(All stats according to UFC’s Record Book and Fight Metric as of July 5 and only include active athletes in their respective division unless noted otherwise)
Main Event: Alexander Volkanovski vs Yair Rodriguez
Key Stats: +3.12 striking differential (1st all-time among FW), 18:00 average fight time (Longest all-time among FW), 1.52 takedowns per 15 minutes
What It Means: Volkanovski is considered one of the best to do it at featherweight for a variety of reasons. Yes, his skill set is well-rounded and lethal in each aspect of the game, and yes, he possesses a great Fight IQ, but his competitiveness really shines in the toughest moments. Whether it’s a grappling scramble or an exchange on the feet, “The Great” adjusts accordingly and figures out where to press his advantages. Striking-wise, he is clean and varied in his attack. He has a great jab and deceptive distance-management despite his smaller stature. His kicks are quick, and he can really push a high pace before finding a moment to sit down on a right hand. While he prefers a standup attack, he can mix in wrestling with great effect as well and land heavy ground-and-pound.
Key Stats: 9 total fight night bonuses (tied-1st all-time among FW), 4.78 strikes landed per minute, 63% takedown defense
What It Means: “El Pantera” is one of the most dynamic strikers on the roster today, and he throws with a real abandon that makes his explosiveness all the more dangerous. Rodriguez’s best techniques are probably his kicks. He’ll go low, high, and to the body with no discrimination and from a closer distance than what is conventional. Rodriguez can box sharply, as well, and the angles he takes and creates set up power shots. He is dangerous on the ground, as well, with an active guard and sharp upkicks.
What to Look For in the Fight: A truly fascinating matchup, Rodriguez might be the most lethal challenger to Volkanovski’s throne yet. He contains knockout power in his strikes but also in his unpredictability, so the always-sharp Volkanovski cannot get too comfortable for a moment in the fight. How early and often Volkanovski mixes grappling into the attack and the way Rodriguez manages that is going to be key. Both men like to set up their offense with their kicks and long punches, so the distance at which this bout is fought will be key.
Co-Main Event: Brandon Moreno vs Alexandre Pantoja
Key Stats: 22% control time percentage (7th), 45.5% takedown accuracy (3rd), 40.8% significant strike accuracy (10th)
What It Means: Moreno’s bread-and-butter is in his submission game, but “The Assassin Baby” rounded out his game sharply throughout his UFC tenure. His boxing is very fluid, and he is able to begin and counter in exchanges. His jab is long and accurate, and if he sticks his opponent a couple times, he starts to feel really comfortable in the striking exchanges. His kicks are quality, as well, and he uses them to damage the legs and body of his opponent most often. In grappling exchanges, he hustles when chasing takedowns, and he is always looking to sweep his opponent, especially when they shoot in on him.
Key Stats: 4 submission wins (2nd all-time among FLW), 48.4% significant strike accuracy (7th), 1.25 submissions averaged per 15 minutes (7th all-time among FLW)
What It Means: Although Pantoja is best-known for his jiu jitsu game, he is a fighter who walks forward with a maniacal determination that can drown an opponent who is not used to constant motion. He marauds forward, and if he starts to fall behind, he likes to blitz forward with punches and get into a Thai clinch. Pantoja is very crafty about the ways he finds his advantages in the grappling realm, and he can force a mistake as well as he can spot one for the taking.
What to Look For in the Fight: Pantoja is almost always the pressure fighter, but Moreno’s footwork has improved greatly compared with their first two meetings. Moreno might be well-served shooting a takedown early to stymie some of the pressure coming his way, but Pantoja isn’t one to be discouraged. On the feet, Moreno has the higher volume, and Pantoja probably has the bigger power by a small margin.
Other Fights to Watch (Robert Whittaker vs Dricus Du Plessis, Jalin Turner vs Dan Hooker)
Key Stats: 15:20 average fight time (4th longest all-time among MW), 57.9% significant strike defense (9th all-time among MW), 81.2% takedown defense (3rd all-time among MW)
RELATED: Whittaker's Greatest Hits
What It Means: Whittaker is the definition of elite. He has the striking to go against anyone and the offensive and defensive wrestling to mix it up greatly. On the feet, he darts quickly in and out of the pocket, and he loves setting up his head kick off a 1-2 combination. He has a smart check hook, and if he can set the pace, he likes to pepper his opponent with low kicks and jabs.
Dricus Du Plessis
Key Stats: 6.72 strikes landed per minute (1st all-time among MW), +2.99 striking differential (1st all-time among MW), 55.3% significant strike accuracy (7th all-time among MW)
What It Means: “Stillknocks” is a bit of a madman in the Octagon. He likes to keep what seems like an unsustainable pace of pressure and power shots, but his recovery is solid enough to keep him afloat in deeper waters. Every punch he throws has the potential to knock his opponent out, and his kicks to the body are heavy. Often, his volume and power overwhelm his opponents although he does possess that one-shot power.
WATCH THE PREVIEW: Whittaker vs Du Plessis
What to Look For in the Fight: Although Whittaker could very well strike with Du Plessis just fine, he might mix things up early to wear on the South African and take away some of his knockout power. Whittaker will likely be the faster man during exchanges, but Du Plessis is physically very strong. Du Plessis will have to mindfully close the distance and deter Whittaker from shooting for takedowns and, on the feet, he can’t just go for broke against someone as sharp as Whittaker. That said, Whittaker is never afraid to bite down and slug it out, so there should be some heavy and dangerous exchanges at hand.
Key Stats: +2.04 striking differential (6th all-time among LW), 0.91 knockdowns per 15 minutes (8th all-time among LW), 2.39 strikes absorbed per minute (9th)
What It Means: It goes without saying, but Turner is incredibly tall and long for the division at 6-foot-3 with a 77-inch reach. Not only that, but he is also adept about taking advantage of his long-range tools. He keeps his opponents on the end of his punches, which do pack significant power. He has good footwork and often controls the real estate inside the Octagon. Often, opponents have issues getting into range because of his length and distance management.
Key Stats: 5.44 strikes landed per minute (7th), 0.79 knockdowns per 15 minutes (6th), 4.61 strikes absorbed per minute
What It Means: Hooker is a technical brawler through and through. He is a sharp kicker who can batter his opponent’s lead leg early before getting into the pocket. “The Hangman” loves to mix knees into the middle of his combinations before throwing heavy hooks on either end of them. Hooker also loves shooting elbows in close and, if need be, he can mix it up and wrestle well too.
What to Look For in the Fight: How Hooker manages Turner’s height and reach advantage should be intriguing, especially considering how Hooker is usually the taller and longer man in his fights. How early he decides to shoot for a takedown – if at all - is intriguing, as well. For Turner, it’s about using those long-range attacks the way he has in the past, and he might have a window to counter hard if Hooker throws a leg kick without putting something out for Turner to deal with first.
UFC 290: Volkanovski vs Rodriguez took place live from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on July 8, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!