May 17, 2017

UFC 211: Loss To Edgar Takes Yair Rodriguez Hype Train Off the Track; Can He Pick It Up, Pick It Up, Pick It Up Back?

By Raphael Garcia

Frankie Edgar’s nickname of “The Answer” creates opportunities for a lot of bad puns. But this fact remains from UFC 211: Yair Rodriguez completely failed the test presented by the former UFC Lightweight Champion. For ten minutes Edgar dominated the young Mexican fighter, forcing a TKO stoppage at the end of the second. Many looked at this fight as a coming out party for Rodriguez, but now that the bout is over, it’s important to realize what kind of career-turning moment this is for Rodriguez.

As UFC 211 approached, the betting margin between Edgar and Rodriguez inched closer and closer. At 35-years old, Edgar was expected by many to begin the proverbial fade many fighters experience at that age. The New Jersey native was having none of it. His ability to pressure and hit technical, well-timed takedowns put Rodriguez in a position he wasn’t ready to experience. The pounding from short elbows and other strikes that Rodriguez took on the ground led to the damage that ended the fight via doctor stoppage. The commentary from fans and media immediately after the bout featured many people saying that the Rodriguez “hype train” was finished. In some senses that’s true, but Rodriguez’s response to this loss is a story to watch.

Let’s think back to two moments: one in 2004 and another in 2007. At UFC 50, Georges St. Pierre was working Matt Hughes over, putting the longtime welterweight champion in dangerous positions. That is, until Hughes’s experience came into play, and he locked up an armbar 4:59 into the first round to force the future UFC champion to submit. GSP assured his fans that he would be back, and he came back in stellar fashion, eventually avenging that loss in 2006. Less than a year later, “Rush” was stopped by a massive underdog in Matt Serra at UFC 69. GSP again promised that he would be back, and a year later he would dominate Serra in the rematch.

Now it’s too early to compare Rodriguez to GSP, way too early. But the way “Pantera” responds to this loss will speak to his character and resolve as a fighter. Edgar exposed one of the biggest holes in his game. The lighter weight divisions house a number of exceptional wrestlers that relish the idea of an opponent who is not ready to stop takedowns or get out from under their weight. Rodriguez showed that he is not yet ready for that type of pressure. Edgar’s abilities are far ahead of many men in the sport, but he’s created a blueprint for defeating Rodriguez, a fighter that the UFC was ready to push to the heavens. It now becomes Rodriguez’s job to not get discouraged and to re-write the story that’s started to develop coming out of UFC 211.

At 24 years old, Rodriguez is still at a fairly early point in his development. But his time is not infinite. The onus is now on him and his coaches to look at where he’s lacking and change the narrative. That’s not an easy task at all, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to achieve. Stephen Thompson, Conor McGregor, and others stand out as examples of fighters who once had a glaring hole in their game but worked tirelessly to improve that area. It’s time for “Pantera” to do the same before the hype train is truly out of power.

UFC 211: Miocic vs. Dos Santos 2 took place May 13, 2017 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.

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