Yair Rodriguez: Five Defining Moments

By Guy Portman Nov 9, 2018


Yair Rodriguez competes in the Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight division. In his next match, the 26 year-old Mexican will face off against Chan Sung Jung, better known as “The Korean Zombie,” in the UFC Fight Night 139 main event on Nov. 10 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado.

As fight day looms, here are five moments that have come to define Rodriguez’s career to date.

Tournament Winner

Rodriguez was 4-1 as a professional when he joined the cast of The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America, in 2014. Having won his quarterfinal and semi-final bouts, “Pantera” met Nicaraguan Leonardo Morales in the tournament finale, at UFC 180 in Mexico City. Rodriguez threw some flashy strikes and attempted numerous submissions throughout the back-and-forth contest, which culminated in him being awarded the victory by unanimous decision. In becoming the tournament champion, Rodriguez earned a UFC contract.

Solidifying His Position

In his third UFC outing, Rodriguez, now 2-0 with the Nevada-based promotion, squared off against Dan Hooker. This was expected to be tough outing for the young Mexican prospect. Hooker, with 17 fights, had more than double the experience of Rodriguez. However, it was “Pantera” who dominated the clash from the get-go. His prolific output and unorthodox striking proved too much for Hooker. After three rounds of action, the judges all sided with Rodriguez. The score cards were 30-27, 30-27, 30-26.

Feeding the Hype

Rodriquez’s fourth UFC appearance was opposite fellow uber-prospect Andre Fili, at UFC 197, in Apr. 2016. The Mexican’s vaunted kicking arsenal was on full display once again. In the first frame, Rodriguez was unfazed by the American’s efforts to engage him in a boxing match. After a successful takedown, Rodriguez ended the round in side control. 2:15 into the second stanza, “Pantera” feigned a kick with his right leg, before leaping up and knocking out his opponent with a left roundhouse kick to the head. The sensational KO earned Rodriguez Performance of the Night honors.

Trouncing a Legend

Rodriguez was 5-0 in the UFC when he faced MMA legend B.J. Penn at UFC Fight Night 103 in January 2017. Penn was no match on the feet for the fan-friendly “Pantera” who used his reach advantage and kicking versatility to good effect in Round 1. Early in the second frame, Rodriguez landed a front kick, right punch combo that felled Penn. Having followed the Hawaiian to the canvas, he laid into him with a flurry of ground-and-pound until the referee waved off the contest, 24-seconds into the round.

Back to the Drawing Board

In May 2017, at UFC 211, Rodriguez, who was 6-0 with the promotion, met veteran Frankie Edgar. From the outset, “Pantera” struggled with the American’s high-output blend of boxing and wrestling, which afforded him scarce opportunity to use his strong kicking arsenal. Edgar took Rodriguez down repeatedly, and once on the mat pummelled the young prospect with a steady barrage of punches. Rodriguez hung tough, but at the cessation of Round 2, the doctor called off proceedings due to severe swelling to Rodriguez’s left eye. The defeat was the first setback of his UFC tenure and the first loss that the Mexican had suffered since December 2012. If Rodriguez was going to join the division’s elite, it was apparent that he would need to improve his takedown defense.

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