Alexander Volkanovski celebrates his UFC win

Alexander Volkanovski will defend the UFC Featherweight Championship once more when he clashes with Yair Rodriguez at this Saturday night’s UFC 290 event at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

In this article, we’ll discuss the Volkanovski vs. Rodriguez main event, sharing our full breakdown, predictions, and best bets. But if you’re looking for predictions for any of the other fights coming up this weekend, simply use the links below to check out all our other content, too.

Main Card


UFC 290 will stream exclusively on ESPN+ PPV in the United States. That means fans can order the official PPV here to catch the prelims at 6 p.m. ET, rolling into the prelims at 8 p.m. ET, and culminating with the main card at 10 p.m. ET this Saturday, July 8.

To get in on the action, order the PPV now on ESPN+.

Betting Odds

Bookmakers at BetUS have pegged Volkanovski as a heavy favorite at -370, while Rodriguez is the underdog at +270.

  • Alexander Volkanovski: -370 (BetUS)
  • Yair Rodriguez: +270 (BetUS)

But what does that mean for you? Let’s break it down: When you see a negative (-) sign, that denotes the favorite, in this case, Volkanovski. The -370 means you’d need to bet $370 on Volkanovski to win $100. Conversely, a positive (+) sign indicates an underdog. Here, the +270 for Rodriguez means if you bet $100 on him, and he wins, you’d walk away with $270 in profit.

Read on for our staff predictions, which delve into the fighters’ strengths, strategies, and potential game plans, to help you make the best informed betting decision. And remember, if you decide to place a bet, consider using our special BetUS link to get a sign-up bonus.

Special Offer: Sign up to BetUS today and get an exclusive sign-up offer worth up to $2,500

Fight Predictions

Braeden Arbour

This is a fantastic matchup between two very difficult puzzles to solve. Alexander Volkanovski is a rare case of elite cardio, speed, and power packed into one fighter. He is always dangerous and explosive, yet he can maintain that work over five rounds easily. He will not be at a reach disadvantage as both men share 71 inches, but Yair will enjoy an extra 5 inches of height. However, Volkanovski has mastered a style for the shorter man, with constant footwork and dipping, which allows him to rip big shots over the top and threaten the level change, opening up other opportunities. Against the taller speedster in Rodriguez, it would aid Volkanovski to invest early in the legs, as he can set up his kicks from a step further away and land them from a beat further away, especially if he can move Rodriguez back with feints first.

The reason that Rodriguez is such a problem is that he is likely the best kicker in MMA today, with brutal long-range kicks to the body, head, and legs that have to be respected by anyone across from him. The second tier to Rodriguez is when he does land kicks, whether it be on the guard or flush, he has a tendency to meet anyone chasing his kicks inward for the counter with excellent boxing or sharp elbows inside. Rodriguez is exceptionally quick and quick on his reflexes and telegraphs very little, which allows him to burst from fairly stationary positions, which has allowed him to use less footwork than one would think, which also manages his cardio. He will move in and out often in a decently tall stance that doesn’t sap him, but this is where it is important for Volkanovski to outwork him in terms of footwork and force him to keep readjusting to the target. Using angles and feints is how Volkanovski can wear down Rodriguez, find the entries for his kicks and takedowns.

Finding success in these areas early is very important for the champion. Rodriguez is a very athletic fighter, which means that at his freshest, he is most dangerous. He will burst into flying kicks and knees that switch in mid-air, making it almost impossible to read or predict. He has also been an emotional fighter in the past, and just as much as a confident Rodriguez is more dangerous, if Volkanovski can bank a few rounds early, he could potentially make Rodriguez play catch up and take fewer calculated risks. If he can find the takedown early and negate Rodriguez’s obvious striking-centric game plan, he can cause a lot of frustration. When Rodriguez gets overly aggressive, it is when Volkanovski can find more success striking, especially by meeting Rodriguez with those slip-in overhands.

Yair is still a significant threat if he is taken down; however, doing so is not easy. Rodriguez’s takedown defense is largely underrated as he technically does get taken down often but is rarely stuck there. He reverses initial takedowns and gets back to his feet or scrambles to a better position almost instantly. Volkanovski has a tremendous top game suited to negating jiu-jitsu; he posts on his opponents and lands elbows but never really breaks posture, always keeping just enough distance that no points of contact can be sucked in for a sweep or submission. Rodriguez has a solid guard, as evident with his interim title win via triangle. But, in general, Rodriguez will batter opponents on the feet and accept the desperation shot into submissions.

If Volkanovski is committed to a shot where he can end up deep in the guard, it has to be on his terms, set up by him, because Rodriguez can snap onto his opponents very quickly if the level change isn’t calculated. Instead, if Volkanovski does find himself hurt, it’s much safer to find his way to the fence and close that distance with a clinch or try to put Rodriguez in the crevice of the cage where Volkanovski does not have to commit to the mat himself.

Overall, I do like Volkanovski’s chances better. He has the potential to outwork Rodriguez with footwork and pace, and stifle a lot of Rodriguez’s game if he finds success with his wrestling. That being said, oddsmakers are not giving Rodriguez enough credit as a roughly +300 underdog. Whether he is the best featherweight in the world remains to be seen, but stylistically I think he is one of the more difficult matchups for Volkanovski, specifically with his range control and weapons at every stage of those ranges. It truly takes one wrong zig or zag against Rodriguez to change the momentum of the fight, and because the boxing, kicking, and elbows of Rodriguez come at such odd angles and unusual quickness, the footwork and movement that Volkanovski has to depend on could lead him down the wrong route if he is complacent for even a moment. I think value-wise, the underdog bet on Rodriguez is worth a shot.

Pick: Yair Rodriguez to win (+270 at BetUS)

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Michael Pounders

Outside of his trilogy with Max Holloway, Alexander “The Great” Volkanovski has never fought the same opponent more than once. That is, in part, because when he wins, which he’s done in 25 of his 27 professional fights, he wins so convincingly that a rematch is rarely warranted.

Volkanovski’s run atop the featherweight division is special and something many will be talking about long after he retires. Not only has he defended his belt 5 times in one of the toughest divisions in MMA, he also went up a weight class to face the boogeyman of the lightweight division and fought Islam Makhachev to a razor-close decision. Volk has faced elite strikers, elite wrestlers, power punchers, jiu-jitsu specialists, completely well-rounded fighters, and even a GOAT and has beaten them all. The 34-year-old champion has been able to continue his reign no matter the opponent because of his hunger, intelligence, and unrivaled complete skillset.

On the feet, Volkanovski is lightning-fast, exceedingly technical, incredibly intelligent, and dangerously powerful. I’ve written about this before, but I’ll write it again. Volkanovski is still one of the only fighters I’ve seen be able to continually feint in order to counter. Most fighters feint to force an opponent to react and then land a shot in the opening that is created. Volkanovski goes even a step further. He will feint to draw out a counter-shot from the opponent which he blocks, avoids, or sometimes just eats so he can land a counter combination to their counter-shot.

His ability to feint to force an opponent to counter so he can counter the counter demonstrates how Volkanovski is playing chess on the feet while others, even the highest-level strikers, are playing checkers. As a grappler, Volkanovski is a strong wrestler, offensively and defensively, who uses his fire hydrant body type and athletic movement to land or stuff takedown attempts with consistency. If he is taken down, Volkanovski has proved against Makhachev and Ortega that he is mentally and physically skilled enough to avoid the highest level of submission attempts, scramble back to his feet, and rally to win the round.

Rodriguez is often described as a video game striker because he cannot only throw but land every type of strike imaginable and do so with unmatched speed, reliable power, and impressive precision. No matter the round and no matter the moment, Rodriguez is always alive to throw and connect with a highlight reel strike that can put an opponent out in an instant. Google his fight against the Korean Zombie if you want to see the most extreme example of his unorthodox but lethal ability. Beyond his unparalleled striking variety, what makes Rodriguez so special is his speed. Whether it is his hands in a boxing combination, his kicks from either stance, or a unique combination of both, Rodriguez can land in the blink of an eye.

Early in his career, Rodriguez would sometimes get caught looking for that highlight reel knockout too much and lose valuable minutes and even rounds. However, following his decision loss to Holloway, Rodriguez seems to have leveled up by reining it in a bit. He is still explosive and creative on the feet; but now he tends to let his speed be the primary weapon and let the opportunities for fun and exciting strikes come naturally rather than force them or look exclusively for them. He fights with an almost dance-like fluidity; and especially in early fights, he pours on the volume on the feet. He is also a strong grappler with a sneaky good submission game; but don’t be mistaken, Rodriguez’s career success has been made while standing on the canvas, not laying on it.

I’m honestly surprised by the line in this one. Volkanovski is coming off only the second loss of his career, albeit up a division against Makhachev, while Rodriguez is coming off back-to-back stoppage wins. I expected Volkanovski to be around -300, not -400. So as far as the money line goes, there is some value on the underdog. However, I do expect Volkanovski to win this fight. I think he’ll be able to bait Rodriguez into overcommitting on the feet and counter with consistency. I also like Volkanovski to follow Holloway’s game plan of crashing distance and forcing Rodriguez into a grueling and cardio-testing boxing match, effectively taking away Rodriguez’s best weapon: his kicks. I do worry a bit about Volkanovski’s tendency to lean into head kicks and block them

Best Bet: Volkanovski to win by Decision (+110 at BetUS)

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Joe Pounders

Volkanovski, after losing a razor-thin fight to the feared Dagestan champion, Islam Makhachev, is still, in my eyes, the pound-for-pound number-one fighter in the UFC. This is because Volk has not only reigned supreme over the immensely talented featherweight division for some time now, but when he attempted to become champion in the historical lightweight division, he did so against one of the biggest and most feared 155 champions ever, and arguably won the fight. Because of this and his well-rounded skills, I believe he is pound-for-pound number one – I would not argue against the possible GOAT, Jon Jones.

The elite well-rounded skills of Volkanovski are what make him extremely dangerous, but when you add first-class intellect, seemingly 10-round cardio, and a hunger to get better fight after fight, the end result is someone special.

As with many special fighters, they are comfortable everywhere but excel in specific aspects of the fight. Volk is no different in this regard, and the area where he dominates most opponents is striking. The reason for this is that he has an elite grasp of distance and uses perfect technique to execute lightning-fast kicks from the outside. He then utilizes sound footwork to bounce in, land a combination, and cut an angle to avoid a counterattack. This elite striking was on full display against the underrated striker Islam and was even more in the limelight when fighting the trilogy fight against Max Holloway, where Volk proved he is indeed a level ahead of the rest of the featherweight competitors.

Because he showed different levels to his game against the elite number one contender Holloway, coupled with proving his ground game is elite as well against the renowned grappler Islam, I am unable to identify a flaw in his game. When this has been done in the past, champions have fallen victim to passive training. However, for Volk, his innate hunger to be the best mitigates any concern of coming in flat. As such, I expect him to prove once again that he is the GOAT of the featherweight division.

Going up against an elite opponent of Volkanovski will not fear Yair Rodriguez. The reason for this is he has experience against the best of the best in the featherweight division, and he is seemingly entering his prime as he fought his best bout to date to become the interim champion after submitting Josh Emmett in the second round.

While submitting Josh Emmett is impressive, the way in which he worked his way to the submission was even more eye-catching. This is because contrary to clinch-fighting to the ground and methodically working a submission, Yair did what he does best in all of his fights, that is, land hyper-unique striking attacks which greatly damages his opponents. Whether it is a flying knee, spinning heel kick, or any slew of unnamed, unorthodox strikes, Yair is one of the most gifted, natural strikers in the entire UFC and that gift is what makes him so extremely dangerous.

The gift of striking, particularly striking which leaves him vulnerable to a counterattack at times, makes him susceptible to getting taken down, but, as stated with many of the high-end fighters currently in the UFC, Yair is no different with being a well-rounded fighter who has strong takedown defense and an ability to get up if taken to the mat. The latter, of getting up, will be a critical component if Volkanovski so chooses to make this into a ground affair, and while Yair can indeed get up, doing so quickly will be paramount to make Volk frustrated, and a frustrated opponent is an opponent greater susceptible to wearing one of Yair’s unique, devasting kicks, knees, or elbows.

I have the utmost respect for Yair Rodriguez and believe he is truly a worthy adversary for Alexander Volkanovski. With that said, I fully expect Volkanovski to rinse and repeat his featherweight dominance with a convincing win here in this fight. Early, I anticipate Volk to be weary of Yair’s striking, and even be willing to lose the first round to gather enough fight data to mitigate KO concern in the next 4 rounds. Once the movement of Yair is seen, I expect Volk to time his attacks, land first, and get out of danger before Yair has anything for him. Because of Volk’s understanding of distance, timing, and an ability to land a takedown if he so chooses, I believe he will win a decisive 49-46 victory here, as such, I am picking him to win by decision at +120 odds.

Pick: Volkanovski to win by Decision (+110 at BetUS)

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