Yair Rodriguez and Alex Caceres do what they do unconventionally best for UFN 92 this August 6, 2016 at the Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.
One sentence summary
David: Alas, the first non-disappointing action event of the summer (directed by .
Phil: Wheeee a fun silly spinning fight that will convince any new people watching it that MMA is a quite different sport to the one it actually is
Record: Yair Rodriguez 7-1 Alec Caceres 12-8-1 NC
Odds: Yair Rodriguez -290 Alex Caceres +260
Introduction / HIstory of both fighters
David: Rodriguez is like a Jackie Chan film: in the same way Chan brought a sense of playfulness and craft to action that has never been replicated,and has never since been replicated, Yair is bringing the same element of joy and fun that MMA is so often missing inside the cage. He's not Sage Northcutt: an entertaining action hero who is more product and punchline than professional. He's simply a joy. My only hope is that, like Chan, he meets a nemesis as entertaining as Benny the Jet. Unfortunately Caceres is no Urquidez.
Phil: The UFC have been far beyond driven in their quest for a bona fide Latin American star. Is Rodriguez becoming the one? Andre Fili was the big test, but he got slaughtered, and thus Rodriguez continues to rise, and here he gets some uplift with his first main event. Caceres doesn't exactly represent a new level for the mexican fighter, but he has made a bit of a career out of sneaky upsets, and this love for flashy striking may conceivably backfire on Rodriguez, as it kind of did on Sergio Pettis. Worth remembering that each round will be five minutes alone, and when you walk to the cage, no matter how much hype you have or how fun you are to watch... yesterday don't mean shit.
David: Speaking of punchlines, Caceres seemed like one early in his career: another Jamie Yaeger with more charisma but just as much fighting talent. To be fair,our analysis came from TUF early on, which is notoriously a bad place to judge fighters. Somewhere along the way, he flipped a switch that allowed him to be a little more goal oriented inside the cage.
Phil: Caceres has turned into an odd fan favourite. He has a bit of that Hunt / Krylov / Latifi magic: eccentric appeal mixed with low expectations which he greatly exceeded. The difference between him and someone like "The Chosyn 1" wasn't just in quality of nickname but in toughness: Yeager bombed out of the UFC because he folded under pressure. Caceres kept grinning through the blood, even when he was getting battered around the cage by the bigger and more athletic Michael Johnson.
What's at stake?
David: Ratings? Yair could make some noise in the division, and clamor for high profile fights. But ultimately these guys got stuck in the Mortal Kombat bowl for one reason: to entertain us. Anything less than a Donnie Yen action scene would be a disappointment, and some stern words from Uncle Dana.
Phil: Just another example of the increasingly excellent idea of putting relatively unknown but consistently exciting lighter weight talents as main events for these cards. It doesn't mean a whole lot, but give me this all day over something like Arlovski-Nelson 2, which is the kind of fight you'd be expecting to be in this spot a year or two ago.
Where do they want?
David: Rodriquez wants the fight wherever his toes take him. He's the twinkle in Frank Trigg's eyes. What impresses me most about Rodriquez is how well he makes such a dangerous style work. He's doing Raid maneuvers against mixed martial artists who know better than to be controlled by the director of photography. His dizzying attack is supported by where he chambers each unconventional strike: when he's out of position, he's throwing something that doesn't even have a name, and when he is in position, he's in proximity to reset. It's a wonderful cycle of violence, but it's not without its flaws. His ground game is fine; in fact, he's above average for what it's designed to do (back to the fight, or used for pressure).
Phil: Rodriguez, at least at the moment, represents a style of fighter which is near-guaranteed to pick up thrilling wins... until it hits a wall like Wil E Coyote. Is Caceres that wall?
Almost everything in Rodriguez' game is rooted in his legs. He has very little boxing, but compensates with quick footwork that allows him to keep at long range. He can generate drive on counter takedowns on opponents who charge in too far, and obviously throws a dizzying whirl of silly kicks, from tornado kicks to cartwheels to the flying switch kick he used to knock out Andre Fili. His legs are really what makes him such a dangerous fighter on the ground as well; working as levers for sweeps and flexible pincers for backtakes in a slightly similar manner to TJ Dillashaw. He lacks a singular low-risk strike to build his game around, however: the closest thing he has is a short, chopping calf kick.
David: Caceres is a less violent version of Rodriquez. Yair throws his strikes like they were coordinated by GG Allin. Caceres throws his strikes like they were coordinated by Ivan Pavlov.
There's a very earnest fluidity to the way Caceres attacks with his punches and kicks. That's when his game changed; when he decided to use his arsenal in chunks rather than clumps.
Phil: I was a little worried at how Caceres would do at featherweight: a lot of his success at bantamweight looked like it had been enabled by being huge and tough and able to keep a good pace. I'm higher on his chances after seeing how he fought against Cole Miller, and here's why: I think Caceres' striking style works much better against people who are around his height.
It's the Gustafsson issue: he stands tall, so against short people he was always punching downwards and getting tagged by overhands and head kicks, and tended to overuse the uppercut. This was reinforced by the way that the MMA Lab is not really a place which is notable for teaching people hard, stinging jabs, so opponents were happy to trade. Now, though, with height parity his jab and cross are finding new life.
Aside from this, Caceres is not exactly immune to doing crazy shit. He has his own selection of nonsense kicks, including the by-now default tornado kick; he's a decent offensive wrestler; although he concedes the takedown too readily he's a deft scrambler and attacks the back extremely well. Double punch! Superman punch into bodylock slam.
David: Is it just me or does the perspective of the camera make it look like Caceres is performing that combo with five legs?
Insight from past fights?
David: Rodriquez vs. Fili tells us a lot about Yair's technical problems. One of the things I harped on Holly over was her lack of inside movement. Back and forth movement is good on the outside. It's awful in close quarter combat. Rodriquez does the same crap; moving straight in or straight back when closing the distance. Fili caught him a couple of times because he's not moving laterally inside. Even Ross Pearson, who I don't consider a master craftsmen of defense, moves well enough laterally to avoid getting completely bombed. That Masvidal loss would have been a lot of worse if he fought inside like Yair. Thankfully, Yair knows enough to stay outside, but better boxers will punish him
Phil: Caceres has gotten kicked in the head a lot. Like a lot. Pettis and Figueroa are the notable ones I can remember. Add to this his slightly concerning tendency to take his eye off the ball at any point in the fight (sometimes early, sometimes late, but almost always at some point) and you have someone who could very well spring the upset, but is a dangerous pick in a 5-rounder against a dynamic finisher.
Phil: Caceres seems to attract poor regulatory luck. I'm referring to his double(!) point deduction against Figueroa and his weed suspension (sigh) against Kyung Ho Kang.
David: If both should land simultaneous flying tiger knees ending in a double knockout, I want you to have totally expected it.
Phil: I am less high on Rodriguez than many others. Caceres is very capable of asking him questions which opponents thus far haven't been able to. However, even though I do believe Caceres can do it, he's only a good athlete and Rodriguez is a great one. Rodriguez has a silly style, but at least he's consistent, and that's something that you can't say of Mr Leeroy. There are many ways this could go but I think a sadly likely one is that Caceres has one of his common slow starts and gets booted upside the head. I really hope not, because this fight could be truly ridiculous fun, but Yair Rodriguez by TKO, round 1.
David: I agree about Rodriguez. A lot of his game needs to be cleaned up before we start the bandwagon's engine, but this is the perfect fight to help him build confidence, as well as his brand. To the extent UFC fighters under Zuffa have any freedom of branding themselves to begin with. Caceres has a lot of the same defensive problems, so all else being equal, I have go with the guy with more power and urgency. Yair Rodriguez by TKO, round 2.