UFC Fight Night Spectator Guide: It’s Now Or Never For Marina Rodriguez vs Michelle Waterson
It’s a disclaimer that comes with every single MMA event: the card is subject to change.
And to be honest, Saturday’s UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas was hit hard by changes. This card was meant to show the return of TJ Dillashaw, a former bantamweight champion who lost his belt to drug suspension two years ago in a battle against Cory Sandhagen, the division’s fastest growing competitor.
If you lose a fight of this magnitude, the card will suffer. There’s no way around it. Fortunately, however, the Saturday menu (8 p.m. ET on ESPN, preliminary round at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN +) has some depth to soften the blow. Here are some storylines to watch out for this weekend:
Two straw weights take center stage at UFC Fight Night when Michelle Waterson takes on Marina Rodriguez. But these two fight not at 115 pounds, they fight at 125 pounds because the fight started at the last minute. In addition, “Cowboy” Donald Cerrone returns in the co-main event against Alex Morono.
UFC Fight Night: Rodriguez versus Waterson
• Saturday, May 8th, UFC Apex, Las Vegas
• Main card: 8pm ET on ESPN / ESPN +
• Preliminary Round: 6pm ET on ESPN +
Subscribe to ESPN + to get exclusive live UFC events, Tradeoffs and more; Ariel and the bad guy;; Dana Whites Contender series;; and more exclusive MMA content.
The new main event is a flyweight (but really strawweight) fight between Marina Rodriguez (13-1-2) and Michelle Waterson (18-8). The two will weigh 125 pounds, but this is essentially a 115 pound fight neither of the fighters will lose weight because of the short run. And it’s a big point for Rodriguez, who is a potential future champion but has shown some mounting pain as she tackled the strawweight division’s elite. At 34, she is “offspring” in terms of the cover picture, but she has to make it now.
When that card lost its main event, it added a welterweight matchup between Neil Magny (24-8) and Geoff Neal (13-3). Neal loses to Stephen Thompson in his first UFC main event in December. Had he won, his stock would have been on fire. That was a tough stylistic matchup for Neal, but his potential still goes through the roof. He has to be at his best to beat Magny, a high-ranking veteran who could next fight Khamzat Chimaev with a win.
Donald Cerrone (36-15, 2 NC), 38, will be making his 37th walk to the Octagon and tying his light fellow Jim Miller. This fight was supposed to be against former teammate Diego Sanchez but is now against Alex Morono (18-7, 1 NC). There was a time when we would never see the end of Cerrones career, but for the first time it seems possible that 2021 could be the last year for Cerrone. Even if it doesn’t, we are in the twilight of Cerrone’s historic career.
Seasoned lightweight Diego Ferreira (17-3) had a chance to win a big fight in February and next take on a senior opponent, but he fell short against Beneil Dariush. That was a must for Ferreira. Just look at what happened to him and Dariush afterwards. Ferreira is now fighting a man most lightweights in Gregor Gillespie (13-1) want to avoid, and Dariush is in a high-profile fight against Tony Ferguson over pay-per-view next week. It’s hard to swallow, but Ferreira is a veteran and he needs a good introduction here. As did Gillespie, who showed a lot of potential but made the first loss of his career and hasn’t won in over two years.
By the numbers
4: Waterson’s UFC main event appearances (including Saturday) that will bring her to fourth place among women with flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko. Former bantamweight champions Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm have each topped six cards, one more than Amanda Nunes’ two-part playlist.
7-0: Rodriguez’s record in fights that end with an end (six by knockout, one by submission).
0: Waterson finishes since December 2016. Since then, she has fought eight times and won four of those fights, all by decision, including two split decisions. Previously, Waterson had scored 12 of their 14 wins.
2: Tie in the UFC for Rodriguez, making her the only multiple-tie woman and one of only five modern-day fighters to have more than one tie in the UFC.
14: Waterson’s UFC takedowns, seventh most in straw weight history, resulting in their nine submission wins. So the goal for Rodriguez is to keep the fight going. In her three UFC wins, Rodriguez defended the takedown 89% of the time (8 out of 9). In her three draws / losses, she has only defended takedowns 45% of the time (8 out of 18).
Sources: ESPN Stats & Information and UFC Stats
Five against five
The latest results from Marina Rodriguez
Prize: Amanda Ribas (TKO2, January 24, 2021; see ESPN +)
Loss: Carla Esparza (SD, July 26, 2020; see ESPN +)
Draw: Cynthia Calvillo (MD, December 7, 2019; see ESPN +)
Prize: Tecia Torres (UD, August 10, 2019; see ESPN +)
Prize: Jessica Aguilar (UD, March 30, 2019; see ESPN +)
Michelle Waterson’s recent results
Prize: Angela Hill (SD, September 12, 2020; see ESPN +)
Loss: Carla Esparza (SD, May 9, 2020; see ESPN +)
Loss: Joanna Jedrzejczyk (UD, October 12, 2019; see ESPN +)
Prize: Karolina Kowalkiewicz (UD, March 30, 2019; see ESPN +)
Victory: Felice Herrig (UD, October 6, 2018)
And the winner is …
“On the feet, I feel like Rodriguez definitely has a boxing advantage,” said Carla Esparza, a former UFC strawweight champion who fought and beat both women. “Waterson landed a couple of kicks on me and my leg was black and blue, but Rodriguez has a range and strength advantage. As for wrestling, I could see Waterson take it to the ground. She has nice throws that I ‘ I’ve seen her get hit. It’s all about filling that gap, which is difficult because she likes to be at a distance with her kicks, but if she’s able to create this clash of bodies, I could see her take Rodriguez off his feet. “
Watch Esparza and other experts collapse and predict the outcome of the main event.
How to watch the fights
Check out the main map on ESPN. Don’t have ESPN? Get instant access.
All fights are also available on ESPN +. If you don’t have ESPN +, you can download it here. Also: Download the ESPN App | download WatchESPN | Television program
There is also FightCenter which has live updates for every UFC card.
Saturday’s battle card
Donald Cerrone explains what fighting means to him at this point in his career and mindset before facing Alex Morono.
ESPN / ESPN +, 8 p.m. ET
Marina Rodriguez versus Michelle Waterson | Women’s flyweight
Donald Cerrone versus Alex Morono | Welterweight
Neil Magny versus Geoff Neal | Welterweight
Marcos Rogerio de Lima versus Maurice Greene | Heavyweight
Diego Ferreira versus Gregor Gillespie | Light
Phil Hawes versus Kyle Daukaus | medium weight
ESPN +, 6 p.m. ET
Ludovit Klein versus Michael Trizano | Men’s featherweight
Jun Yong Park versus Tafon Nchukwi | medium weight
Christian Aguilera versus Carlston Harris | Welterweight
Four More Things to Know (from ESPN Stats & Information)
ESPN statistics and information
1. In the Co-Main Event, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone steps back into the Octagon in hopes of winning a five-fight (0-4, 1 NC) winning streak when he takes on Alex Morono. Cerrone, the UFC’s career leader, will again sign Jim Miller for most fights in UFC history. Cerrone will also look to break a tie with Charles Oliveira for the most UFC results. This is the 21st time Cerrone has participated in a UFC main or co-main event, breaking a tie with the UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture and Vitor Belfort after Anderson Silva, 24, and Michael Bisping, 24. 22).
From Monday to Friday, host Pablo Torre gives you a glimpse into the most interesting stories at ESPN, told by the best reporters and insiders in the world. listen
2. Cerrone isn’t the only fighter on the map with massive UFC experience. On Saturday, Neil Magny steps into the octagon for the 25th time when he takes on Geoff Neal on the main map. Magny will break a tie with Josh Koscheck for the third most welterweight bouts and he will look to take his 18th win in the division which for most of them would put him behind famer Georges St-Pierre’s UFC Hall all the time .
3. The lightweights Diego Ferreira and Gregor Gillespie both suffer a loss – but under very different circumstances. Ferreira fell to Beneil Dariush in a separate decision three months ago. Gillespie last fought in November 2019 and suffered his first loss, a brutal loss to Kevin Lee.
5. When Carlston Harris steps into the octagon during the preliminary round to face Christian Aguilera, he will be the first to represent Guyana in the UFC. A total of seven countries will be represented in the preliminary rounds: the USA, Brazil, South Korea, Cameroon, Uzbekistan, Slovakia and Guyana.
ESPN’s Jeff Wagenheim contributed to this bout preview.