It’s a disclaimer that accompanies every MMA event – undercard is subject to change.
And to be frank, Saturday’s UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas was hit hard by the change. This card was supposed to feature the return of TJ Dillashaw, a former bantamweight champion who lost his belt to a drug suspension two years ago, in a fight against Cory Sandhagen, the fastest-rising contender in the division.
If you lose a fight of that magnitude, the card is going to suffer. There’s no way to avoid it. Fortunately, however, Saturday’s card (8 pm ET on ESPN Deportes / ESPN, preliminaries at 5 pm in Spanish on ESPN +) has some depth to soften the blow. Here are some stories to watch out for this weekend:
• The new main event is a flyweight (but really strawweight) match between Marina Rodríguez (13-1-2) and Michelle Waterson (18-8). The two will weigh in at 125 pounds, but this is essentially a 115-pound fight for which neither fighter will lose weight due to the short notice. And it’s a great place for Rodriguez, who is a potential future champion who has shown some growing pains as she faces the elite of the strawweight division. At 34, he’s “new blood” in terms of the championship landscape, but he needs to deliver now.
• When this card lost its main event, it added a welterweight showdown between Neil Magny (24-8) and Geoff Neal (13-3). Neal is coming off a loss to Stephen Thompson in his first UFC main event in December. If he had won, his actions would have been on fire. That was a difficult stylistic showdown for Neal, but his potential is still skyrocketing. He’ll have to be in his prime to beat Magny, a high-ranking veteran who could fight Khamzat Chimaev next with a win.
• A strawweight fight between Amanda Ribas (10-2) and Angela Hill (13-9) will not have the same impact on the division as the main event, but it is a crucial matchup for both. Ribas, 27, has shown a lot of potential over the course of his 4-1 UFC record. Hill’s overall record doesn’t jump the page, but he had close split-decision losses to Claudia Gadelha and Waterson in 2020. Had he won those bouts, we’d be talking about a six-win streak.
• Donald Cerrone (36-15, 2 NC), 38, will make his 37th walk to the Octagon, tying fellow lightweight Jim Miller. This fight was supposed to be against his former teammate Diego Sánchez, but now it’s against Alex Morono (18-7, 1 NC). There was a time when we felt like we would never see the end of Cerrone’s career, but for the first time, it seems possible that 2021 will be his last year. Even if it isn’t, we are in the twilight of Cerrone’s historic career, so the show is worth tuning into.
• Veteran lightweight Diego Ferreira (17-3) had his chance in February to win a big fight and land an opponent ranked next, but fell short against Beneil Dariush. It was a must win for Ferreira. Just look at what happened to him and Dariush afterward. Ferreira is now fighting a guy most lightweights want to avoid in Gregor Gillespie (13-1), and Dariush is in a high-profile fight against Tony Ferguson next week on PPV. It’s hard for Ferreira to swallow, but he’s a veteran and needs a good performance here. Like Gillespie, who has shown great potential, but is coming off the first loss of his career and hasn’t won in more than two years.
4: Waterson’s appearances in the UFC main event (including Saturday), which will tie her with flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko for fourth among women. Former bantamweight champions Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm topped six cards each, one more than two-division champion Amanda Nunes.
7-0: Rodriguez’s record in fights ending in a stoppage (six by knockout, one by submission).
0: Waterson stoppages since December 2016. He has fought eight times since then, winning four of those bouts, all by decision, including two split decisions. Before that, Waterson had a stoppage in 12 of his 14 wins.
2: Rodriguez draws in the UFC, making her the only woman with multiple ties and one of only five people in the modern era overall with more than one tie in the UFC.
14: Waterson knockdowns in the UFC, the seventh most in strawweight history, leading her to nine submission wins. Rodriguez’s goal, then, is to keep the fight standing. In his three UFC wins, Rodriguez has defended the takedown 89% of the time (8 of 9). In his three draws / losses, he has defended takedowns only 45% of the time (8 of 18).
Fuentes: ESPN Stats & Information y UFC Stats
Five vs. five
Marina Rodriguez’s most recent results
Win: Amanda Ribas (TKO2, January 24, 2021; watch on ESPN +)
Loss: Carla Esparza (DD, July 26, 2020; watch on ESPN +)
Tie: Cynthia Calvillo (DM, December 7, 2019; watch on ESPN +)
Win: Tecia Torres (UD, August 10, 2019; watch on ESPN +)
Victory: Jessica Aguilar (DU, March 30, 2019; watch on ESPN +)
Michelle Waterson’s most recent results
Win: Angela Hill (DD, September 12, 2020; watch on ESPN +)
Loss: Carla Esparza (DD, May 9, 2020; watch on ESPN +)
Loss: Joanna Jedrzejczyk (UD, October 12, 2019; watch on ESPN +)
Win: Karolina Kowalkiewicz (UD, March 30, 2019; watch on ESPN +)
Win: Felice Herrig (UD, October 6, 2018)
Warrior of the Week: Marina Rodriguez tops UFC Fight Night card
Deportes MMA Marina Rodriguez Spanish
And the winner is …
“On my feet, I feel like Rodriguez definitely has the advantage in boxing,” said Carla Esparza, a former UFC strawweight champion who fought and defeated both women. “Waterson landed a few kicks on me, and my leg was black and blue, but Rodriguez has a reach and power advantage. As for wrestling, I can see Waterson knocking it to the ground. He has good takedowns. It’s just a matter of closing. that gap, which is difficult because she likes to be within range of her kicks. But if she can create that body clash, I could see her take down Rodriguez. “
Read how Esparza and other experts analyze and predict the outcome of the main event.
How to watch the fights
Watch the main card on ESPN and ESPN Deportes. Don’t have ESPN or ESPN Deportes? Get instant access.
All fights are also available on ESPN +. If you don’t have ESPN +, get it here. Plus: download the ESPN | WatchESPN | TV
There is also FightCenter, which offers live updates for every UFC card.
ESPNDeportes / ESPN / ESPN +, 8 pm ET
Marina Rodriguez vs. Michelle Waterson | Femenino Fly Weight
Donald Cerrone vs. Alex Morono | Peso Welter
Neil Magny vs. Geoff Neal | Peso Welter
Marcos Rogerio de Lima vs. Maurice Greene | Heavy weight
Diego Ferreira vs. Gregor Gillespie | Light weight
Amanda Ribas vs. Angela Hill | Straw Weight
ESPN+, 5 p.m. AND
Ben Rothwell vs. Philipe Lins | Heavy weight
Phil Hawes vs. Kyle Daukaus | Peso Mediano
Ludovit Klein vs. Michael Trizano | Featherweight
Ryan Benoit vs. Zarrukh Adashev | Peso Mosca
Jun Yong Park vs. Tafon Nchukwi | Peso Mediano
Christian Aguilera vs. Carlston Harris | Peso Welter
ESPN’s Jeff Wagenheim contributed to this preview of the fight.