Yair RodriguezUFC 192 features the return of Yair Rodriguez, who is currently one of the most hyped prospects in the sport. He was the winner of the first edition of The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America and is looking to earn his third straight win inside the Octagon. His opponent will be Dan Hooker, who is coming off the biggest win of his career, a knockout over tough veteran Hatsu Hioki.   Yair Rodriguez (5-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC, -300 favorite) The UFC has a lot invested in the 22 year old Rodriguez, as they are hopeful his eventual emergence as a star will help them with their encroachment into the Mexican market. The Mexican was the star on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter: Latin American, which he won with three impressive performances. While his competition was not great, Rodriguez’s talent was evident immediately. He has now moved to Chicago, where he trains under coaches Israel Martinez and Mike Valle, who have a close relationship with Greg Jackson in Albuquerque. Since the show’s semi-finals, Rodriguez has defeated Leonardo Morales and Charles Rosa by decision. Both fights took place on the UFC’s first two trips to Mexico. Rodriguez is an offensive dynamo who features a fantastic arsenal of kicks and slick submission skills on the mat. The Mexican is wildly aggressive and constantly looks to push the pace and pressure his opponent. He does an excellent job of following up his kicks with punches and excels when he senses his opponent is hurt. Rodriguez has been working on his wrestling with Coach Martinez, but that realm is still a work in progress. On the ground he is quite slick, as he is good at reversing position, taking the back, and passing guard. Additionally, Rodriquez has an extremely active guard, as he constantly looks for submissions and throws elbows to his opponent’s head.   Dan Hooker (12-5 MMA, 2-1 UFC, +250 underdog) Hooker made good on his UFC debut in June of 2014, as he bloodied up Ian Entwistle’s head with punches and elbows until the referee was forced to intervene. While the New Zealand native had a promising start to his UFC career, he would come crashing down in his next outing. Facing tough veteran Maximo Blanco, Hooker was tuned up on the feet for three rounds. It was an interesting loss because while Hooker’s striking defense was horrendous, his toughness and chin were quite impressive. Blanco repeatedly snapped his head back with multi-punch combinations that would knock most fighters out. Not taking the defeat lightly, Hooker notched the biggest win of his UFC career in his third UFC outing. After losing the first round and a half to tough veteran Hatsu Hioki, Hooker landed a flush head kick that ultimately ended the fight and gave the Japanese fighter his first knockout loss. The 25 year old Hooker is a fighter that likes to move forward behind long punches and high kicks. He has a sizeable height and reach advantage over most opponents in the division, as he stands in at 6’ 0” tall and holds a 75” reach. However he does a terrible job of utilizing his long reach to his advantage, as he often closes the distance for his opponent, which puts him in range of getting hit. Further, Hooker’s striking defense is extremely poor, as he lacks proper head movement and footwork. Instead of fighting from a range where he can hit his opponent and they cannot hit him, Hooker prefers to fight in the pocket and exchange with his opponents. He has a decent Muay Thai clinch and has a nice arsenal of knees and standing elbows. Further, while the New Zealand native is a decent grappler, he does not have very good takedown defense and will be exploited on the mat by superior grapplers. Hooker’s toughness and durability are nice traits to have, but those are not what a fighter wants to be known for.   Thoughts This is a matchup between two talented youngsters that have had promising starts to their UFC careers. Rodriguez seems to be the more talented and skilled fighter in this contest, but he is still green in several areas. Hooker is a tough, durable fighter that has some decent offensive skills, but his defensive flaws are a serious concern. I expect Rodriguez to capitalize on one of Hooker’s defensive lapses, possibly with one of his trademark head kicks.   The Prediction: Yair Rodriguez defeats Dan Hooker by technical knockout (head kick and punches, round 2)


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