The first weekend of July means one thing in the UFC - International fight week, and UFC 290 is set to be one of the most stacked cards of the year.
In the main event we'll see the featherweight title defended and unified when current champion Alexander Volkanovski takes on the interim champion Yair Rodriguez, while the co-main event will see the flyweight title on the line between Brandon Moreno and Alexandre Pantoja.
We'll be focusing on the main event bout at 145-pounds in this article, breaking down the fight and providing you with our best free UFC betting picks to see if we can earn you some extra cash on fight night.
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UFC 290 information
- Saturday, July 8th 2023
- T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada
- Main card starts 10pm ET
- Featherweight Championship bout (145-pounds)
Alexander Volkanovski vs Yair Rodriguez
The reigning and defending featherweight champion, Volkanovski is ranked as the number one pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC despite defeat in his last bout.
Moving up to lightweight to challenge Islam Makhachev and become a two-weight world champion, Volkanovski was beaten in a razor close decision to see his 22-fight and ten year long undefeated run come to an end.
In his own weight class he remains undefeated though with a record of 12-0 in the UFC, including five title fight victories. He has beaten Max Holloway three times, as well as beating Brian Ortega and The Korean Zombie en route to becoming one of the best of all time.
"The Great" has a professional record of 25-2 including 12 knockout wins.
Rodriguez on the other hand became the interim featherweight champion in his last fight, submitting Josh Emmett in the second round with a triangle choke to get the belt.
Prior to that he earned a win over Ortega due to a shoulder injury in the first round and was beaten in a close bout by Holloway before that on the judge's scorecards. His overall UFC record is 10-2 with one no contest, and everyone remembers him fondly for one of the greatest elbow knockouts in history when he beat the Korean Zombie in the final second.
Professionally he is 15-3 with five knockouts and four submission wins.
Route to victory
Both of these fighters are extremely well-rounded when it comes to mixed martial arts, but there are clear advantages for either man in this match-up that make it a very interesting fight.
When it comes to striking on the feet, that aren't many men in the UFC better than Rodriguez. His kicking game is next level, with terrific power, speed, and accuracy whether it's to the head, body, or legs, and he has fantastic timing too.
His boxing is pretty solid and he's one of those rare fighters who uses eight limbs rather than four, with knees and elbows commonplace when it comes to his attacks. He's also solid on the ground with a vicious submission game from his back in guard, as well as a nasty game when he's on top.
But while Volkanovski is an excellent striker in his own right with great volume and technique to go with his variety, he doesn't have anywhere near the power that Rodriguez has although both have got an excellent chin.
When it comes to grappling Volkanovski is the more effective and efficient fighter. He is comfortably the better wrestler and will feel confident in his ability to take Rodriguez to the ground whenever he needs to, while his ground-and-pound ability makes him one of the most dangerous champions in a long time.
In a straight stand-up fight Rodriguez will fancy his chances of landing vicious shots to claim the knockout, while Volkanovski will feel that he is capable of beating anyone in a true mixed martial arts bout.
Check out our review for Bovada sports betting here.
UFC Picks: Volkanovski the GOAT
Volkanovski is a fighter that many people underestimate because of his style and lack of finishing ability, but he genuinely is one of the very best of all time.
He was in a similar position when he fought Holloway - being the better grappler but outmatched on the feet - and he came out on top in all three fights (although the second win was very controversial).
Volkanovski has a way of pushing the pace like no other, with some of the very best cardio in the sport, and he is able to weaponize it and force his opponents to try and go with him which they very rarely can.
Rodriguez will be looking to use his speed and takedown defense to keep the fight in his ideal realm, but there is no guarantee that he comes out on top there considering the experience that Volk has.
This is surely going to be a high-paced, entertaining fight with lots of back and forth when it comes to the momentum over the course of the 25 minutes, but in a fight that is expected to go the distance we can't go against the guy who is the more complete fighter so back Volk to get it done on the cards.
Check out our review for BetOnline sports betting here.