After missing weight likely cost him a UFC contract despite his Contender Series win in 2021, Christian Rodriguez will step in as a late replacement on Saturday night to fight Jonathan Pearce.
Undefeated as a pro, Rodriguez has finishes in six of his seven bouts with four first-round stoppages. He’s already competed in Bellator, LFA and CFFC in his short career, and despite missing weight he looked impressive in his Contender Series fight with Reyes Cortez and earned 30-27 scorecards from all three judges.
Rodriguez’s striking sometimes appears a little one-dimensional at the start of his fights, as he mainly relies on working 1-2’s. One he starts to gain momentum however, he’ll increase both his variety of strikes and the overall volume that he throws. One of his best punches is a left hook to the body, which he starts to mix in once he presses forward and has opponents covering up. He’ll also throw dangerous standing elbows both in open space and in the clinch. Opponents that find themselves on the back foot also need to look out for flying knees, which Rodriguez throws readily once he’s backed them to the fence.
Although he didn’t need to show it off much in his Contender Series fight as he was able to defend the majority of Cortez’s takedowns, “CeeRod” has flashed his skills on the mat during previous bouts in his career. In his pro debut at Bellator 221 he made short work of Jose Leon after taking him down, landing good ground and pound from top position before cycling through several submissions and finishing Leon with an armbar at the end of the first round. He also has a rear-naked choke victory against John Pham at LFA 93, and although striking appears to be his go-to weapon at this point in his career the twenty-four year old is certainly dangerous when things go to the ground.
Rodriguez’s grappling and takedown defense will likely be tested in his UFC debut on Saturday. Fellow Contender Series alum Jonathan Pearce used his wrestling to set up stoppage wins in his last two fights, and Pearce will also hold a significant size advantage over Rodriguez.
It’s a shame that Rodriguez wasn’t able to enter the UFC after looking good on Contender Series, especially after Jake Hadley also missed weight on the same card but was given a contract for his performance. This is a difficult spot to debut on short notice and up a weight class, but as long as Rodriguez intends to return to bantamweight after this fight I think he has quite a bit of potential. He trains out of a good camp at Roufusport MMA, has shown off a well-rounded skillset, and is still only twenty-four years old. I’m not sure if he’ll be able to overcome the size disparity in this debut against Pearce, but I’m excited to see how he develops over the next few years.
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