Yair Rodriguez Wins His Way Down the Featherweight Ladder

Yair RodriguezAt UFC 197 last April, Yair Rodriguez took on Andre Fili in what was the stiffest test of his professional mixed martial arts career, and he won that bout by second-round knockout, scoring one of the best knockouts of the year. The victory earned him a main event slot in his next outing, although rather than climbing up the rankings, he took on an unranked opponent in Alex Careres and defeated him by split decision following five entertaining rounds of action that earned both fighters an extra $50k for ‘Fight of the Night’ honors. Many felt a victory over Caceres in his first main event slot and a five-fight winning streak inside the Octagon would earn the Mexican featherweight a crack at a Top 10 ranked opponent, but the UFC had other plans. They pitted him against a legend. A Hall of Famer. They matched him up with BJ Penn in the former champion’s return to the Octagon. Rather than see a climb up the rankings, Rodriguez took another step down with this matchup. The fact that Penn is a Hall of Famer does not change that fact. Any hardcore fight fan would tell you that this was going to be a completely one-sided affair. The Rodriguez versus Penn matchup made absolutely zero sense, no matter which way you looked at it. The only reasonable explanation is that the UFC wanted the outcome we witnressed on Sunday night. For Penn’s return to the Octagon, matchmakers should have given him an opponent closer to his current skill leven and/or age. Throwing a 38-year-old on a three-fight losing streak against a 24-year-old monster on a five-fight winning streak only tells the world you really dislike the veteran and want to see him hurt. Rodriguez was in complete control of the contest and ended up defeating Penn via TKO early in the second round of action. The victory will now hopefully earn him a ranked opponent his next time out. Had he continued climbing up the featherweight ladder rather than down it following the win over Fili, he would have potentially worked his way into the division’s Top 5 by now.

Written by Gabe Killian

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