“The Ultimate Fighter Latin America” winner remained undefeated in Ultimate Fighting Championship competition, as he walked out of his UFC Fight Night 92 main event against Alex Caceres with a split decision on Saturday at the Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City. Two of the three judges saw it for Rodriguez, 48-47 and 48-47, while a third gave Caceres an eyebrow-raising 49-46 nod.
According to FightMetric data, Rodriguez threw 141 more strikes than “Bruce Leeroy,” found the mark with nearly twice as many (124 to 65) and connected at a higher clip, 35 percent to 31. He out-landed Caceres in the significant strikes department in all five rounds. Broken down further, Rodriguez utilized significantly more variety, outscoring the MMA Lab representative to the head, body and legs. “Pantera” maintained a ridiculous work rate, cutting loose with more strikes (89) over the final five minutes than he did in any other round.
Caceres was at his best in the middle stanza, as he swarmed with punches, ripped a knee to the body and scrambled into top position, crouching above Rodriguez before unleashing his ground-and-pound. It did not result in the desired momentum swing.
In wake of UFC Fight Night “Rodriguez vs. Caceres,” here are five matches that ought to be considered:
Yair Rodriguez vs. Doo Ho Choi: Rodriguez has rattled off six consecutive victories, now owns a 5-0 mark in the UFC and has advanced beyond the need for lateral moves. The 23-year-old showcased his otherworldly physical skills across five rounds with Caceres, clearing a significant hurdle in his development. Rodriguez has beaten Caceres, Andre Fili, Dan Hooker, Charles Rosa and Leonardo Morales since touching down in the Octagon a little less than two years ago. Choi, on a 12-fight winning streak, blew up Thiago Tavares inside one round at “The Ultimate Fighter 23” Finale on July 8.
Dennis Bermudez vs. Cub Swanson: Long Island MMA’s Bermudez continued to distance himself from losses to Jeremy Stephens and Ricardo Lamas, as he picked up a unanimous decision over Rony Mariano Bezerra in the co-main event. “The Ultimate Fighter 14” finalist attacked Bezerra in all phases and likely left him with a Harry Potter scar on his forehead, courtesy of a short elbow strike in the first round. Bermudez improved to 9-3 in the UFC, staying relevant at 145 pounds. Swanson, meanwhile, was assigned to UFC Fight Pass duty and took a unanimous verdict from former Shooto champion Tatsuya Kawajiri on the undercard.
Thales Leites vs. Derek Brunson-Uriah Hall winner: Leites put a stop to a two-fight losing streak -- he had dropped back-to-back bouts to Gegard Mousasi and Michael Bisping -- and did so in decisive fashion, as he submitted Chris Camozzi with a third-round rear-naked choke in their middleweight showcase. The 34-year-old Nova Uniao black belt neutralized Camozzi with clinches, takedowns and an active top game before finishing the job a little more than midway through round three. Brunson and Hall will do battle at UFC Fight Night “Poirier vs. Johnson” on Sept. 17 in Hidalgo, Texas.
Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Kamaru Usman: American Top Team’s Ponzinibbio has become impossible to ignore at 170 pounds. The 29-year-old Argentine recorded his third straight victory with a three-round unanimous decision over Zak Cummings. Ponzinibbio beat the Irving, Texas, native to the punch with punishing jabs and crackling right hands, leaving him with significant damage to both eyes. He has gone 5-1 since debuting in the UFC with a decision defeat to Ryan LaFlare in November 2013, a technical knockout loss to Lorenz Larkin his only misstep. Having put down roots at the star-studded Blackzilians camp, Usman finds himself on a seven-fight winning streak after posting a unanimous decision over Alexander Yakovlev at UFC on Fox 21 in July.
Trevor Smith vs. Krzysztof Jotko: Smith did not roll out the welcome mat for Joseph Gigliotti, as he bullied the previously unbeaten Power MMA prospect across three lopsided rounds and exited the cage with a unanimous decision in hand. The 35-year-old Strikeforce veteran wore down Gigliotti with clinches and takedowns, assaulting him with ground-and-pound when opportunities arose. Smith appeared to break the Resurrection Fighting Alliance alum’s nose with a second-round knee strike and generally made life miserable for him. Jotko improved his gaudy record to 18-1 with a 59-second knockout against Tamdan McCrory at a UFC Fight Night event on June 18.