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UFC Fight Night: Rodriguez vs Penn Betting Odds And Preview

The path here wasn’t pretty, or free of controversy, but BJ Penn is set to make his return to the Octagon, as “The Prodigy” faces Yair Rodriguez at UFC Fight Night 103 in Phoenix. Penn is not getting an easy win here, as Rodriguez is one of the best young fighters in the organization.

Aside from the main event, the card doesn’t feature much in terms of name value but fighters like Joe Lauzon, Marcin Held and Sergio Pettis offer plenty of intrigue.

Yair Rodriguez vs BJ Penn

Yair Rodriguez (-500) has proven that he very well may be the future of the UFC featherweight division, as the Jackson-Wink product has gone a perfect 5-0 with the company. “El Pantera” is coming off a spectacular bout with Alex Caceres in which we saw just how good Rodriguez is when given space to work his strikes.

Rodriguez is one of the flashiest strikers in MMA today, as he will throw kicks from every conceivable angle. This kicking-based striking attack is rooted in Rodriguez’ black belt in taekwondo, which heavily emphasizes the use of feet. This striking game has been implemented thanks to Rodriguez’ footwork, which has gotten increasingly better due to his time with Jackson-Wink. This movement not only gives Rodriguez a lethal attack, but it has been a large part of his tremendous defense.

Rodriguez has solid grappling abilities, though they have been largely slept on due to his highlight-reel striking. He’s not a world-beater but is competent enough in this aspect to ensure he is never overwhelmed in any situation.

BJ Penn (+325) is one of the greatest fighters to ever grace MMA, but that was a long time ago. Penn has not won a fight since 2010 and has not fought since a terrible outing against Frankie Edgar in July 2014. That’s not to say Penn should be taken lightly because he has the skill to defeat damn near anyone, but you need to wonder if Father Time has caused too much deterioration.

Penn always had great striking ability in the cage, which was heavily based on boxing. As his career progressed, “The Prodigy” learned to use his speed more and become an absolutely lethal counter striker. It wasn’t just about picking opponents apart, as Penn had massive power in his hands. He uses a stance that you will rarely see in MMA nowadays, as Penn stands very upright, which could leave him open to kicks.

Penn has always been extremely good when it comes to grappling, as Brazilian jiu-jitsu just always seemed to come naturally to him. These skills were generally overlooked because of his knockout power, but Penn was dominant when he got control of his opponent.

I use the past tense when talking about Penn because we don’t know what he is now. He is 38 years old, hasn’t fought in over two years and hasn’t won since I was in high school. All the intangibles are still there with Penn and he seems like he is putting his all into this fight, but he has looked terrible in his most recent outings. Granted, those bouts were all against elite competition.

This is a fight of opposites in many regards. We have the young fighter on his way up looking for a big name on his resume, while the other is trying to prove he still has the ability to be one of the best in the world. Rodriguez needs to keep composed and maybe slow down on some of that spinning stuff because a mistake could open the door for the experienced Penn.

Remainder Of The Main Card

The co-main event features UFC stalwart Joe Lauzon (+110) taking on heralded and experienced youngster Marcin Held. Lauzon is a hyper-aggressive, all-action fighter who is constantly looking to finish his opponent. Though the Bridgewater, Massachusetts native has pop in his hands, it’s his slick submission skills that make him deadly. However, like many fighters in the same mold, Lauzon greatly sacrifices his defense in order to continuously push forward. Held has developed a competent striking offense, but it is all built to work into his submissions. The former Bellator lightweight champion doesn’t have tremendous wrestling, as it’s based more on an opportunistic explosion than technical superiority. Held is durable and has only been finished once in his 27 career fights, but does tend to burn his gas tank early.

Aging veterans clash when Court McGee (-110) and Ben Saunders (-120) face off. McGee’s style is built around output, as few fighters in the UFC today work the rate that “The Crusher” does. There is no doubt that McGee likes to wear his opponents down with his aggression and pace, as each of his past five victories has come via decision. Saunders is a talented striker who excels at using his long reach. The “Killa B” also has a strong submission game, as the BJJ black belt has seven career victories via sub.   

The main card opens with John Moraga (-135), looking to rebound from back-to-back losses, taking on Sergio Pettis (+105) at 125 lbs. Moraga has spent his time in the UFC near the top of the flyweight rankings, with the bulk of his losses coming against elite competition. The hometown fighter is solid, well developed in all aspects of the game, with a knack for getting a hold of his opponent’s neck. The younger Pettis brother is much like his opponent, in the fact that he is solid in all aspects of the game. Pettis will likely prefer to keep the fight standing and use his basic, though refined, striking game.

UFC Fight Night 103: Rodriguez vs Penn Betting Odds

Odds as of January 11 at Bovada

  • Yair Rodriguez -280
  • BJ Penn +325
  • Joe Lauzon -140
  • Marcin Held +110
  • Ben Saunders -115
  • Court McGee -115
  • Sergio Pettis -150
  • John Moraga +120
  • Frankie Saenz -155
  • Augusto Mendes +125
  • Alexy Oleinik -145
  • Viktor Pesta +115
  • Tony Martin -270
  • Alex White +210
  • Devin Powell +180
  • Drakkar Klose -230
  • Nina Ansaroff -140
  • Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger +110
  • Walt Harris -150
  • Chase Sherman +120
  • Joachim Christensen -225
  • Bojan Mihajlovic +175
  • Dmitrii Smoliakov -110
  • Cyril Asker -120