Kleydson Rodrigues makes his UFC debut on Saturday on the early prelims of UFC 274. The 26-year-old opened as a -220 favorite over his flyweight opponent, C. J. Vergara. As of this writing, at least one sportsbook has the Brazilian as a -375 favorite over his 30-year-old American opponent.
Rodrigues is 7-1 as a pro and reps Team Nogueira. He earned his UFC deal on the strength of a unanimous decision win over Santo Curatolo on a Dana White Contender Series card in September 2021. The decision ended a run of three straight stoppage victories for the young fighter.
Former UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping had this to say about the performance he witnessed from cageside, “He (Rodrigues) went out there and beat him (Curatolo) all over the place, from pillar to post. From start to finish.”
Bisping added, “Just total domination. One-way traffic.”
Despite getting the win and a UFC contract, Rodrigues, who is a former Jungle Fight flyweight champion, seemed disappointed in his performance.
“It was frustrating because I did want to show some stuff, maybe take him down, maybe some counters, but it didn’t develop like that,” Rodrigues said. “But still, very happy to get the win.”
Rodrigues’ DWCS performance was impressive. He showed incredible speed and showcased a deep pool of striking techniques, including flying and spinning strikes that prevented his opponent from ever getting a read on his output. By the time the fight came to a close, Rodrigues’ significant strike landing percentage was 30 percent to the head, 31 percent to the body and 37 percent to the legs.
As for White, when he awarded Rodrigues his contract, the UFC president said, “Let me just keep this simple with Rodrigues. This is an easy one. (He is) so talented, so well-rounded, so aggressive. This kid’s only 25 years-old. He’s got nothing but time. I love this kid. Yeah, he’s in.”
It’s hard to predict what a fighter will look like once they face elite competition, but Rodrigues looks like he is going to be an excellent addition to the every-deepening talent pool in the UFC flyweight division.
UFC 274 takes place Saturday, May 7 at Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona. The main card streams on ESPN+ pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN and early prelims on ESPN+.
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