Will it be "and still" or "and new" for the featherweight championship being handled between Alexander Volkanovski (25-2) and Yair Rodriguez (15-3) in UFC 290? The long-reigning champion has some fresh blood to look forward to and will look to defend his title for the fifth time this go-around, meanwhile, Rodriguez attempts to unify the titles and become champion after winning the interim championship earlier this year.
Volkanovksi returns to featherweight after trying to achieve greatness, but coming up short in his trial to become double-champ after suffering his first loss in nearly a decade in a close fight against the lightweight champion, Islam Makhachev. In his title run and UFC career, he has defeated legends and notable names such as Max Holloway, Jose Aldo, Brain Ortega, Chan Sung Jung, and others.
Rodriguez became the third Mexican champion in the UFC by defeating Josh Emmett via arm triangle submission in the second round. He will be joining his country's counterpart and the flyweight champion on the card, Brandon Moreno, who will defend his title in the co-main event. The former The Ultimate Fighter Champion has had a long journey to reach the top but now that he's here looks to seize the moment and be the first fighter in the UFC to stop the champion and the third person to defeat him.
Alex Volkanovski vs. Yair Rodriguez prediction
Volkanovski is the undisputed featherweight champion, is the No. 2 Men's pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC, and remains undefeated in his division. In his tenure as king at 145 lbs. he continues to dominate and improve in all areas of his fighting game making him extremely well-rounded and the ultimate challenge to defeat. He outstruck and dismantled one of the best strikers in the world known as Max Holloway, and handled his own and found success in grappling situations against one of the greatest grapplers in the world hence Islam Makhachev.
The champion seems to be levels above his competition as he's proven in previous title bouts and this fight against Rodriguez it looks like the same will occur. Rodriguez proves to be a tough fight to prepare for due to his kickboxing, uniqueness in style, and timely explosiveness, but it won't be anything Volkanovski hasn't seen before considering he trains with one of the more gifted kickboxers and strikers, Israel Adesanya.
Rodriguez is a one-of-a-kind fighter that presents threats early on with his devastating body kicks and head kicks, which later setups his other dangerous weapons. Early on in his UFC career he capitalized on his frantic pace and created unpredictable chaos for his opponents, but in his previous interim title fight against Josh Emmett, he was composed and calculated showing a maturity to his style.
The No. 1 contender and interim featherweight champ has only been scheduled for five rounds four times in the past, and on three of those occasions, his opponents have not been read the scorecards. The singular time Rodriguez reached the end of the fifth round and heard the tally of the three judges was in a war against former champion, Max Holloway. Rodriguez will be looking to hurt Volkanovski early and often to avoid going the distance, and halting the champion's ability to adapt and recover.
Volkanovski early on will use his composure and fight IQ to identify Rodriguez's weaknesses and attack from there. The champion's impressive striking accuracy and outstanding striking defense will be in full effect because I believe this will be a standup war where accuracy and volume will go against power. The question is which tactic will deliver more damage and at this time I lean Volkanovski through the later rounds will pull away and earn a unanimous decision, and successfully defend his title for the fifth time.
Prediction- Alex Volkanovski via unanimous decision