Kleydson “KR” Rodrigues is making his UFC debut at the age of 26 after a unanimous decision win on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2021. Professionally, “KR” is 7-1 with 3 knockout and 2 submission wins. CJ Vergara, also a DWCS alum, is 0-1 in the UFC, dropping his 2021 debut via unanimous decision. Professionally, Vergara is 9-3 with 6 knockouts and 3 decision wins.
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Alexander Volkanovski and Islam Makhachev, the top two pound-for-pound fighters in the UFC, will clash at UFC 284 on Feb. 11. Order the PPV now to watch the champion vs. champion fight live on Saturday.
Rodrigues vs. Vergara will air on the UFC 274 live stream this Saturday night. Fight fans can order the UFC 274 PPV here to watch every fight live.
Rodrigues opened as a solid favorite and has only grown from there.
- Rodrigues: -330
- Vegara: +255
Rodrigues is an exciting prospect, especially for the thin flyweight division. He is a young, long, and athletic fighter who intelligently hunts finishes in the octagon. “KR” is a naturally explosive athlete who uses his movement and quick-twitch strikes as weapons. He has an excellent kicking game and is able to throw high kicks from close corridors. His flexibility and ability to kick so vertically makes it seem like his hips are on hinges. In the pocket, where most fighters box, Rodrigues can impressively still land kicks. He is also adept at slicing elbows in tight and is a solid wrestler from the clinch. Once down, Rodrigues has heavy ground and pound and slick jiu-jitsu. From range, Rodrigues has the cardio to keep consistent volume and movement. Then, if an opponent crashes distance on him, “KR” has demonstrated reliable takedown defense. Outside the UFC, Rodrigues has not shown any glaring weaknesses. At the UFC level, weakness will appear; but, entering his debut, the prospect is one for fans to be excited for.
Vergara is a fan favorite type of prospect because of his underdog style. He fights with aggression at all times and continually comes forward. He has good kicks and a solid jab to keep range. His striking is volume based but he does have some heat on the end of them when he plants and throws. Vergara has struggled against the takedown in the past but showed significant improvement, stuffing 6 of 7 attempts, in his debut. In debut, though, Vergara struggled to land the more impactful and consistent blows. His accuracy was evident but his volume in rounds 1 and 2 were lower, as were his damaging shots. But, in round 3, Vergara, being the underdog type of fighter he is, turned it on and pressured forward to win the last round. These rounds represent Vergara as a fighter, when he’s pressuring forward he can land in combination. But, when forced on his back foot, Vergara can struggle to counter effectively. No matter how the fight is going, though, Vergara is tough to finish and his cardio will have him around for all 3 rounds.
Vergara could come out, pressure more consistently, and overwhelm Rodrigues with his cardio. But, even that approach puts Vergara in a dangerous position as Rodrigues, a quick and powerful counter puncher, will have the technical striking edge. Short of Rodrigues gassing out, I like him in every facet of the fight. Vergara is a tough fighter and Rodrigues has taken his time in previous bouts, so, I like this one to see the judges’ scorecards too.
Prediction: Rodrigues to win by Decision
Michael Pounders is a high school English Teacher, a boxer himself, and is a fan who loves, gambles on, and nerds out about all things MMA.