The 24-year-old rising UFC featherweight Yair Rodriguez was given a step up in competition at UFC 211 in May and while the table was set for “El Pantera” to use Frankie Edgar as a stepping stone towards a title shot, Rodriguez was battered and bruised on route to a second round loss via doctor stoppage. The setback was Rodriguez’s first since entering the UFC in 2014. The loss was one sided and proof that Rodriguez is still developing and still has holes in his games. With a little less than a month away until UFC Fight Night in Mexico City, Rodriguez won’t be taking part, but he certainly will be present as fans wonder what’s next.
One option would be Chan Sung Jung who was scheduled to face Ricard Lamas at UFC 214, but withdrew citing an injury. Should Jung recover in timely fashion, we could be in store for some fireworks in a potential bout involving a knock out artist facing a submission artist who is nicknamed “The Korean Zombie” for good reason. Rodriguez is known for putting his opposition to sleep, while Jung is one of the most difficult combatants to put away. After a four year layoff, Jung returned against Dennis Bermudez in February and displayed his zombie like ability when he recovered from nearly being finished to knocking Bermudez out in comeback fashion. Seeing as Jung is unlikely to pose a threat for a take down, it’s a no brainer to set up a bout between the fifth and sixth ranked featherweights.
Cub Swanson didn’t receive the news he wanted from UFC president Dana White when he told the media that Frankie Edgar would be next in line for Max Holloway’s next title defense in the end of the year. Swanson last fought the much lower ranked Artem Lobov, who was game in the entertaining battle in April. Swanson is riding a four fight winning streak including 2016’s fight of the year against Doo Ho Choi last December at UFC 206. Now that his campaign for a title shot fell short, Swanson could set his focus on trying to outdo Edgar’s performance against Rodriguez. Rodriguez is a former Team Jackson-Wink member while Swanson is a longtime Jackson-Wink fighter who has an idea of Rodriguez’s further weaknesses.
The featherweight division currently has Jeremy Stephens matched up with Gilbert Melendez in Melendez’s 145 lb debut at UFC 215. Undefeated featherweight who TKO’d Clay Guida in his last outing a year ago, Brian Ortega is scheduled to fight Renato Moicano in a battle of prospects. Moicano defeated Stephens via split decision in his biggest win back in April. Dennis Bermudez is set to fight this Saturday against Darren Elkins and Ricardo Lamas will now fight Jason Knight at UFC 214. The loser of any of the upcoming bouts could be next for Rodriguez, but if you think outside of the box, there’s always someone like Jose Aldo.
Aldo is coming off a June loss against Max Holloway at UFC 212 and while the loss was via TKO, Aldo and his head trainer, Andre Pederneiras released separate statements that implied Aldo expects to be back in the title picture in due time. Aldo’s style would make for an exciting bout against Rodriguez and a win over his young counterpart could put him back in the mix. Then again, maybe Aldo is another case of too much too soon for “El Pantera.” Maybe he can participate in an exciting bout against the “Korean Superboy” whose timetable remains unknown. There are many options for Rodriguez and most if not all would make for an engaging brawl. Whoever is next for Rodriguez will be unlikely to execute the same game plan used by Edgar, which proved to be his downfall.
Rodriguez’s next bout is his to lose.