MMAOB staff writer Adam Martin takes a deeper look at the main event of UFC Vegas 26, a five-round women’s flyweight bout between Marina Rodriguez and Michelle Waterson. These fighters usually compete at 115lbs but are fighting up a weight class due to the fight being booked on very short notice. The event takes place on Saturday, May 8 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Marina Rodriguez (-200)
Rodriguez (13-1-2) is the No. 6 ranked women’s strawweight in the UFC. The 34-year-old Brazilian has been a member of the UFC roster since 2018, going 3-1-2 overall in the promotion with notable wins over Amanda Ribas, Tecia Torres, and Jessica Aguilar, plus draws against Randa Markos, and Cynthia Calvillo, and a loss to Carla Esparza. Rodriguez is a well-rounded fighter who excels in the striking department as we saw in her last fight against Ribas, which saw her score a second-round knockout win for the biggest victory of her career to date. We also saw her knockout power on Dana White’s Contender Series that saw her earn her UFC contract in the first place. Still, her grappling has been an issue, as that’s how Esparza beat her and Calvillo forced a draw against her. There is no doubt Rodriguez is a good, solid contender, but she still has holes in her game that need fixing.
Michelle Waterson (+170)
Waterson (18-8) is the No. 9 ranked women’s strawweight in the UFC. The 35-year-old American has been in the UFC since 2015 and has since then racked up a record of 6-4 in the promotion with wins over Angela Hill, Karolina Kowalkiewicz, Felice Herrig, Cortney Casey, Paige VanZant, and Angela Magana, with losses to Carla Esparza, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Tecia Torres, and Rose Namajunas. Waterson has been a solid fighter over the years who is just below the championship level at 115lbs. She is known for her striking skills on the feet but has also shown solid grappling skills over the years as well. The biggest problem is her size, as she is someone who should be fighting at 105lbs if the UFC had that division. Moving up to 125lbs against Rodriguez could prove to be a problem, though Waterson should not be completely counted out of winning this fight.
Fight Breakdown: This should be a competitive flyweight bout between two fighters who normally fight at strawweight. As both women prefer to stand and trade, I expect the majority of this fight to take place on the feet, and given the durability of both women, there is certainly a good chance this fight goes the full five rounds. Ultimately, I think the difference in this fight is the power of Rodriguez. It just seems like she hits harder than Waterson and the damage should add up over the course of 25 minutes. I also think there’s a chance that Rodriguez could score another knockout. For Waterson, her best chance to win this fight is going to win three of the five rounds. I’m not putting it against her, and the fact this fight was booked on short notice makes me wonder about the conditioning of both women here, but especially Rodriguez, who still has to cut some weight to make 125lbs. Still, while there’s some concern here with Rodriguez, I still think overall she wins this one.
Prediction: Marina Rodriguez