Thanks to an injury to T.J. Dillashaw, the UFC is pivoting and putting together a new main event featuring strawweight contenders: former Invicta champion Michelle Waterson (18-8-0) and fast-rising prospect Marina Rodriguez (13-1-2). The bout is a flyweight bout so the ladies won’t be cutting much weight.
Rodriguez is the betting favorite at -200 while the comeback on Waterson is +160. Expect a back-and-forth striking war here with a good potential for a finish. Waterson is a savvy veteran, but Rodriguez is set to earn another prized win here.
- Date: Saturday, May 8, 7 p.m. ET
- Venue: UFC Apex, Enterprise, NA, United States
- Watch on: ESPN, ESPN+
Marina Rodriguez vs Michelle Waterson
Weight Class: Flyweight (125)
Rounds: Five (Main Event)
Odds: Michelle Waterson +160, Marina Rodriguez -200
This is a classic matchup between the hot new contender in Marina Rodriguez and the grizzled veteran in Michelle Waterson and a win for either fighter here will propel them to a new level.
Rodriguez is coming off a scintillating knockout of fellow blue chip prospect Amanda Ribas in January while Waterson turned back Angela Hill in a closely contested bout back in September. Both women are primarily strikers, which is where this fight will be decided.
Waterson: The BJJ Hottie
Nicknamed the “Karate Hottie,” Michelle Waterson has been in the MMA spotlight for many years even before she came to the UFC. She’s originally an atomweight and is still small for the 115 division. At 125, Waterson will have to cut little to no weight.
As her moniker suggests, Waterson’s base is karate. She has some deadly kicks in her arsenal and can blitz her opponents when she sees an opening. But most of her finishes have come via her other strength: her Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, where she’s a black belt.
As good as she is in striking, she will be outgunned by the bigger Rodriguez. Her best method to victory here is to outgrapple Rodriguez. Mix in some takedowns, clinch here, and force her to keep defending.
Doing this will not only prevent Rodriguez from teeing off on Waterson, but will also sap her energy as she has to work to keep Waterson from controlling her on the mat and submitting her.
Rodriguez: Keep the Hype Train Running
Marina Rodriguez came into the UFC with a bang via Dana White’s Contender Series. She showcased some prolific striking and flashed power in her hands, a rare attribute for the strawweight class.
Marina Rodriguez LANDED one 😱😱
HUGE upset for the +260 underdog!!! pic.twitter.com/WQW8lLFWgz
— BroBible (@BroBible) January 24, 2021
She’s built three impressive wins in the UFC but has failed to create much momentum thanks to one aspect: her grappling.
Before knocking out Ribas, Rodriguez lost to Carla Esparza. She yielded five takedowns in the fight despite landing more significant strikes throughout. Before that, she had two draws against Cynthia Calvillo and Randa Markos who both used grappling to neutralize her.
Rodriguez did knock out Ribas, but it’s still unknown if she’s working on her defensive grappling. For her and the division’s sake, she needs to keep this fight standing and put a spectacular showing against Waterson. She could just earn a title shot if she puts Waterson away.
This fight could play it in two ways: Waterson makes this a muddled fight as she frustrates Rodriguez for five rounds by mixing in takedowns and eluding her power shots. Or, Rodriguez and Waterson slug it out like Dominick Reyes and Jiri Prochazka did last Saturday.
It could be a combination of both. Waterson isn’t exactly a dominant wrestler. She’s landed 1.52 takedowns per 15 minutes and she’s used it to win, but her opponents have been able to get back up. Rodriguez can and she will.
The Brazilian managed to fend off Esparza and Calvillo on the mat, two of the division’s best grapplers. As long as she doesn’t get too careless, she should be able to get back up on her feet and light up Waterson.
Rodriguez is not only the bigger fighter with the three-inch reach advantage, she’s stronger and more explosive. She’s thrown other girls around the ring like they were ragdolls, and makes up for her technique deficiency with raw athleticism.
Waterson may have a hard time taking her down and keeping her down plus Rodriguez can hurt her with her knees and elbows in the clinch. I like Waterson’s grit and toughness, but there’s only so much damage she can take before the referee steps in.
Rodriguez has solid value with these UFC betting lines. Bet her here and bet on the under 4½ at a tremendous value of +215 while you’re at it.