Cameron Saaiman

It isn’t often that the UFC matches up two rising prospects, but we get just that this Saturday at UFC Vegas 81, where Cameron Saaiman will take on Christian Rodriguez.

At only 22 years old, the South African product Saaiman has already gathered three victories in the UFC. Meanwhile, 25-year-old Christian Rodriguez is coming off the biggest win of his career after beating Raul Rosas Jr on the main card of UFC 287.

This should be a war between two high-level strikers who are looking to embolden their name on the UFC’s list of potential challengers to the rankings at 135 lbs.

Betting odds

This is a fight that both fighters have been calling for but the oddsmakers have dubbed Rodriguez the slight favorite in this matchup between Bantamweight prospects.

  • Christian Rodriguez: -140 (BetUS)
  • Cameron Saaiman: +110 (BetUS)

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Fight Breakdown

Christian Rodriguez is a well-rounded prospect that was put on many people’s radar after his unanimous decision win of Raul Rosas Jr. In that matchup, he showed great wrestling and grappling to largely win the ground exchanges vs the credentialed Rosas. His last few fights have seen his wrestling defense tested but in space, he’s a technically sound striker.

Rodiguez’s striking is simple but effective; he relies mainly on straight punches down the middle that he times well as his opponent comes in. He dips his head off the centerline in the exchanges to allow himself the opportunity to throw more than one shot at a time while still avoiding damage from his opponent. He mixes in a good high guard to block the combinations of his opponent when they start first while peaking through, ready to fire back with his own offense.

His striking arsenal has seemed to be limited to ones and twos but he’ll throw more powerful hooks at times when he has his opponent backed to the cage and he awaits the lateral movement. Christian does a good job of switching stances and setting up the high kick from both sides, often after a 1-2 combination to hide it. He doesn’t mix them in as much as I’d like to see as he favors a more defensively-friendly striking approach, keeping himself in position to defend and landing the better shots.

Rodriguez has been able to hang with and, at times, outperform some talented wrestlers from Jonathan Pearce to Joshu Weems and Raul Rosas Jr at Bantamweight. He’s extremely proficient with his chokes and not only finished Weems with the anaconda choke, but got Pearce deep in a guillotine as well. In this bout against Pearce, he lost the majority of the wrestling scrambles against his bigger opponent but has since shown great improvements here. When we saw him against Rosas, he won a majority of the scramble situations and was able to keep dominant position.

Cameron Saaiman is only 22 years old with a pro record of 9-0 with three wins in the UFC already. He’s a dynamic striker that switches stances constantly, blitzing with combinations that never seem to begin from the same spot. He has good power in both his hands and kicks and mixes them well, targeting the head, body and leg equally.

Saaiman is a true switch stance fighter with the way he mixes his strikes up from both stances. He’ll throw kicks to all levels from both sides and start combinations with the jab as well as the power hand regardless of stance. His strikes are quick but his blitzing style makes it easier to read when he’s coming in. He also begins a lot of entries by dropping his hands and relies on head movement during the combination to avoid getting hit.

A fighter this early in his career, both in age and mileage, he’s learning and improving rapidly. We’ve seen a lot of these improvements in his wrestling. He’s been taken down with relative ease since joining in the UFC but he’s shown consistent progress in his ability to get back to his feet or scramble for top position to work his ground and pound. He’s active off his back with submissions and reversal attempts but I’d like to see improvements in his takedown defense to prevent himself from getting put on the bottom in the first place.

Rodriguez is the more technical striker in this matchup and he’ll have a four inch reach advantage over Saaiman. Christian loves to use straight shots that catch his opponents as they move in and he has great timing on those strikes to land at optimal distance.Saaiman’s blitzing attacks from the outside could present Rodriguez with perfect opportunities to react and counter with these straight shots.

For Saaiman, I think the key to winning this is going to be his kicks. Rodriguez likes to protect the head with his high guard, often leaving his body open to be attacked. Saaiman’s kicks are an underrated part of his game; they’re quick, they land with a lot of power and he can throw them effectively from either southpaw or conventional. These kicks should help deter the constant forward pressure of Rodriguez who is trying to stay close to his opponent at all times, giving Saaiman the room he wants to dictate when they engage. If he can land the kicks effectively to the calf and body, it’ll begin to open up more opportunities to blitz in without getting caught.


These are two very young, very promising prospects in a division flooded with talent. They’re both gifted strikers with developing grappling that has made them more well-rounded as they accumulate cage time in the UFC. I’m expecting to see a better version of both guys Saturday but I believe Rodriguez gets it done.

Rodriguez is so technically sound both in his offensive selection as well as defensively. His timing to land the jabs and crosses before his opponent can find the mark is impressive and will likely be a big factor against Saaiman. I think the pressure on the feet from Rodriguez will add to the struggles for Saaiman as this will make it harder for him to find the space he needs to work his own offense.

When Saaiman is forced into striking exchanges in tight, he isn’t nearly as effective while Rodriguez’s head movement, guard and counters are all crisp in these situations. Neither fighter has shown a noteworthy takedown game but both defend them well, so I don’t see much of this fight taking place on the ground. If it does, Rodriguez seems to hold the advantage here as well.

Prediction: Christian Rodriguez to win -140 (BetUS)

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