This past Saturday in the main event of UFC Vegas 39, we saw a battle between two of the best strawweights in the world. Top ranked contenders Marina Rodriguez (15-1-2) took on Mackenzie Dern (11-2).
Heading into the fight, I kept thinking that the path to victory was pretty clear for both fighters. For Dern, it was going to be vital getting Rodriguez to the mat. Dern is not someone you want to go to the mat with and if you do, you’re likely going to tap.
For Rodriguez, she needed to keep the fight standing. While Dern had made significant improvements in her striking, she doesn’t have the distance control and preciseness that Rodriguez had. I figured a striking battle would show some holes in her stand up game.
Well, at UFC Vegas 39, we saw a lot of striking. While the two ladies were on the feet, it went exactly how I thought. It was fairly one-sided with Rodriguez landing the much better shots and controlling the range well.
Where I was wrong is how the fight went on the ground. I figured if it touched the grown, Dern would pick up the win. However, despite getting on top a few times, Dern couldn’t find the submission at UFC Vegas 39 and Rodriguez went on to win a decision.
What’s next after UFC Vegas 39?
This was a massive win for Rodriguez and perhaps puts her only a fight or two away from getting a crack at the UFC strawweight title. With that in mind, who should the promotion pair her with next.
In terms of rankings and winning streaks, the one opponent that makes sense is a rematch with Carla Esparza (18-6). Esparza is a former UFC champion and is the only woman to have defeated Rodriguez in her professional career.
However, I don’t see the former UFC champion taking that fight. I think she’s set on waiting for the winner of the rematch between Zhang Weili and Rose Namajunas. That’s a shot Esparza deserves and I think she’ll get it.
The fight the UFC should make is between Rodriguez and Joanna Jedrzejczyk (16-4). The former champion is hoping to return early next year and who wouldn’t want to see this battle between these two technical strikers.
Not sure that Jedrzejczyk would take it if the UFC offers, but that’s definitely the fight that I’d try to make next.