Fighting in their first UFC main event, Mexico’s Yair Rodriguez teamed up with Alex Caceres to put on a show for the fans at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Saturday, with Rodriguez winning a close five-round split decision.
Scores were 48-47 twice and 46-49 for the No. 13-ranked Rodriguez.
Caceres got the flash attacks off to a good start with a Superman punch, answered by jumping and spinning kicks from Rodriguez. “El Pantera” kept Caceres guessing throughout, throwing punches and kicks from all angles, but the Miami native took everything that landed well. In the final minute, Rodriguez briefly locked his opponent up, but Caceres broke free before getting taken down.
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Chihuahua’s Rodriguez kept spinning and flipping with his kicks and fists as round two opened, leaving Caceres wondering where the next strike was coming from. As the round progressed, Rodriguez was actually running after Caceres at times, as “Bruce Leeroy” tried to find the space and time to get his own strikes off. And when the Floridian did stop to fire, Rodriguez scored with several hard body kicks.
Caceres had his best round in the third, as he scored with some hard shots standing and also did good work on the mat from the top position while Rodriguez’ attacks slowed, putting the fight at a more measured pace that favored the veteran Cacares.
Rodriguez kept it standing in the fourth and he was able to regain control in a close round, sending the bout to a final frame. In that fifth round, Rodriguez began working his knees into the game, but Caceres scored with a big takedown in the second minute. The two scrambled and got back to their feet, and despite fighting at elevation after four active rounds, they kept bringing the heat, exciting the crowd with their output and varied attacks.
With the win, the 23-year-old Rodriguez improves to 9-1; Caceres, 28, falls to 12-9 with 1 NC.