Five reasons to watch UFC Fight Night: Ortega vs Rodriguez on BT Sport

A cracking featherweight contest heads up this prime time fight card on Saturday night as Brian Ortega takes on Yair Rodriguez.

By George Mills Published: 14 July 2022 - 11.17am
Ortega vs Rodriguez

There’s no need for a late night this Saturday as us Brits are blessed with a prime time show at UFC Fight Night: Ortega vs Rodriguez.

Coming to you live from 5pm on BT Sport 2HD, we’ve got a stacked slate of cracking contests scheduled including Britain’s very own Jack Shore in a bantamweight barnburner against Ricky Simon.

And topping the bill, two-time title challenger Brian Ortega looks to hold off the next title hopeful when he faces Yair Rodriguez in the featherweight division.

With all that, plus a bunch of other fun fights coming your way this Saturday evening, here’s five reasons why you can't miss UFC Fight Night: Ortega vs Rodriguez on BT Sport.

El Pantera on the prowl

The featherweight division could crown a new number one contender this Saturday night, with Yair Rodriguez gunning for the next shot at champion Alexander Volkanovski should he overcome Brian Ortega.

Rodriguez is undoubtedly one of the 145lb division’s most entertaining fighters to watch with his inventive striking and durability helping him secure performance bonuses in all but three of his 11 UFC appearances.

Inactivity has been the Mexican man’s downfall though, with Saturday night’s showdown scheduled to be only his second appearance inside the Octagon since October 2019.

His last outing saw him drop a decision loss to Max Holloway after a bloody, hard-fought battle at the UFC APEX.

However, despite coming up short against the former undisputed champion, it was a performance that saw Rodriguez’s stock rise to the extent that the 29-year-old suggested he’d been promised the next shot at featherweight gold – if he wins this weekend.

“That’s [a title shot] what we’re looking for,” ‘El Pantera’ told MMAFighting’s Ariel Helwani this week.

“First things first, I’m going to win this fight and then give the champ some time to heal and, yeah, go for it. Right now let’s just take it step-by-step. First thing’s first July 16th, Brian Ortega.”

While on paper his form hardly demands a crack at the belt next, the reality of Alexander Volkanovski’s stunning form atop the featherweight throne means the 145lb division is desperate for the emergence of a new contender to challenge his dominance.

A win over Ortega would certainly help rubber stamp his fast-track to the top, even if it comes at the expense of a man Rodriguez considers a friend in ‘T-City’.

“We’re homies, so it’s cool to share the Octagon with him,” Rodriguez told this week.

“There are no hard feelings, no bad feelings towards him — it’s just something we have to do; it’s our work and we understand that.

“There is no need to bring in bad feelings. There is mutual respect, but that won’t bring down the fight. It’s going to be fire, for sure. He always brings the heat, I’ll bring the heat, and I’m sure it’s going to be a war.”

T-City looking for quick rebound

While the narrative coming into this fight appears to have been focused on Rodriguez’s championship credentials, two-time challenger Ortega is out to show he’s very much focussed on securing a title shot of his own on Saturday night.

The 31-year-old will be making his first appearance since losing to 145lb king Alexander Volkanovski, hoping to put the agony of that performance to bed with an emphatic reminder of his abilities against Rodriguez.

Ortega came as close as anyone has to defeating Volkanovski at UFC 266 September last year, sinking in a mean guillotine that almost rendered the champ unconscious before his miraculous escape in the third round.

“I’m just a deadly opponent for Volkanovski”
- Brian Ortega

And while that near miss may have broken other fighters’ will, for Ortega the performance only vindicated his belief that he can be the man to snatch the belt from the Aussie king.

“I’m just a deadly opponent for him [Volkanovski],” Ortega told Inside Fighting.

“Obviously I’m always gonna train to win, to fight this guy and beat this guy. I believe I have the tools and capabilities to do so if I play my cards right. So it’s all about seeing how I can play my cards right and going in there and finishing this man.”

Any visions of the belt must first start with Rodriguez on Saturday night however, as Ortega looks to get to grips with one of the 145lb division’s most dynamic and unconventional strikers.

But ‘T-City’ will be full of confidence heading into the match-up having only ever lost when the belt was on the line since joining the UFC in 2015.

Ortega is always game and with four Fight of the Night bonuses from his last six fights, the Los Angeles native tends to bring out the best in his opponent too.

Let’s hope that remains the case on Saturday night as if so, we’ll be set to see something special at the UBS Arena.

The Leech

Li Jingliang does not do boring fights.

The Chinese star has been a mainstay of the welterweight rankings for a long time now and should be no stranger to fight fans at this point.

He’s matched up against Dagestani hard man Muslim Salikhov on Saturday night and will be chomping at the bit to remind people of his skills after the manner of his previous defeat.

That came at the hands of Khamzat Chimaev in jaw-dropping fashion at UFC 267 last October, when the Swedish monster ragdolled Jingliang before securing a first-round submission.

Jingliang is a much better fighter than he was made to look that night, with wins over the likes of Santiago Ponzinibbio and Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos on his ledger.

However, the Xinjiang native knows his number could be at stake in the rankings when he welcomes Salikhov to the Octagon this weekend as the Russian looks for a sixth straight win that would surely see him enter the top 15.

Salikhov is a multiple time Sanda world champion – a combat practise that blends modern techniques with traditional kung fu – and has real pedigree in the striking department with almost 200 kickboxing fights before switching his focus to MMA.

At 38-years-old, time is not on Salikhov’s side so he will want to ensure his recent winning form remains intact if he has any ambitions of reaching the summit of the division.

Will Jingliang put the brakes on Salikhov’s ascent – or will the top 15 see a new name enter the rankings by Monday morning?

Pure violence

Even amid what looks set to be a beautifully violent card this Saturday night, Shane Burgos vs Charles Jourdain stands out as one that could steal the show.

New York native Burgos has forged a reputation as one of the toughest men in the featherweight division and is never one to shy away from an exchange.

‘Hurricane’ rebounded from a pair of losses with a decision victory over Billy Quantarillo last time out to keep a hold of his top 15 ranking.

Standing at a shade under 6ft, the 31-year-old is one of the taller men in the division and uses his long levers with an impressive arsenal of striking ability.

“My plan is create as much damage as I can”
- Charles Jourdain

Coupled with a fondness for taking a shot in order to dish one out, Burgos’ fights have been guaranteed entertainment over the past few years – and Jourdain looks like the perfect man to ensure that hot streak of box office action will continue.

Still only 26, Jourdain has already had eight fights in the UFC and now looks to be finding his feet having picked up successive wins for the first time thanks to his first-round submission win against Landa Vannata last time out.

“My plan is create as much damage as I can,” Jourdain told TSN.

“He’s a man that can withstand a lot of damage, especially on the side of his head. I think he has a strong upper body and neck so he can absorb a lot of punishment when it comes to hooks and anything that attacks the side of the head.

“But any time he’s been hit clean on the chin, he’s gone down. I think that is the button right there.

“I think Shane wants to put on a show – but I think that could be his downfall, wanting to give that blood back to the crowd. We’ll see. I’m very intrigued how he’s going to play his cards. I’m willing to push the pace on him so he has to adapt to me instead of me adapting to his forward pressure.”

The Tank rolls into town

It may have been a surprise to many not to see Jack Shore’s name among those competing on home soil when the UFC returns to the UK for the second time this year on Saturday 23 July.

After all, the Welshman kept up his undefeated record with another quietly-brilliant performance at the O2 Arena last time out, battling to victory against the teak-tough Timur Valiev on the scorecards.

However, the 27-year-old has a fantastic opportunity to create some noise for himself without the distraction of so many British comrades when he fights Ricky Simon this weekend in New York.

Shore, the former Cage Warriors bantamweight champion, is undefeated throughout his burgeoning 16-fight pro career, winning four by KO, eight by submission and four via the scorecards.

Arguably one of the most well-rounded prospects Britain has produced in some time, the man from Abertillery in south Wales will need to count on every facet of his game when he takes on fellow top-15 bantamweight Simon.

Simon is on a four-fight tear and would represent the biggest scalp of Shore’s career by far with the 29-year-old American having previously beaten the likes of Brian Kelleher and Raphael Assuncao.

Can our man set the table for another fortnight of British MMA success? Find out from 5pm on BT Sport 2HD this Saturday night!