Octagon Oracles: King of the Cage standout Drako Rodriguez

Drako Rodriguez has his hands taped. Credit: Josh Hedges, Zuffa.

Drako Rodriguez comes to the UFC from KOTC fighting there for nearly his entire pro and amateur career. He’s 20-1 combined as a pro and amateur and his only loss is to UFC fighter Tony Gravely. Rodriguez is also 2-0 as a pro boxer.

In this piece, several of MMA-Prospects’ staff writers will give their predictions for how each prospect making their debut in the coming weekend will face during their UFC tenure.

Drako Rodriguez

Drako Rodriguez was another fighter that earned his contract from the contender series last summer. He was originally supposed to debut back in December but his opponent Zahabi tested positive for COVID-19 and had to pull out.

Looking to stop Rodriguez in his tracks is UFC veteran Aiemann Zahabi. Zahabi has had a rough go in the UFC thus far. He’s only fought three times in four years. After winning his UFC debut he lost his next/last two fights. He’s already 33-years-old, so it’s now or never got Zahabi.

Shawn Bitter

Grade: B

Rodriguez is a good talent. He has an excellent ground game and his striking is very good as well. Many haven’t been able to see his hands as much but he has a good counter striking ability. His 2-0 pro boxing record also backs that up. His jiu-jitsu, though, is what shines. Even though his takedown defense isn’t what it should be, he makes things happen off his back.

Rodriguez is dangerous at attacking submissions and really good at scrambling. It seems if you put pressure on him he tends to just fight in defense mode which will hold him back. He’s still young and already where he’s at now in his career I like his future.

Out Within 1-2 Years
50/50 Winner
Bonus Winner
A Mainstay Through the Years
Top 15
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Title Contender
Champion

Vince Rodemer

Grade: B

As I said about Rodriguez before his Contender Series fight, when I picked him to win as an underdog, I like Drako a lot. He has a lot of experience for a 24-year-old. He has knockouts on his record, he has a lot of submissions and he has cardio as a wrestler. He went five rounds with UFC fighter Tony Gravely so he has proven cardio. He also has a boxing victory over Shaine Moffitt.

He had a perfect 12-fight amateur career. I think he is the full package and can win wherever the fight goes. He’s getting a UFC opener against a guy like Aiemann Zahabi that is more of a name than anything.

Out Within 1-2 Years
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A Mainstay Through the Years
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Title Contender
Champion

Kristen King

Grade: B

Rodriguez getting to the UFC has been quite the journey, but I am so glad he is finally here and ready to appear on the main stage. Rodriguez is a complete fighter and can either submit or knock out his opponent, so you know he is going to be one to always tune in for. I will say that I am concerned just a bit by his style of fighting because I am fully aware that a more technical or dominant fighter will probably get the better of him at some point during his UFC career.

Still, he possesses all the tools necessary to not only have a potentially long career in the promotion but one full of bonuses.

Out Within 1-2 Years
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A Mainstay Through the Years
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Title Contender
Champion

Joshua Yule

Grade: B+

At first judging from the methods of his wins and his appearance in the Contender Series, I thought Rodriguez was a frontrunner – big frame and big muscles mean a big cut which means a fighter will have mediocre cardio, though will usually be dangerous in the first few rounds. But he went four rounds and most of a fifth with the much more experienced Tony Gravely, though it was a performance where he was largely stuck on the bottom, so I don’t think cardio’s that big an issue.

Rodriguez’s grappling is risky and aggressive but it seems to have gotten much more fluid since then, which combined with his obvious power makes him a double finishing threat.

I’d like to see him fight a bit more but from what I’ve seen I think he has oodles of potential. He’s very quick and explosive too, which to me indicates a decently high ceiling if he keeps working.

Out Within 1-2 Years
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A Mainstay Through the Years
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Title Contender
Champion

Sergio Pineiro

Grade: B-

The stacked bantamweight division will add a new face to the fold on Saturday night when Drako Rodriguez makes his UFC debut against Aiemann Zahabi. “The Great Drakolini” is a product of Reds Boxing and looks to extend his win-streak to four while improving his record to 8-1 overall.

Despite the majority of the 24-year old’s MMA victories coming via submission, Rodriguez has experience in the boxing ring and owns a 2-0 record as a professional with one KO and one TKO.

Out Within 1-2 Years
50/50 Winner
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A Mainstay Through the Years
Top 15
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Title Contender
Champion

Gary Friel

Grade: C-

We don’t see fighters come through KOTC as much these days, so it’s interesting to see someone creep through. The problem with KOTC is they’ve never given fighters the toughest challenges of all time, but comparatively speaking Darko has fought some decent fighters throughout his time and dominated the vast majority of them.

It’s quite hard to fully judge “The Great Darkolini” until we see a little bit more from him in his career, but I think he might be able to steal this fight and at just 24 years of age, I could see him having a few wins in the top promotion.

Out Within 1-2 Years
50/50 Winner
Bonus Winner
A Mainstay Through the Years
Top 15
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Title Contender
Champion

Tom Albano

Grade: C

While Drako Rodriguez doesn’t have many professional fights to his name, he’s been around the sport for a little while, having an approximately two-year amateur career, where he went 13-0 with 10 finishes. Rodriguez is a highly respected prospect to come out of the King of the Cage promotion, honing great boxing skills and decent grappling — plus he’s quite the finisher. In fact, his only loss thus far has come in a KotC title fight with current fellow UFC fighter Tony Gravely.

Rodriguez is coming off an impressive first-round submission of Mana Martinez on Dana White’s Contender Series (DWCS), and he has a golden opportunity (perhaps arguably a gimme) of a debut matchup against the struggling Aiemann Zahabi, the younger brother of TriStar Gym’s Firas Zahabi. The 7-2 record of Zahabi is far from impressive when you consider he has barely fought since 2017 — and hasn’t won in four years.

On that note, outside of the Gravely and Martinez fights, Rodriguez hasn’t faced the toughest of competition it seems, and he’ll need to prove himself in a big way for better opportunities in the Octagon.

Out Within 1-2 Years
50/50 Winner
Bonus Winner
A Mainstay Through the Years
Top 15
Top 10
Top 5
Title Contender
Champion