The main event of UFC on ESPN 24 was a monumental opportunity for Marina Rodriguez. In what has been a potential-filled and inconsistent six-fight stint in the promotion, a win would give the Dana Whites Contender Series alum two straight wins over ranked opponents, and her first over a top-ten talent. Ninth-ranked Michelle Waterson looked to win a second straight main event bout and get back into the top-five conversation.
The first minute between both women saw early range finding. By the second minute, the action picked up and Rodriguez started to let go with her punches and kicks. Because of the size and length advantages of the Brazilian, Waterson worked her kicks to the legs, body, and head of her opponent. Rodriguez was the fighter instigating the action and landing more shots. However, Waterson was very effective with her kicks as the round progressed.
The second round followed a similar pace. Rodriguez being the aggressor and throwing more, while Waterson looked to counter strike and make use of her varied kick angles. When the 34-year-old pushed forward and got Waterson near the cage, she clinched and landed some nice knees to score points.
Marina Rodriguez proved the better tactician over five hard fought rounds
In general, Rodriguez just feels like a much bigger fighter, so when Waterson lands punches and certain kicks they have little effect on her. She is also attacking her opponent to the legs, body, and head. By the third round Rodriguez is finding more moments where she is getting to flurry and score key points to win the rounds. Waterson has not been hurt too bad yet, nor is she shying away from the action, but she is losing clearly. It’s a tactical fight where both women have shown their skill, but the size and strength have proven an advantage for Rodriguez.
In the fourth, Waterson was able to get a round in her favor by landing the first takedown of the fight. For all the advantages Rodriguez had on the feet, “The Karate Hottie” was the lead dog on the mat. She landed good ground-and-pound and controlled her bigger opponent for the entirety of the round.
Both fighters showed outstanding gas tanks and didn’t look as tired as they should be after four rounds of competitive action. Rodriguez landed some strong punches while Waterson landed a kick to the chin that made her foe swell up and one to the body that forced the Brazilian to double over for a second. Each competitor showed serious guts and skills for five rounds and damaged each other.
In the end, after a grueling fight, Rodriguez was award the unanimous decision win. The Dana White’s Contender Series alum moves to 4-1-2 in the promotion, gets a second straight W over a ranked opponent, and is in line for a major fight in the top five of the division.
Waterson how now lost three of her last four and moves to 6-5 in the Octagon. Her defeats have come to top fighters in the division, however this latest defeat will surely move her out of the top-10 for the first time in a while.