UFC Fight Night 159 preview: Yair Rodriguez vs. Jeremy Stephens

Profile Picture: Danny Howard

September 18th, 2019

Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 159 features several high-stakes matchups, headlined by Yair Rodriguez versus Jeremy Stephens. The card also features a clash between Carla Esparza and Alexa Grasso, and the UFC debut of Askar Askarov

Yair Rodríguez vs. Jeremy Stephens

Yair RodríguezJeremy Stephens
Jeremy Stephens has had a rough go of it lately and is hoping his drop down the rankings stops at the expense of the climbing Yair Rodriguez. Whether the heavy-handed Stephens has enough left in the tank to down Rodriguez is another story.

Stephens has shown more dimensions to his game over the course of his career and is the far superior striker in the ring against Rodriguez. Stephens has the kind of power that can bail him out of a bad spot, but he has slowed down tremendously and has lost his previous two fights ahead of this do-or-die bout.

Rodriguez needs to be wary of that power. While he is no takedown specialist, Rodriguez has all the youthful advantages someone like Stephens would steer clear of in any other circumstance. His ability to move in and out of position, as well as his overall athleticism, is going to provide few opportunities for Stephens to land a critical blow.

What remains to be seen is if Rodriguez can sustain a game planto mostly play keep-away and smother his opponent with clinches before he can get set to land his power. Rodriguez has notched impressive wins with techniques like spinning elbows and leaping strikes, but he will have to fight in a more conventional manner before he can take a risk.
Goading Rodriguez to take it slow gives Stephens the best chance to resuscitate his career, but he is likely going to try to bomb out his younger foe early.

Rodriguez needs to get Stephens to move backward, and he’ll win by outworking his opponent. There is a chance he’ll get caught by something big early, but he’ll have enough gas in his tank to survive it.

MMA free pick: Rodriguez

Carla Esparza (+100) vs. Alexa Grasso (-125)

Both Esparza and Grasso need a win to sustain momentum. Though Esparza has more tools, Grasso should win if she doesn’t get taken down.

MMA free pick: Grasso

Brandon Moreno vs. Askar Askarov

Moreno is being brought in to serve as a sacrificial lamb to recently signed Askar Askarov. Askarov will not sputter under the spotlights and will put Moreno out early.

MMA free pick: Askarov

Martin Bravo (-115) vs. Steven Peterson (-110)

Both Bravo and Peterson are coming in off two losses. Bravo hasn’t fought in nearly two years, and the ring rust will cost him.

MMA free pick: Peterson

Find all the MMA action for this weekend at BetAmerica!