (the UFC) pick me a next opponent,” said Rodriguez. “It was a good opportunity for me to see where I’m at in my division.”
(Photo courtesy of UFC)