Contender Series 2021 winner and former LFA strawweight champion Piera Rodriguez will debut at UFC 273 on Saturday against Kay Hansen.
Undefeated as a pro, Rodriguez’s early career victories in South America were largely defined by her hands and aggression. In her second career fight against Lina Franco Rodriguez her striking game was still fairly raw, but her willingness to press forward and exchange began to wear on her opponent as the bout went on and resulted in a third round stoppage victory for “La Fiera”. Her more recent bouts in Contender Series and LFA were clear steps up in competition, but the Venezuelan was able to answer the challenge and pass those tests as well.
Most comfortable when she can keep the fight standing, Rodriguez always take some punishment in her fights but relies on her ability to swing back with hard combinations to answer whatever her opponents may have landed. In a lot of her bouts she almost seems to welcome getting hit, as she’ll regularly smile at opponents and talk to them even if she may not have gotten the better of the previous exchange. “La Fiera” is most dangerous when she has opponents covered up and backing away, as she’ll start to pour on volume if she can see them struggling and particularly loves to tee off on opponents that cover up while they have their backs on the fence.
While her aggression on the feet and overall willingness to engage in striking exchanges will quickly endear her to fans, for me the most impressive thing about the Venezuelan is the development she showed on Contender Series compared to her early career bouts in South America. She and Valesca Machado had a very close fight, and while a lot of it was contested as a back-and-forth striking battle Piera was able to mix in some good takedowns which likely edged the final scorecards in her direction. In that bout and her LFA title fight with Svetlana Gotsyk she also showed a bit more maturity in her striking game, effectively using her jab and outside leg kicks to set up counters rather than just blitz forward right from the start.
“La Fiera” has been susceptible to takedowns in her career, which makes this debut against Kay Hansen an interesting striker vs. grappler matchup. That being said, if her willingness to shoot for her own takedowns on Contender Series is indicative of her overall developments as a wrestler, Piera may well be in a position to dictate where this fight takes place. Hansen struggled badly against the much larger Jasmine Jasudavicius in her last bout, but she’ll be returning to strawweight here to try and snap a two-fight losing streak.
The biggest concern about Piera has to be the amount of shots she takes in her fights, but up to this point she’s shown a tremendous chin and seems to thrive when the fight starts to get ugly. She responded well to the jump up in competition in her recent bouts, and the growth in her overall MMA game she showed in those fights bodes well for her career in the UFC.
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