Connect with us


UFC Fight Night: Holloway v Rodriguez Predictions

Fireworks are guaranteed when former featherweight champion Max Holloway faces fellow top contender and dangerous striker Yair Rodriguez in a pivotal main event showdown at UFC Vegas 42 on Saturday night, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

Fireworks are guaranteed when former featherweight champion Max Holloway faces fellow top contender and dangerous striker Yair Rodriguez in a pivotal main event showdown at UFC Vegas 42 on Saturday night, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

Heavyweights take centre stage in the co-headliner at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas as veteran Ben Rothwell battles Marcos Rogerio de Lima. Also on tap, former title challenger Felicia Spencer welcomes Leah Letson back to the Octagon in a featherweight contest and young Chinese star Song Yadong tests his mettle against Julio Arce in a bantamweight bout.

The rest of the main card took a beating this week with two tilts being cancelled – the light heavyweight clash between Ovince Saint Preux and Philipe Lins and the middleweight affair between Roman Dolidze and Kyle Daukaus. However, it’s led to a strong contender for Fight of the Night honours to be bumped up as lethal welterweights Miguel Baeza and Khaos Williams are now set to start things off with a bang.

MAIN CARD (from 11 PM Saturday SA time):

Max Holloway (1.31) v Yair Rodriguez (5.00) (Featherweight)

The fan-friendly main event is a meeting between two of the best strikers in the featherweight division, with the winner set to punch his ticket to a title fight. Not only has Holloway (22-6) been at the top of the mountain before, he’s the consensus greatest featherweight of all time, while Rodríguez (13-2-1NC) is ravenous in his pursuit of UFC gold.

The fighting pride of Hawaii, No.1-ranked Holloway is a special fighter. “Blessed” is a striking machine unlike any other when it comes to accuracy and output. Look no further than his last fight as a showcase of his greatness. Taking on a surging Calvin Kattar in January, he set eight UFC records, including for the most significant strikes landed in a fight – an outrageous 445.

The five-round masterclass saw the judges score the lopsided bout 50-43, 50-43, 50-42, which equalled Rich Franklin’s win over David Loiseau in 2006 as the most one-sided scorecard in UFC history. As the ultimate awe-inspiring flex, Holloway looked at the commentators at Octagon-side and proclaimed “I’m the best boxer in the UFC” while dodging punches!

It was one of the greatest individual performances in MMA history, but make no mistake, it was an evolution of his elite striking rather than an isolated clinic and showed Holloway’s hunger to regain the belt from Alexander Volkanovski, who dethroned him in 2019 and retained the title with a controversial split decision in their rematch last July.

The 29-year-old has no weaknesses – his takedown defence is phenomenal and his jiu-jitsu is more than adequate and has earned him two wins by submission. If there’s one attribute he lacks, it’s punching power, but his tireless pace and ruthlessness have earned him 10 knockouts.

Third-ranked Rodríguez (13-2-1NC) has Swiss army knife-like layers of striking weapons. Over and above being a taekwondo black belt, he’s as creative and unpredictable as they come, which makes him a threat from the first second to the last.

His win over Chan Sung Jung in 2018 is a great case study for this high-stakes headliner. With “The Korean Zombie” leading the dance and seconds away from a decision win, Rodriguez uncorked a ridiculous, one-of-a-kind elbow to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and scoop the Knockout of the Year honors.

Should he thus be a step behind Holloway on the feet as expected, he has a few magic bullets in the chamber that could see him pull off an upset at any time. With four knockouts and three submissions, he’s well-rounded as well but this will be a striking war, where a taaahewo-inch reach advantage is a welcome edge for the Mexican underdog.

Originally scheduled to scrap in July, Holloway was forced out due to injury, which prolonged Rodriguez’s inactivity. He hasn’t fought since recording a decision win over Jeremy Stephens in October 2019, which makes this tall task that much more challenging.

Prediction: A sharper Holloway should piece up “El Pantera” to earn another shot at the belt. Rodriguez has the renowned Mexican fighting spirit, which should see the fight go long. I’m backing Holloway via decision, with a late TKO being the other possibility.

Best Bet: Over 3.5 rounds at 1.66.

Alternative Bet: Holloway by decision at 2.00. As special as “Blessed” is, this is a gulf of a line! Rodriguez is ranked third for a reason and with his aforementioned magic bullets, more than a few punters will sprinkle something on him in the hopes that he can produce another mind-blowing knockout at 11.00.

Ben Rothwell (1.66) v Marcos Rogerio de Lima (2.30) (Heavyweight)

One of very few fighters with over 50 bouts of experience, Rothwell (39-13) is a wily veteran. He’s crafty on the feet and slick on the ground. He has more knockouts (28) than De Lima (18-7-1) has fought and is showing little signs of slowing down. 

He’s done an excellent job of fending off young lions, winning three of his last four, the latest coming in May when he tapped out Chris Barnett for his seventh submission victory. From an age-gap standpoint, the 40-year-old will appreciate being matched up with an opponent who’s just four years his junior.

De Lima (18-7-1) is primarily a striker with 13 of his wins coming by knockout. He was also last in action in May and outpointed Maurice Green to get back in the win column. Three tendencies have hampered the Brazilian throughout his career. Firstly, he’s never won two fights in a row in his seven-year tenure in the UFC.

“Pezio” also has a definite ceiling as he’s consistently defeated unheralded foes and fallen short against big-name opponents, plus, five of his seven losses are by submission. Rothwell is among the big names in the division and he should be able to exploit De Lima’s sub-par submission defence.

Prediction: Rothwell via submission.
Best Bet: Rothwell at 1.66.

Alternative Bet: Rothwell by submission at 6.50. 

Felicia Spencer (1.32) v Leah Leston (2.40) (Featherweight)

It’s been three years since Letson (5-1) last fought due to health issues and drawing a perennial top contender like Spencer (8-3) as a comeback opponent is a tough one. Spencer may be on a two-fight losing skid, but one was in a title fight against two-weight champion Amanda Nunes and the other was by split-decision against a surging Norma Dumont.

“Feenom” is a grappler and a submission specialist, with half of her wins coming by tap out. She’s a bit of a sitting duck if she can’t take the fight to the ground. Letson is a striker and even though she has three knockouts to her name, Spencer has the best chin in the division, which allowed her to go the distance with Nunes as well as Cris Cyborg, so if it stays standing, “Nidas” will likely win on the scorecards.

However, Spencer should be able to put Letson on her back and either sinks in a submission or rack up ground control time to pick up a decision victory.

Prediction: Spencer via submission.
Best Bet: Spencer by submission at 4.25.
Alternative Bet: Spencer by decision at 1.95

Song Yadong (1.76) v Julio Arce (2.10) (Bantamweight)

While we have a pair of balanced bantamweights, both prefer to duke it out on the feet, so expect a fast and technical striking duel.

That this fight has the closest line of the main card is indicative of how competitive Arce (17-4) has been in the UFC. His only two losses in the promotion came by split decision and a stoppage win over Andre Ewell in July (his fifth career KO) after a lengthy lay-off earned him this opportunity against a ranked opponent. 

Coming off a win over Casey Kenney in August, Yadong (17-5-1-1NC) is perched in the top 15. He has six knockouts to his credit but it’s his speed that should be the deciding factor as Arce has never been stopped by strikes. The 23-year-old from China is cobra-like in his movement in and out of scoring range and should outpoint his American adversary.

Prediction: Yadong via decision.
Best Bet: Yadong at 1.76.
Alternetive Bet: Yadong by decision at 2.30.

Miguel Baeza (1.68) v Khaos Williams (2.25) (Welterweight)

This fight should’ve been on the main card to begin with as it promises to be a barnburner. Both men are marauders who throw caution to the wind and try to get their opponent out of there in the most spectacular way possible. This shared savage mentally have earned them plenty of performance bonuses and their elevation to the main card will be further fuel to their fire to come away with the Fight of the Night honours.

Powerful and dynamic strikers, Baeza (10-1) boasts seven knockouts, while half of Williams’ dozen wins are by KO.

They had mixed fortunes in their last bouts in June, the former suffering his first loss to Santiago Ponzinibbio and the latter getting a win over Matt Semelsberger.

Baeza’s best weapon is his punishing leg kicks that pop the tyres of his adversary. Those will cause Williams (12-2) problems and make him susceptible to getting caught by the more technical “Caramel Thunder”, which is exactly what I’m expecting to happen.

Prediction: Baeza via knockout.

Best Bet: Baeza at 1.68.

Alternative Bet: Baeza via knockout at 3.50. 

Quintin Van Jaarsveld is a former MDDA-Sanlam SA Local Sports Journalist of the Year and a former three-time Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal Sports Journalist of the Year. Formerly the sports editor and Outstanding Journalist of the Year award winner at The Fever Media Group, deputy editor at eHowzit, editor at and senior staff writer at, he boasts over 15 years’ experience and is currently a freelance sports writer.

More in UFC