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The UFC returns to Mexico’s capitol city and its 7,380-foot elevation for the first time since 2017 when Arena Ciudad de Mexico plays host to UFC on ESPN+ 17.
This card, to put it mildly, is not the deepest show the UFC has ever run.
The main event between featherweights Yair Rodriguez and Jeremy Stephens promises to be one worth going out of your way to see. Rodriguez (11-2 MMA, 7-1 UFC) is one of the most spectacular performers in the game, as he reminded us last time out when he knocked out Chan Sung Jung with one second left in their UFC Denver main event. Stephens (28-16 MMA, 15-15 UFC), for his part, has a long history of putting on exciting performances in both victory and defeat.
UFC on ESPN+ 17 takes place Saturday at Mexico City Arena. The card streams on ESPN+.
Without further ado, here are five key storylines heading into Saturday night’s card.
Is Yair Rodriguez all the way back?
The Chihuahua native initially caught most of our attention the first time the UFC visited Mexico City in 2015, when he earned a split-decision victory an an all-heart, “Fight of the Night”-earning victory over Charles Rosa.
That memorable matchup kicked off a string of spectacular performances in which he earned four post-fight bonuses in five fights, culminating in his vicious finish of B.J. Penn in 2017.
Just as it seemed Rodriguez was going to break through and become the company’s long-elusive breakthrough Latino superstar, though, he was on the wrong end of a wicked one-sided beating at the hands of Frankie Edgar, then got into a quit/fired he said/she said with the UFC in a contract dispute.
Things were smoothed over, and then Rodriguez returned for his all-time classic scrap with Jung for the UFC’s 25th anniversary show, the one which ended with a knockout elbow at the 24:59 mark of what was already and extraordinary battle.
Four years later, Rodriguez is back where this all started (Yes, we know technically he was on “TUF: Latin America 2,” but we also know most of you weren’t watching it). Imagine, if Rodriguez lives up to his full potential, what a fight between he and featherweight champion Max Holloway would look like. We’re not saying a victory over Stephens gets him there, but it would mark proof that he’s fully put his rough patch behind him once and for all.
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