The UFC Mexico main-event will see the highly-touted contender Yair Rodriguez take on the destructive veteran Jeremy Stephens.
It’s easy to forget just how odd Yair’s road through the UFC up until this point has been.
Demolishing a massively-deteriorated BJ Penn was enough to earn him a crack at the division’s perennial contender Frankie Edar – a challenge that was a huge ask of the young Mexican at the time.
Edgar, of course, ran through El Pantera on his way to a brutal second-round doctor’s stoppage and with that, one of the sport’s most promising prospects was sent back to the drawing board.
Facing the fan-favourite Chan Sung Jung in his return, Rodriguez was one second away from falling to back-to-back defeats – saving himself with one of the greatest and most bizarre knockouts in the history of the sport.
Commendable, yes, but there are understandably a large portion of the MMA fanbase who are yet to be convinced of this man’s potential for greatness.
Jeremy Stephens has historically been the guy who will put that to the test.
Hard-hitting, incredibly tough, and with an ability to make you pay for even the slightest mistake, I’m very interested to see how Yair’s somewhat reckless style matches up against his opponent’s fight-ending capabilities.
Although stranded in something of a ‘gatekeeper’ role within the division, Stephens is no slouch and in the last five or so years, only the upper-echelon talents have been able to get by – with the likes of Doo-Ho Choi, Josh Emmett, Renan Barao, and Gilbert Melendez losing out.
We know what Stephens is going to bring. The question for me is where Yair stands within the 145lb landscape right now.
He’s undoubtedly talented – something that going toe-to-toe with The Korean Zombie showed us, but will the massive expectations that come with headlining an event in the Mexican capital prove too much?
Who knows, but from a stylistic perspective, this contest is extremely interesting.
As dynamic as Yair is, it’s hard to know whether he’ll have the stopping power necessary to dissuade Stephens from pressuring him.
Jeremy can be phenomenal in those tight exchanges and with a loose and speedy style to contend with, I believe that early on his raw punching power will be enough to make Rodriguez think twice whenever he is getting ready to spring with one of his wild striking techniques.
I think Stephens is going to catch him hard in one of those moments after a few back-and-forths that allow Rodriguez to feel his ferocity.
Prediction: Jeremy Stephens by second-round TKO.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena