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Josh Emmett reacts after finishing five rounds against Calvin Kattar in a featherweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at Moody Center on June 18, 2022 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC)
Fight Coverage

Coach Conversation | Yair Rodriguez vs Josh Emmett

Elite MMA Coaches Break Down Saturday's UFC 284 Interim UFC Featherweight Championship Co-Main Event.

Ahead of every championship fight, UFC staff writer E. Spencer Kyte will sit down with some of the sharpest coaching minds in the sport to break down the action and provide UFC fans with insights into each championship pairing from the men that spend their days getting these elite athletes prepared to compete on the biggest stage in the sport.

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For UFC 284, Kyte called upon Tyson Chartier, head coach of the New England Cartel, and Eddie Barraco, MMA Coach at Xtreme Couture, to provide their thoughts on four key points heading into the interim featherweight championship clash between Yair Rodriguez and Josh Emmett that serves as Saturday’s co-main event.

Best Trait of Each Fighter

At a time in the sport where everyone is pretty solid everywhere, generally speaking, what is the one thing that each of these competitors do better than anyone else?

Rodriguez vs Emmett Co-Main Event Preview | UFC 284
Rodriguez vs Emmett Co-Main Event Preview | UFC 284

Chartier: Josh Emmett’s best trait is that he throws bombs — he’s aggressive, he throws bombs, he’s explosive, he’s dynamic, and that gives guys fits. When you stay shelled up like that and then you come forward with two, three, four shots, I think it’s a really good trait. And I think he has a very judge-friendly fighting style where if no one is really doing much, he’s going to look like he’s winning.

With Yair, it’s his athleticism and his creativity. He’s really dynamic, he comes forward, he’s very unorthodox, he’s creative with his strikes — he’ll throw wild stuff, crazy stuff, spinning stuff. With someone like Emmett that is a little predictable in terms of what he’s going to attack with, that’s what a guy like this wants — he wants to be creative against a guy that’s going to come forward with that pressure.

I’m sure he’s got ideas for a bunch of spinning stuff, flying knees, flip kicks, all the stuff he does. He’s dynamic and it’s so exciting to watch.

Barraco: I think Yair Rodriguez has a very unorthodox style — he’s quick, he puts his punches and kicks together real well, has great movement, throws things from weird angles.

I think Emmett is durable and hits like a truck. He has that ability where if he gets inside and he’s able to connect, I feel there are very few in that division that are going to withstand a lot of punishment from him. It’s just a matter of him being able to track them down and get in range.

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Path to Victory for Each Fighter

Everyone would love a 10-second knockout or a quick submission, but that’s not often how these things go, especially not at the championship level. Instead, it’s usually the competitor that has crafted the better game plan and did the better job of executing things inside the Octagon that comes away with their hand raised and the gold around their waist.

So, how does either man get it done on Saturday night?

UFC 284 Fight By Fight Preview

Barraco: I’d like to see Yair keep his movement — angle side-to-side; work lateral and not move in a straight line backwards, not get stationary after he’s offensive. Keep him at range and pick him apart.

I think with Emmett, if he can blend the fit-ins and wrestling in early along with closing the distance, I think he can use level changes to get Yair to react to that later in the fight and let his hands go.

Chartier: It’s kind of the same for both.

Emmett is going to come forward, crowd him so he doesn’t feel comfortable kicking, and maybe get some takedowns off the kicks to stop the kick game, because if they just go boxing, Emmett has more power, he’s going to be in the pocket and land more. Yair needs some space, needs to get creative, and land some kicks.

I think Yair, he’s going to have to get off first, put Emmett on his heels, and make him a little gun-shy to come forward with knees up the middle, teeps, so that it’s like, “Okay, this guy is long, every time I come forward I’m getting hit with something up the middle.” Then you end up with a sitting target you can just style on.

X Factor

If there were one thing that was going to significantly impact how this fight plays out — that swings it in one direction or the other — what would it be?

Josh Emmett Fight Week Interview | UFC 284
Josh Emmett Fight Week Interview | UFC 284

Chartier: If Emmett decides to wrestle, and I think he will. He was going to wrestle against Calvin (Kattar) — you heard his coaches between the rounds ask, “Let’s see some wrestling” and so I’ve got to think he’s going to try to wrestle.

So the X factor on Emmett’s side is does he try to wrestle, and on Yair’s side, it’s can you defend the wrestling? I think that’s a big tipping point in the fight because if Emmett tries to wrestle and can’t, he gets tired, Yair gets confident, and it gets really exciting.

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Barraco: I think the X factor is the danger factor of Emmett’s power — that’s the thing that can really alter the course of this fight. I think he’s durable enough to be able to go all five rounds with Yair, even if Yair is winning the exchanges, but that real danger factor comes in with Emmett’s power.

One Coaching Curiosity

Coaches see the sport differently and look at the sport differently than anyone else, picking up on different things and paying attention to movements, habits, or intangible pieces that others might not notice, but that could have a significant impact on the action inside the Octagon.

Yair Rodriguez Fight Week Interview | UFC 284
Yair Rodriguez Fight Week Interview | UFC 284

Every matchup offers its own unique collection of elements that might pique a coach’s interest and get them paying a little closer attention to once the fight gets underway.

So what is that one thing in this matchup?

Barraco: To see how Yair handles Emmett’s ability to mix up the exchanges — I’d like to see how he’s able to deal with that — and with Emmett, the thing I’m looking for is his ability to cut him off and what he’s throwing off to do that.

How is he setting his traps up and what combos he’s throwing off that? That’s what I’m looking at.

Chartier: I think it comes back to what I just talked about with the wrestling. Does Emmett decide to mix in the wrestling and, if so, can Yair defend it? I think that’s a big dictator of the fight, and I’m curious to see if Emmett wrestles early — does he feel him out or does he shoot right away? Do you come out, put it on him and try to set the tone like (Brian)Ortega did or does he come out, strike with him a little, and mix in the takedown once he gets a little numb to it?

I’m interested to see how quickly Emmett looks to mix it up.

UFC 284: Makhachev vs Volkanovski took place live from RAC Arena in Perth, Western Australia on February 11, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive all the action on UFC Fight Pass