“The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America” Season 1 winner Yair Rodriguez is one of the UFC’s fastest rising stars, and his ascent may have only accelerated last weekend.
The Mexican featherweight earned the most impressive victory of his promotional tenure when he knocked out Team Alpha Male product Andre Fili 2:15 into the second round at UFC 197. Rodriguez’s first finish in the Octagon was punctuated by a spectacular leaping roundhouse kick, a maneuver that will undoubtedly wind up on most “Knockout of the Year” lists by the end of 2016.
For his efforts, Rodriguez earned his second post-fight bonus in four UFC outings. Thus far, unorthodox moves like that kick have been his calling card since joining the Las Vegas-based promotion. According to trainer Greg Jackson, being able to balance the spectacular with the fundamental will be crucial as his fighter’s career progresses.
“He’s so dynamic and so creative that balancing that creativity with strong basics so that he can go back and forth between those two is really important for his style development,” Jackson said during an appearance on The Sherdog Radio Network’s ”The Neutral Corner” show with Yves Edwards. “Just working on making sure we keep that side of him that’s very creative and explosive, but temper it a little bit...every once in a while throw a jab or a hook in there so that unpredictability doesn’t become predictable.”
Rodriguez has harnessed his talent more quickly than most of his fellow cast members on “TUF: Latin America,” a group that was largely raw and unproven. Jackson is confident that Rodriguez will continue to improve with time.
“As we develop him and as he continues to learn and grow I think we can see a more focused version of that creativity,” Jackson said. “But man, I really enjoy not knowing what he’s going to do next. We hope to keep them guessing.”
Jackson says that Rodriguez’s fighting style is something that he developed on his own. The Chihuahua native started his pro career on the Mexican circuit before joining forces with the Jackson-Wink MMA team prior to his Octagon debut at UFC 180.
“It’s a part of his personality. I think that’s who he is. He’s creative/borderline reckless on some of his stuff. We’ll see him miss things and he falls down, or he’ll get hit in between. I think that just comes from a fearless creativity that I really want to foster and I really enjoy,” Jackson said. “Our job as a team is to focus that and make it better and shore up the team.”
While Rodriguez remains a work-in-progress, Jackson is understandably excited about the featherweight’s future. The renowned trainer has been around many of the sport’s best, and he believes Rodriguez possesses that intangible quality that few have.
“I think he’s constantly trying to push himself and evolve. And he’s just got ‘it,’” Jackson said. “Some fighters have that special thing, and I think he has that special thing. If he stays focused and he continues to grow the sky’s the limit with him. One thing that sets him apart is that special talent, that fearlessness.”