After a brief foray at lightweight, Alexander Volkanovski returns to defend his featherweight belt against interim champion Yair Rodriguez.
The five-round title fight is rumored to take place at UFC 290 in Las Vegas during the conclusion of International Fight Week on July 8.
Weeks away from this bout, Volkanovski is a -425 favorite.
UFC 290: Volkanovski vs Rodriguez Odds
Odds as of May 9
Per our odds calculator, Volkanovski's -425 status equates to a win probability of 80.95% and a $10 bet on him pays $12.35. Rodriguez gets a 23.53% chance and a $10 bet yields $42.50.
UFC 290: Volkanovski vs Rodriguez Preview
Will we see a new undisputed champion at 145 pounds? Or will Volk further his legacy as the greatest featherweight of all time?
How Rodriguez Wins
Josh Emmett certainly isn't as talented as Volkanovski, but the two men are modest comparisons to one another. Emmet, like Volk, is primarily a wrestler, though he carries more power, and the champ carries far more speed.
After Rodriguez dismantled Emmett for the interim strap at UFC 284, he laid the foundation for how to beat Volkanovski. "El Pantera" whipped up Emmett's body with slashing kicks, which neutralized the American's power and had him groaning in pain. When Emmett landed a takedown, Yair stayed active, firing repeated upward elbows with devastating accuracy.
Rodriguez can defeat Volkanovski by using the advantages he has over the smaller Australian — that means spinning, rangy strikes and good offense (or jiu-jitsu) off his back.
How Volkanovski Wins
Rodriguez is a lot like Max Holloway in terms of size, style and cardio. Volkanovski bested Holloway three times, and he can apply some of the same strategies to dismantle Rodriguez at UFC 290.
"Alexander The Great" was moving backwards for most of the third fight vs Holloway at UFC 276, but that didn't limit his offense. The 34-year-old pushed back with a heavy jab and several one-two combos. His deadliest work came on the exits. When the two fighters got close, Volkanovski dodged back in explosive fashion and unloaded with a hook or uppercut.
Like most Mexican fighters, Rodriguez will bring intense pressure. Volk isn't immune to damage, but he's as hard-headed as they come. He wins this fight by using Rodriguez's pressure against him and uncorking combos in timely fashion.
UFC 290: Volkanovski vs Rodriguez Pick
Rodriguez brings the pain with his relentless pressure — and that's tons of fun. Considering this fight's aggressive nature and the five-round format, I anticipate things wrapping up inside the distance. I'll take the Australian to win by KO/TKO/SUB for added value since Volkanovski has a perfect track record of remaining slippery and crushing lengthier, whippier opponents.