Born October 6, 1992 in Parral, Chihuahua, Mexico, and fighting out of Huntington Beach, California, the 28 year-old Mexican mixed martial artist Yair Raziel Rodriguez Portillo, racked up notable wins after 2014 when he signed with the UFC after winning “The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America” tournament.
He is nicknamed “El Pantera”, (“The Panther”) in reference to his ferocious and dynamic fighting style. With a black belt in Taekwondo, El Pantera uses his skills to perform an array of unique and brutal strikes like for example when he faced the ‘Korean Zombie’, throwing in an upward elbow as if he was in an action movie!
His rigorous fighting nature indeed resembles the elusive and deadly nature of a panther, pouncing on his opponents before dishing out punishing blows in savage fashion.
This brutal yet clinical fighting style hybrids Taekwondo, boxing, and submission wrestling, learning first the Korean martial art Taekwondo at just five years of age. As Yair grew up in Chihuahua, Mexico, he refined his craft getting his Taekwondo black belt through sheer worth ethic and dedication.
In the mixed martial arts arena, Yair is wholly known for his devastating strikes and technical mastery where he has garnered a respectable featherweight contender’s 13 wins with 4 KO/TKO’s and 3 submissions.
After more of the Yair Rodriguez story below, be ready to sink your claws into these remarkable yet brutal finishes. So, let’s go hunt and countdown Yair ‘El Pantera’ Rodriguez’s Top 5 MMA Finishes (in descending order)!
With his striking versatility and precision, Yair Rodriguez’s unpredictable kicks, grappling aptitude and efficient use of his arsenal make him a formidable match up for all featherweight competitors.
He has defeated well-known names including Dan Hooker, B.J. Penn, Jeremy Stephens, and ‘The Korean Zombie’, Chan Sung Jung. Yair is one of the most exciting contenders to enter the featherweight division where his performances have been a thrilling mix of striking wizardry, exceptional grappling, and overall a display of sheer entertainment.
October, 10, 2011 marked Rodriguez’s professional mixed martial arts debut at ‘Mexican Fighters Promotions 8’ winning a unanimous decision against Jonathan Guzman.
Yair would subsequently go on to submit his next opponent, Carlos Ricardo by a third-round triangle choke but lose his following bout by TKO. Even though he suffered a loss, He would return in spectacular fashion by knocking out Edgar Juarez via flying knee. In his final fight before entering “The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America”, Rodriguez would fight Angelo Durante submitting him by arm bar.
Taking part in “The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America” May 2014, would see Yair successfully audition and be casted a member to compete for “Team Velasquez”. After defeating Rodolfo Rubio to reach the TUF finals in 2014, Rodriguez would make his UFC debut against Leonardo Morales at UFC 180 winning by unanimous decision.
This led to a 6-fight winning streak, picking up Performance of the Night and Fight of the Night bonuses twice. However, by UFC 211, ‘El Pantera’ would receive an unfortunate loss against Frankie Edgar by TKO (Doctor’s stoppage) sending him to the losing column. Although, there was another momentary set back where Rodriguez was removed from the UFC roster, this was eventually resolved and he was added back in. Late October 2018 saw an incredible fight as the MMA community were astounded with an absolute back-and-forth brawl between the Yair and the “Korean Zombie” ending with the latest knockout in history at 4:59 of round 5.
Rodriguez’s last match was against top featherweight contender Jeremy Stephens winning the match up on October 19, 2019, at UFC on ESPN 6. He won by unanimous decision along with being awarded Fight of the Night honors for his efforts. Currently, he is ranked #4 in the UFC featherweight rankings and trains with Valle Flow Striking Academy.
All that said, now onto the list…
- Vs. Angelo Durante – NP: High Altitude Face Off 6 (April 4, 2014)
- Vs. Edgar Juarez – FMP 14: Mexican Fighters Promotions 14 (Feb. 16, 2013)
- Vs. B.J. Penn – UFC Fight Night 103 (Jan. 15, 2017)
- Vs. Andre Fili – UFC 197 (April 23, 2016)
- Vs. Chan Sung Jung – UFC Fight Night 139 (Nov. 10, 2018)
This was Rodriguez’s 6th professional MMA bout, where ‘El Pantera’ faced Angelo Duarte at NP: High Altitude Face Off 6 where the round would show a clear difference in skill and fighting style.
The first round saw both Yair and Duarte feeling each other out, and testing each other by feinting and getting the distance locked down. Early into the round, Duarte shot for the takedown and got ‘El Pantera’ onto his back. However, Rodriguez was able to endure the smothering and transition to pulling Duarte into his guard. From there, he gradually wears down an exhausted Duarte isolating the arm to secure an arm bar.
Duarte fights back for a couple of seconds but the arm bar is locked too deep leaving him at the point of no return. He’s forced to tap out and ‘El Pantera’ is declared the victor via submission.
Losing his last match by K.O., Rodriguez sought redemption wanting to make a statement by returning to the octagon hungrier, more determined and more focused than ever. He did that with Juarez.
In just the first 13 seconds, the round began with a clearly outmatched opponent in terms of physicality, speed, striking technique and more.
Rodriguez threw combinations that hit the target square; however, Juarez was not so lucky.
Yair telegraphed an incoming jab with a well-timed flying knee knocking his opponent out cold to declare the 28 year-old Mexican contender the winner.
A legend of the game matched up with a rising prospect, it seemed like the perfect match having both a UFC veteran and a new comer represented.
Although, as the ending result shows, it did not turn out too well for the former Hawaiian champion.
In rounds one and two, B.J. Penn as the veteran tried admirably to keep up the power exchange with Rodriguez; however, it proved fruitless as Penn was taken advantage of from every angle. ‘El Pantera’ would even damage Penn when he blocked head kicks as they were just too powerful.
The shots traded were nowhere as significant as Rodriguez’s ability to slip in, out, and utilize his Taekwondo footwork to get out of tight situations.
At UFC 197, Rodriguez faced Andre Fili on the undercard of Jones Vs. Saint Preux where once again, ‘El Pantera’ would put a striking clinic on display along with gaining a stunning Performance of the Night bonus.
Over the first and second rounds, shots were exchanged inside and outside the pocket but Yair was the one causing more noticeable damage with the ferocity of his shots.
He kept using his lead leg to set up for counter head kicks, or punching combinations paired with an overhand. It was in the second round where his pressure, kicking and punching diversity, and most importantly, timing, aligned where he caught Fili with a double kick.
With Fili’s face bloodied up, his vision was impaired but nevertheless, the knockout was secure. Referee Dan Miragliotta intervened declaring ‘El Pantera’ the winner by second round knockout.
With the original main bout for UFC Fight Night 139 scrapped, Yair accepted to serve as replacement for the match. Indeed a legendary match was arranged with fans, pundits, and new audiences alike not knowing what they were in store for.
Every round was filled with constant back-and-forth action. Counter- enacted by both fighters whilst beautifully injecting in their own styles and combinations together to create a performance filled with just about everything. From Rodriguez’s effortless kicks to Jung’s unrelenting pressure, it was an incredibly violent match up almost akin to a Mortal Kombat showdown – no fatalities here though, thank goodness!
By the end, Rodriguez had rounds one and three in his pocket but the ‘Korean Zombie’ managed to comeback with winning round two and four.
They were tied and the fifth round would decide the final verdict; however, in an astounding turn of events, the fighters tapped gloves as a show of respect 12 seconds before the bout ended.
With just 1 second left on the clock, Chan Sung Jung goes on the offensive with a combination pressing forward, Rodriguez steps back ducks under and swings his right elbow upwards knocking The ‘Korean Zombie’ unconscious. Referee Kevin MacDonald intervenes to call the fight thus declaring Rodriguez the victor in a truly exhilarating battle of MMA titans. Yair also took home the coveted ‘Fight of the Night’ and ‘Performance of the Night’ bonuses!