It feels like just yesterday, Adrian Yanez was merely the Contender Series graduate with a penchant for highlight reel finishes. Now, the 29-year-old has a fantastic chance to leapfrog a few in the top-15 and establish himself as a genuine player at 135lbs against perennial contender Rob Font this weekend.
Font a big step-up in competition for exciting Yanez
- “This guy has the never-die attitude, going to keep getting up. I have to be ready at every second because this guy is gonna be non-stop coming forward,” Yanez rightly praises Font’s durability in assessment
- Font expects Fight of the Night affair and warns Yanez not to underestimate him, after taking a year off that he “needed to recoup”
- 29-year-old makes big leap in competition and puts 5-0 unbeaten UFC record to the test against a dangerous contender, especially given he’s lost his last two fights with Jose Aldo (Dec 21) and Marlon Vera (April 22)
The bulk of fight week has been headlined by this weekend’s main event title matchup and rightly so: former middleweight champion Israel Adesanya finds himself in must-win territory against a rival in Alex Pereira who has beaten him three times across two disciplines, if he wants to reclaim UFC gold once more.
If you’re not focusing most of your attention there, then the stakes for Gilbert Burns vs. Jorge Masvidal are similarly compelling. The latter has hinted at retirement if his three-fight losing streak is extended here, on home soil of all places, while another title shot isn’t impossible considering the championship changed hands last August.
All of that is fair game, but the evening’s Fight of the Night frontrunner isn’t getting much love. Perhaps because Rob Font hasn’t won a fight since May 2021, or that some aren’t convinced Yanez is defensively astute enough to reach the highest level.
Despite having 59% significant strike defence, Yanez currently absorbs an average of 5.49 sig. strikes per minute (ufcstats.com)
While the hungry lion vs. the wily vet is a storyline that has unfolded many times over, that narrative or nitpicking Yanez’s true ceiling shouldn’t matter.
Instead, you should appreciate what is on display between two fighters who don’t want to lose for different reasons – one on the rise, another looking to arrest a slide.
Yanez’s run of form
June 2022 – Tony Kelley (R1 TKO): Performance of the Night
Nov. 2021 – Davey Grant (split decision): Fight of the Night
July 2021 – Randy Costa (R2 TKO): POTN
Mar. 2021 – Gustavo Lopez (R3 KO): POTN
Oct. 2020 – Victor Rodriguez (R1 KO): POTN
Font’s head coach Tyson Chartier is aware of the stakes for his charge and is in familiar territory, having helped Calvin Kattar snap Giga Chikadze’s hype at featherweight in a January main event last year. Chikadze still hasn’t returned.
“We’ve got a young, hungry prospect coming up – 5-0 in the UFC, really good boxing, good jiu-jitsu and wrestling too, hasn’t always had to use it. We’re in that position where we have to defend our number, I think I see a revitalisation of his attitude, he’s coming into this fight with that different, fresh perspective of like: ‘I don’t have to do this, I get to do this,’ I know there’s this extra motivation going into it, extra excitement for him and the whole team.”
Font landed more strikes (significant and total) than both Aldo and Vera, but knockdowns played their part as he lost clear decisions in five-round headliners.
Returning to three-round fights, opposite a fast starter in Yanez, adds another key to watch out for in this contest. Yanez is known for his boxing, though Font has a narrow edge in that department and the statistics justify that – against tougher opposition:
strikes landed per min: 6.38 – 6.62
striking accuracy: 46-40% Font
strikes absorbed: 3.95 to 5.49
defence: 57-59% Yanez
So, will Yanez show new wrinkles to his game and pass his biggest test yet or will Font find a way to get back on the winning path, exposing some defensive deficiencies?
UFC 287 fight card, is as follows
Main card (Sunday, 3am BST)
Middleweight championship: Alex Pereira (c) vs. Israel Adesanya 
Welterweight: Gilbert Burns  vs. Jorge Masvidal 
Bantamweight: Rob Font  vs. Adrian Yanez 
Welterweight: Kevin Holland vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio
Bantamweight: Raul Rosas Jr vs. Christian Rodriguez
Prelims (Sunday, 1am BST)
Middleweight: Kelvin Gastelum  vs. Chris Curtis 
Women’s Strawweight: Michelle Waterson  vs. Luana Pinheiro 
Middleweight: Gerald Meerschaert vs. Joe Pyfer
Heavyweight: Karl Williams vs. Chase Sherman
Early prelims (Saturday, 11pm BST)
Women’s Strawweight: Cynthia Calvillo [15, flyweight] vs. Lupita Godinez
Catchweight (160lbs): Ignacio Bahamondes vs. Trey Ogden
Featherweight: Shayilan Nuerdanbieke vs. Steve Garcia
Women’s Strawweight: Jaqueline Amorim vs. Sam Hughes
Picture source: Getty Images