Analysis, Picks, Betting Tip – UFC Fight Night: Rodriguez vs. Caceres

Yair Rodriguez

With UFC 202, arguably the biggest card of the year, just over the horizon it’s off to the memorably named Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah for your MMA fix this weekend as the UFC puts on its latest Fight Night event.

And I’ll have to be honest, it’s not a great one.

The card is filled from top to bottom with largely unranked fighters in mostly forgettable match-ups, on paper at least. But the people of Utah want MMA, so it’s MMA they shall get.

Atop the card is undoubtedly the pick of the litter as featherweight (kinda) prospects Yair Rodriguez and Alex Caceres throw down in front of what I’m sure will be a jam-packed 20,000 person capacity arena.

Fighting out of the famed team Jackson/Winklejohn gym in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Rodriguez comes into this fight as one of the most hyped young fighters in MMA today.

At 23 years-old, Rodriguez has already eight fights and five years of experience under his belt. Entering the UFC through the TUF: Latin America house, Rodriguez won his season of the show and brought his record to 4-1 in doing so. He improved that further with a split decision win against scrappy American Charles Rose while victories over Daniel Hooker and Andre Fili established him as one really worth keeping an eye on.

His opponent on Saturday night, Alex Caceres, could have been placed under that bracket during the course of the last few years. Like Rodriguez, Caceres is a TUF alum and debuted in the UFC in 2011 having appeared on the 12th season of the show.

Now with fourteen UFC fights under his belt, 28 year-old Caceres is quickly approaching the stage of his career where it’s now or never when it comes to the championship picture. The American has solid wins over the likes of Cole Miller, Sergio Pettis and Damacio Page but losses to Jimy Hettes, Cisco Rivera and, most notably, Urijah Faber have stopped Caceres from vaulting himself to the next level. On Saturday, he gets another stab at doing that.

Alex Caceres Bruce LeeRoy Lee roy

When watching and assessing these two as fighters it’s funny to see the opposite trajectory they have taken in the way they go about things.

Caceres used to be a fighter who was loose, relaxed and free but now is becoming more set in a rhythm and straightforward. While Rodriguez used to be a little bit nervous but is getting wilder, more varied and willing to let his shots go with every additional second of experience.

Caceres fights very well out of the southpaw stance and has developed his game massively over recent years. As a striker, his game is all about pressure and combinations. He loves to take the front foot before jabbing, hooking and kicking the the body and head. Working under John Crouch and the folks at the MMA Lab, Caceres’ defensive ability has also improved hugely with his headwork being a big factor in his ability to, not only protect himself, but use his offence better too. Although he’s not the best wrestler or submission guy around, he is more than capable of the ground although that’s not likely to be too much of a factor on Saturday, defensively at least.

Rodriguez, as mentioned above, it much more complicated. Even his stance is complicated. Is he a southpaw? Is he orthodox? I’m too too sure. Whichever stance he fights out of he looks equally adequate and adds to that ambidextrous agility with an uncanny ability to thrown shots from whatever position he finds himself in due to his phenomenal movement and technique.

As a Taekwondo blackbelt you would expect a kick-heavy offence from Rodriguez but he takes it to another level. He throws kicks at a rate which other people usually throw punches. His oblique kicks, straights to the body, switch kicks, roundhouse and wheel kicks are all seen with regularity and extreme danger. His hands can be devastating too but are often used as a fall-back. On the ground, he has very good jiu-jitsu and a nasty top game – which he often needs to show because the wild kicks see him regularly hit the canvas.

As a styles clash, this will almost assuredly be easy on the eye. Unless Caceres attempts to catch Rodriguez and put him on his back (which he probably should), and maybe even regardless of it, expect a furious fight on the feet.

Caceres will come with his pressure, try to close the distance and land straight lefts down the middle while Rodriguez will be on his bike, circling around trying to land one of his encyclopedia of kicks.

And although Caceres’ defensive ability has improved a lot recently, it has never come up against anything akin to what Caceres will bring. For those reasons, and the fact that Caceres’ punching power doesn’t seem a likely path to victory, I think this one will last a few rounds but, in the end, will see the wonderful striking of Yair Rodriguez win through.

After that I fancy Cub Swanson to bounce back and beat Tatsuya Kawajiri in an exciting fight while Dennis Bermudez also needs a big win against Rony Jason in what could be an important night in the middle-tier of the featherweight landscape.


Yair Rodríguez vs. Alex Caceres – Fun fight ends in a big Yair KO
Dennis Bermudez vs. Rony Jason – Fancy Bermudez to get the stoppage
Thales Leites vs. Chris Camozzi – Leites gets it down and submits Camozzi
Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Zak Cummings – Ponzi decision
Trevor Smith vs. Joe Gigliotti – Smith decision
Maryna Moroz vs. Danielle Taylor – Moroz submission

Court McGee vs. Dominique Steele – McGee
Viktor Pešta vs. Marcin Tybura – Tybura
David Teymur vs. Jason Novelli – Teymur
Teruto Ishihara vs. Horacio Gutiérrez – Teruto

Cub Swanson vs. Tatsuya Kawajiri – Cubby
Chase Sherman vs. Justin Ledet – Sherman


Rodriguez via TKO/KO at 7/4


Early Prelims – 12am on Fight Pass

Prelims – 1am on BT Sport 2 & Fight Pass

Main Card – 3am on BT Sport 2

For more analysis on this weekend’s event check out the Severe MMA Podcast:

Podcaster, lead MMA writer and analyst for SevereMMA. Host of the SevereMMA podcast, out every Sunday. Economics and Mathematics graduate from UCC. Also write for Sherdog. Previously of hov-mma and fightbooth. As heard on 2FM, Red FM, Today FM and more. Follow me on twitter for updates @SeanSheehanBA and on Facebook


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