After submission win at UFC Vegas 23, what’s next for Mackenzie Dern?

This past Saturday at UFC Vegas 23, Mackenzie Dern (11-1) took on the returning Nina Nunes (10-7) on the main card. Nunes was ranked fifth in the division, but she was making her first appearance since 2019 after giving birth to her daughter last year.

Dern on the other hand had fought and won three times in the UFC in 2020. The jiu jitsu world champion was looking to pickup her fourth consecutive win on her march towards a potential shot at the strawweight title.

Over the last year, Dern has spent her time training under Jason Parillo. During that time, we’ve seen incredible improvements in her striking to go along with her world class skills on the ground.

However, she was going to have her toughest striking matchup at UFC Vegas 23. On Saturday night, Dern fought exactly how she needed to fight. With Nunes having been out for so long, Dern immediately pressed the action.

She set a vicious pace early which didn’t allow Nunes the time to get comfortable. Dern chained some big lunging punches into a takedown attempt. After Nunes defended well throughout the round, Dern was able to lockup an armbar and secure her fourth straight UFC victory.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 23?

Make no mistake about it, Mackenzie Dern is looking like she’s going to be a force in the strawweight division. Dern said that her goal was to fight for the UFC title before the end of 2021.

So after another big win, what’s next? Dern made the jump up to fifth in the strawweight rankings after this week’s update. For her next fight, I think there are a couple fights that could make sense for Dern.

The highest profile fight would be against former UFC strawweight champion, Joanna Jedrzejczyk (16-4). Jedrzejczyk has been enjoying life outside the cage, but once fans return, she said she’ll ready to come back.

If Dern wants to fight for the title before the year is over, Jedrzejczyk would be the opponent that could put her in that position. Another matchup the UFC could look at is a matchup with Marina Rodriguez (13-1-2).

Rodriguez is ranked one spot behind Dern in the rankings and she’s coming off of a massive win. She knocked out Amanda Ribas at UFC 257 in January. Ribas is the lone strawweight to have defeated Dern. With that, this matchup with Rodriguez also makes a ton of sense for the promotion.

What’s next for Angela Hill after UFC Vegas 21?

This past Saturday at UFC Vegas 21, Angela Hill (13-9) returned to the octagon. She took on Ashley Yoder (8-7) in a rematch from their first fight a few years ago that Hill won. Originally, these two were supposed to fight a couple of weeks ago.

However, the day of the fight, Yoder had to pull out due to a positive COVID test in her camp. The UFC rescheduled the bout and the two ladies went to war on Saturday night. Hill was the big betting favorite and it was easy to see why as the fight played out.

Ashley Yoder is very tough and wouldn’t go away, but Saturday belonged to Angela Hill. Hill’s striking was incredibly crisp and her speed gave Yoder problems all night. I was extremely impressed with the body work by Angela Hill

Hill did a fantastic job of mixing up her punches and kicks to the body. At one point in the third round, she unleashed a barrage of six or seven hard knees to the body of Ashley Yoder. Yoder wouldn’t go away, but she had no answer. All three judges gave every round to Hill at UFC Vegas 21.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 21?

This win had to feel great for Angela Hill. Hill looked like she was marching towards the UFC’s top five of strawweight early on in 2020. However, she suffered two razor close split decision losses to Claudia Gadelha and Michelle Waterson.

Now that Hill is back in the win column, I believe it’s time for her to get someone inside the top ten. Hill was supposed to fight Tecia Torres (12-5) in a rematch back in December and that’s still a fight I like.

There is some bad blood there and it makes sense from a rankings perspective. However, if the UFC wants to go in a different route, I like Hill against Marina Rodriguez (13-1-2). This would be a very fun matchup and a win would get Hill close to the top five. Either option would be a good choice for Angela Hill’s next fight.

After her knockout loss at UFC 257, what’s next for Amanda Ribas?

Going into UFC 257, Amanda Ribas (10-2) was riding a ton of momentum. She was unbeaten with the promotion and her infectious personality allowed her to be easily marketable for the UFC.

If she was able to win on Saturday, she was expected to receive a huge push from the promotion. However, Marina Rodriguez (13-1-2) had different plans for UFC 257. Rodriguez is known as one of the best and most powerful strikers in the strawweight division.

For Ribas to win on Saturday, she needed to lean on her grappling skills. In the first round of their fight, that’s what she did. Ribas was able to land a takedown and she controlled Rodriguez for the majority of the round.

However, in the second round, there was no urgency to get the takedown. Instead, Ribas seemed comfortable and was willing to trade with Rodriguez. This proved to be a major mistake.

Within the first minute, Rodriguez landed a huge right hand as Ribas was coming in. Ribas crashed to the floor and at the 54 second mark of the first round, Rodriguez derailed the UFC hype train of Amanda Ribas.

What’s next after UFC 257?

This was a bad loss for Ribas at UFC 257, but it wasn’t something that will completely derail her career. She had entered Saturday night 4-0 in the UFC, however, Rodriguez was going to be her first really dangerous opponent.

Yes, she had a win over Mackenzie Dern, however, that was after a lengthy layoff for Dern. We also know that Dern isn’t a striker like Marina Rodriguez. While it is a setback, Ribas is fully capable of bouncing back from this loss.

So what comes next after her UFC 257 loss? In looking at the strawweight division, I think there are a few options for Ribas. One option would be Angela Hill (12-9) who is currently ranked 12th in the division.

Hill was the victim of two razor close split decision losses in 2020. Had those gone her way, she would’ve been riding a five-fight winning streak and she would have been a contender for the UFC title in 2021.

Another option for Ribas would be Tecia Torres (12-5). Torres has won two fights in a row after losing four straight. This has her ranked ninth in the division just one spot ahead of where Ribas is.

The last option I have is a matchup against thirteenth ranked Virna Jandiroba (16-2). Any of those three would make great opponents for Ribas and they are all inside the top 13. Get a win over one of those and they hype train gets moving again.

After her big knockout win at UFC 257, what’s next for Marina Rodriguez?

Heading into UFC 257, all of the attention was on Amanda Ribas (10-2) when it came to the PPV opener. Ribas had a ton of hype behind her and many believed that she was the next big thing at strawweight.

However, Marina Rodriguez (13-1-2) was ready to make a statement at UFC 257. Despite both of these strawweight contenders being ranked around the same spot, all of the attention was on Ribas.

For Ribas to win, she was going to need to get this fight to the ground. Rodriguez has incredible standup skills, but she’s been in trouble when facing good grapplers. With that in mind, she really struggled in the first round at UFC 257.

In the first round, Ribas was able to land a takedown. Once on the ground, Ribas controlled Rodriguez for the majority of the round and landed some nice shots. However, the second round was a completely different story.

Ribas didn’t go for a takedown in the second round. Instead, she stood in the pocket with Rodriguez and she paid for it. Seconds into the round, Rodriguez dropped and hurt Ribas badly.

Rodriguez followed up with some shots and Herb Dean seemed to step in. She moved away to celebrate the win before realizing that the fight wasn’t stopped. Rodriguez then stepped right back in and finished Ribas off with a vicious elbow to close the show at UFC 257.

What’s next after UFC 257?

On the biggest stage against an opponent with a ton of hype, Marina Rodriguez performed at her very best. Her knockout win at UFC 257 is the biggest win of her career and it’s huge for her position in the strawweight division.

The new rankings just came out today and Rodriguez has moved up to sixth in the UFC’s strawweight division. With that big win on that stage, it appears that Rodriguez will get a big name in her next fight.

In looking at the strawweight division, I think a good fight for Rodriguez would be Michelle Waterson (18-8). Waterson is coming off of a big win over Angela Hill back in September and since 2018, she’s only lost to former champions.

The Karate Hottie is currently ranked two spots behind Rodriguez at eight. However, she has a big following and she’s a big name. The winner of that fight would be in a great position to challenge someone in the UFC’s top five.

Marina Rodriguez knocks out Amanda Ribas at UFC 257

Kicking off the UFC 257 main card was an anticipated strawweight matchup. Budding superstar, Amanda Ribas (10-1) took on fellow Brazilian, Marina Rodriguez (12-1-2). Both entered this contest inside the UFC‘s top ten.

Ribas has taken the MMA world by storm over the past year. From her skill in the octagon to her infectious personality, the Brazilian seems to have it all. As mentioned, she’s extremely skilled.

Ribas entered the octagon tonight undefeated in the UFC. She has wins over Paige VanZant, Mackenzie Dern, and Randa Markos in her career so far. However, it was clear that her toughest test stood in front of her tonight.

Marina Rodriguez earned a contract on Dana White’s Contender Series a couple of years ago. However, her UFC run hasn’t been the smoothest thus far. It is worth noting that she’s faced top competition.

So far she is 2-1-2 in her five fights inside the octagon. Rodriguez suffered her first career loss to former UFC champion Carla Esparza in her last fight. She was looking to get a huge bounce back win tonight and stop the hype train of Amanda Ribas.

UFC 257 Recap

Round 1

The first fight on the UFC 257 main card got started with a touch of the gloves. Ribas was trying to work her way inside early with straight punches. However, Rodriguez was doing a good job of circling around the outside.

Both ladies connected with a few shots, however Ribas was able to work her way in. Rodriguez made an error that allowed Ribas to get ahold of her. Once she grabbed her, Ribas was able to land the takedown with a few minutes to work.

Rodriguez was able to keep Ribas inside the guard. However, Ribas was doing well at landing shots on Rodriguez. Rodriguez tried to throw up submissions, but Ribas did a good job of defending. The round comes to an end and it’s 1-0 for Ribas at UFC 257.

Round 2

The second round of the UFC 257 bout kicked off with Ribas looking to close the distance. Rodriguez was looking to work her kicks to keep her distance. Ribas worked her way in but Rodriguez landed a massive right hand that dropped Amanda Ribas.

Amanda Ribas folded and Rodriguez followed up with a few shots. Herb Dean stepped in and there was a moment of confusion. The fight wasn’t stopped after Rodriguez thought it was. She went right back to work and finished off Amanda Ribas. Massive win for Marina Rodriguez.

Marina Rodriguez def. Amanda Ribas by TKO – Round 2

UFC 257 Preview: Amanda Ribas – Marina Rodriguez

At UFC 257, one of the rising stars of the promotion will make the walk for the fifth time. Kicking off the PPV main card tomorrow night, rising star, Amanda Ribas (10-1), will be taking on fellow Brazilian, Marina Rodriguez (12-1-2).

Amanda Ribas has star written all over her and the UFC knows it. Ribas has an extremely vibrant personality and she seems to captivate the attention of everyone. Not too mention the fact that she’s unbeaten in the UFC.

The rising strawweight contender made her debut with the promotion just about a year and a half ago. Since then, Ribas has gone 4-0 in the UFC with wins over Mackenzie Dern, Randa Markos, and Paige VanZant.

Originally, Ribas was supposed to take on Michelle Waterson at UFC 257. However, Waterson had to pull out of the fight and in stepped the top ten contender, Marina Rodriguez.

Rodriguez suffered her first career loss in her last fight that came during the UFC‘s first trip to Fight Island. She took on former strawweight champion, Carla Esparza, and Esparza was able to walk away with a split decision.

Rodriguez earned herself a UFC contract on Dana White’s Contender series back in 2018 when she scored a first round knockout. Since the, she’s 2-1-2 in five fights with the promotion. The highlight of her tenure was a win over Tecia Torres.

UFC 257 Prediction

Based on their past performances and looking at their skillsets, I can see a path to victory for both of these ladies at UFC 257. For Ribas, she’s going to have to keep this fight in close quarters.

She would be best served to try and force this fight to take place on the ground or in the clinch. In those two positions, I think she has a massive advantage over Marina Rodriguez. However, I’m not sure she’d have a pure striking advantage.

For Rodriguez, she’s going to need to keep this fight at range. If this is purely a striking match from distance at UFC 257, I think that Rodriguez could pickup the win and derail the Ribas hype train.

That said, I really like Amanda Ribas in this matchup. I believe she’s going to be able to force her way on the inside and I think this fight will touch the mat. Once it does, I think Ribas will be in full control. I’m going out on a limb and I’ll say she picks up a submission tomorrow night.

Prediction: Amanda Ribas by Submission (Rear-Naked Choke) – Round 2

UFC books Amanda Ribas – Marina Rodriguez

Yesterday we got the news that Michelle Waterson was having to pull out of UFC 257. She was expected to take on rising contender, Amanda Ribas (10-1) in a fight that many fans were looking forward to.

The gut feeling was that the promotion was going to keep Ribas on UFC 257 and search for a new opponent. Well, it didn’t take long for the UFC to find a willing fighter and book another fight for Amanda Ribas.

MMA Fighting was first to report that Ribas will now be taking on Marina Rodriguez (12-1-2) at UFC 257. Rodriguez is currently ranked eighth in the UFC’s strawweight rankings. For the record, Waterson is ranked seventh.

This is a great switch from the promotion who is trying to build up Ribas. They were able to quickly get her another opponent who is ranked in virtually the same position as her previous opponent.

Since making her UFC debut back in 2018, Rodriguez is 2-2-1. A mixed bag of results, but she’s been taking on some top competition since her appearance on Dana White’s Contender Series.

Rodriguez suffered her first career defeat back in July when she lost to former champion, Carla Esparza, by split decision. Prior to that, she had fought to a draw with top flyweight contender and former strawweight, Cynthia Calvillo.

UFC 257 Strawweight Matchup

This is a fantastic matchup pairing together top UFC strawweights. Again, the promotion did a fantastic job of rebooking Ribas and giving her a top ten contender. Both of these ladies show so much promise in their careers.

You get the feeling that the UFC is going to really push Amanda Ribas. She’s become a favorite of the promotion and she’s ran through her UFC competition so far. Notably holding wins over Mackenzie Dern and Paige VanZant.

Ribas will enter the cage in January as the ninth ranked strawweight in the UFC. If she’s able to pickup the victory in January, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the promotion try to move her up against a top five opponent next.

UFC Fight Island 3 Recap: Robert Whittaker squeaks by Darren Till in entertaining scrap

The UFC hosted their fourth and final fight card from Fight Island tonight. In the main event of the evening, middleweights Robert Whittaker (20-5) and Darren Till (18-2-1) went head-to-head. The card was filled with action from start to finish.

Whittaker takes first step back to UFC gold

The main event of the evening was going to likely determine who would face the winner of the Israel Adesanya – Paulo Costa UFC title fight in September. Former champion Robert Whittaker took on Darren “The Gorilla” Till.

As the first round began, Till charged in and was met with a sharp shot from Whittaker. Whittaker also landed a stiff jab after that. Till seemed extremely aggressive early on. Both men charged at each other and Whittaker was floored by a clean elbow from Till.

Till started finding a home for his crisp left hand after he hurt Whittaker. Whittaker began reaching with his shots which is what hurt him in the Adesanya fight. Till pressed Whittaker back late in the first continuing to land shots.

Whittaker’s confidence seemed to be shaken a bit in the first. However, late in the round, Whittaker seemed to get his legs back and get more comfortable in the exchanges. Great opening round for Till.

Both men came out very light on their feet to start the second round. Whittaker landed a massive left hook as Till was off balanced. Whittaker seemed much fresher and confident early in the second.

Bobby Knuckles stormed forward with an overhand right that floored Till about a minute into the round. Bobby Knuckles landed some good elbows from top position. Till looked to be trying to regain his composure from the bottom.

Till was able to get back to his feet with about two minutes left in the round. Whittaker started peppering Till’s lead leg with solid kicks. Till seemed tentative still trying to regain some confidence. Dominant second round for the former UFC champ.

Both men touched gloves to start the third round, and then Whittaker landed another big leg kick. The two seemed to be a little more patient. Till kept looking for the left while Whittaker kept looking to blitz.

Neither man was landing anything clean for the majority of the third round. They would throw big shots from distance, but neither were connecting. An uneventful round, but I lean Whittaker in the third.

Entering the main event rounds, Whittaker seemed to have a little more bounce in his step. Till was able to step in with a big left hand early on. Whittaker continued to throw big calf kicks which seemed to be bothering Till.

Till landed a few big shots which seemed to wobble Whittaker momentarily. However, Whittaker seemed to get his legs back underneath him very quickly. The two men resumed trying to read each other after the big exchange.

Till began finding his left more in the fourth round. Whittaker tried for a couple of takedowns late in the round, but wasn’t able to land either. A close round four, but I lean Till due to the bigger shots.

Both men seemed to have good bounce to start the fifth. Till landed a big shot in the first exchange. Whittaker again tried for a takedown, but was unsuccessful. Till looked very aggressive to start the fifth round.

Till landed a solid 1-2 at the two minute mark in the round. Whittaker continued to look for calf kicks throughout the round. Whittaker looked for another takedown, but again, it was unsuccessful. Till landed another crisp left after Whittaker shot.

Till landed a massive elbow with about a minute left in the round which opened a massive gash on Whittaker. Whittaker was able to land a couple of takedowns late, but Till continued to bounce right back up. Close round, but I give Till the final round due to damage.

A razor close fight, but I lean Till 48-47. After the close fight, the judges were unanimous giving the fight to Whittaker (48-47, 48-47, 48-47).

Shogun completes the sweep against Little Nog

The co-main event of the evening featured a battle of Brazilian legends as former UFC light heavyweight champion Shogun Rua (27-11-1) took on Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (23-10) for the third time.

As the first round began, both men tentatively took the center just feeling the other out. Nogueira circled the outside as Shogun started to pepper Nogueira’s leg with kicks. Shogun pressed forward to engage a clinch about two minutes into the round.

After little action, Shogun backed away with about half of the round remaining. Nogueira landed a massive left as the two began to strike. Both men really began to open up about four minutes into the round.

Nogueira began to press forward after he sensed that he was getting the better of the exchanges. Nogueira landed three massive lefts that wobbled Shogun. Shogun shot in and secured a late takedown before the bell. Close round that I gave to Nogueira.

Shogun opened the second round very aggressive pushing forward. Shogun landed a couple of big kicks to open the round. Nogueira seemed very patient looking to land his left hand. Everytime the former UFC champion stormed in, Nogueira was looking to counter with a left.

Nogueira stormed forward with big shots which forced another shot from Shogun. Shogun slipped which allowed Nogueira to end up on the top. Shogun was able to get back to his feet with two minutes left in the round.

Nogueira was getting clipped a little more in this round compared to the first. Shogun was doing a good job of slipping and countering the aggressive Nogueira attacks. A close round two, but due to the top control, I lean Nogueira.

The final round started with Shogun moving forward. Shogun landed a massive leg kick that buckled Nogueira early in the third. Neither man landed anything significant after that until about the halfway mark.

Shogun landed a big body kick and continued to stalk Nogueira. After that kick, the two men began to trade big shots. Shogun was able to land a couple of really good straight shots that backed Nogueira against the cage. He transitioned that into a takedown.

Shogun controlled the remainder of the round from the top position. To me, the clearest round to score of the fight. I gave the final round to Shogun but the fight to Nogueira 29-28. The judges were split but gave the fight to Shogun (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).

Werdum subs Gustafsson early in the first

The fifth fight of the main card featured the heavyweight debut of Alexander Gustafsson (18-7). In his debut he was taking on former UFC heavyweight champion, Fabricio Werdum (24-9-1).

Gustafsson started the first round very light on his feet. Werdum landed a massive leg kick in the opening seconds which Gus acknowledged. Gustafsson landed a good combination, but Werdum shot in for the takedown.

After initially missing on it, Werdum tripped Gustafsson and got his back immediately. Werdum tried for the rear-naked choke, but Werdum immediately transitioned to an arm bar. The ground wizard got Gustafsson to tap very early in the first. Very impressive from the former heavyweight champion.

Carla Esparza edges Marina Rodriguez

The fourth fight of the main card featured a strawweight contest between former UFC champ, Carla Esparza (16-6) and Marina Rodriguez (12-0-2). A win for either lady would get them close to a shot at the strawweight title.

To start the first round, Rodriguez was really heavy on her front leg expecting a shot from Esparza. After Rodriguez through a couple of big shots, Esparza shot in for a takedown and secured it.

Esparza had really heavy top control in the first. She did a very good job of picking and choosing spots to posture up and land good shots. Rodriguez did land a massive elbow from the bottom which cut Esparza.

Esparza made the odd decision to try to go for an ankle lock which resulted in her being on the bottom. Rodriguez landed some good shots before Esparza got back to her feet. Rodriguez landed some good shots before Esparza shot in for another takedown at the end of the first. Close round that I’d give to Rodriguez due to the damage.

As the second round started, Rodriguez appeared to be stalking Esparza. She didn’t look comfortable at all on the feet. Esparza shot in for a takedown two minutes into the round, and she was able to get Rodriguez down.

Esparza was able to land some pretty good shots from the ground after the takedown. Just like she did in the first, Esparza went for another bizarre leg lock. It resulted in her just taking massive shots from Rodriguez. Close round due to a massive flurry at the end, but I lean Esparza.

The final round started with Rodriguez continuing to stalk Esparza. Esparza tried for some sloppy shots early as Rodriguez landed some decent shots. About halfway through the round, Esparza was able to land a takedown.

The rest of the round consisted of solid top control for Esparza. Esparza landed some decent shots, but Rodriguez did really nothing in the final round. She was able to get up for a second before being taken right back down.

Nothing desirable in this fight, but I lean Esparza 29-28. The judges gave Esparza the fight by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27).

Craig triangles Antigulov in the first

The third fight of the evening featured a UFC light heavyweight contest between Paul Craig (12-4-1) and Gadzhimurad Antigulov (20-6).

Craig immediately ran across the octagon to meet Antigulov. About thirty seconds into the round, Antigulov was able to secure a takedown. Craig tried to secure a guillotine, but he was unsuccessful.

However, about a minute later, Craig through up a triangle choke. Antigulov threw some bombs to try to get out of it, but he was in massive trouble. After Antigulov fought hard for a few seconds, Craig locked in the choke deeper.

Craig was able to secure the tap from Antigulov and get the win via triangle choke. Antigulov fought hard, but Craig was too much from that position. Great win for the Scottish fighter.

Oliveira kicks his way past Peter Sobotta

The second fight of the main card featured “Cowboy” Alex Oliveira (21-8-1, 2 NC) taking on German standout, Peter Sobotta (17-6-1).

Both men immediately took the center of the octagon looking to strike. Oliveira landed a massive body kick to start the striking. Sobotta answered with a big kick of his own about a minute into the round.

Oliveira hurt Sobotta bad with a front kick right to the liver about two minutes into the round. Sobotta was able to land a few shots to keep Oliveira off of him. Both men had some decent exchanges late in the round.

Sobotta appeared to have injured his arm blocking a kick late in the round. Decent first round that goes to Oliveira.

As the second round started, Sobotta shot in for a takedown. Oliveira was able to defend the takedown, but it appeared that Sobotta was switching up his strategy. Oliveira was able to land some elbows in the clinch which cut Sobotta.

The two men separated and Oliveira immediately landed a big body kick. Oliveira was looking extremely crisp on the feet. About halfway through the round one of Oliveira’s kicks went low which caused a break in the action.

Once the action resumed, Oliveira continued to look to land kicks. In the final minute, Oliveira extended his hands which poked Sobotta in the eye which caused another break. After they continued the fight, Oliveira landed a massive right hand that floored Sobotta at the end of the first. 2-0 for Oliveira after two rounds.

As the final round started, Oliveira continued to look aggressive in the striking. Sobotta shot in for another takedown, but he wasn’t able to get Oliveira down. About halfway through the round, Oliveira hurt Sobotta again with a body kick.

Sobotta just seemed extremely uncomfortable in the striking exchanges. He would throw shots, but he was throwing from Oliveira’s range. Oliveira continued to land some decent kicks as the final round came to a close.

Great performance for Oliveira who takes it 30-27 on my scorecard. The judges agreed unanimously giving the fight to Cowboy Oliveira (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).

Khamzat Chimaev wins second UFC fight in 10 days

The opening fight of the main card featured dominant wrestling sensation Khamzat Chimaev (8-0) taking on UFC newcomer, Rhys McKee (10-3-1). Chimaev was looking for his second win on Fight Island.

Within five seconds of the first round, Chimaev immediately shot in for a takedown. Chimaev carried McKee over to his own corner to clearly hear instructions from his corner. Chimaev was able to get the mount position within 20 seconds of having top position.

McKee kept trying to explode out of the position, but Chimaev’s top control was incredibly impressive. Chimaev was just relentless with his ground and pound. With two minutes left in the round, the striking numbers were 43-0 for Chimaev.

Chimaev postured up and started raining down monster shots. The referee mercifully stopped the fight at 3:09 of the first round. There is no question that Chimaev will be a top contender in the welterweight division before long.

UFC Fight Island 3 Final Takeaways

The UFC closed it’s first stint on Fight Island this evening. Bobby Knuckles closes out Fight Island with a big win over Darren Till. Whittaker will now likely be next in line for a shot at the middleweight crown.

The last month has been filled with exciting fights and incredible story lines. Now, the UFC will come back stateside with a massive schedule in August.

UFC Fight Island 3 Preview: Whittaker and Till look to cement top contender status

The UFC will be hosting it’s last event on Fight Island in the month of July tomorrow night on Yas Island. The main event features former UFC middleweight champion, Robert Whittaker (20-5), and former title challenger, Darren Till (18-2-1).

The UFC has put forward a card that ties the record for the most fights on a single card with 15. The main card that kicks off at 8:00 ET features seven fights.

For this fight card, we are going to break down the top four fights of the evening. The UFC is leaving Fight Island with a bang.

Whittaker and Till battle for the next UFC title shot

The main event of the evening will likely determine who will get the winner of the Israel Adesanya – Paulo Costa fight as Robert Whittaker takes on Darren Till.

Whittaker could not have drawn up a better start to his middleweight career after leaving the UFC‘s welterweight division. Whittaker moved up and promptly went 9-0 capturing the middleweight title.

Bobby Knuckles combines elite striking and speed with incredible toughness and determination. He is susceptible to getting rocked but one of his trademarks is his heart to fight through it.

He was able to fight through it against Yoel Romero, but it finally caught up to him against Adesanya. Stylebender was able to finish Whittaker in the second round of their fight.

This is a massive fight for Whittaker as he looks to try to climb back towards the UFC middleweight title.

Darren Till was being built up as the next superstar just a couple of years ago. The UFC fast-tracked him to a title shot against Tyron Woodley.

That shot came back at UFC 228. The English born Till was actually the massive fan favorite at the Dallas event. However, Woodley put an end to the run with a second round submission victory.

Immediately following that loss, Till was knocked out by Jorge Masvidal prompting his move to the middleweight division.

Till made his UFC middleweight debut against Kelvin Gastelum back in November. In a fight that left a lot to be desired, Till walked away with a decision victory.

Till’s elite Muy Thai skills have brought him to the dance. He has a great way of closing distance very quickly and he’s got power that catches people off guard.

I’m expecting this fight to be contested on the feet, but I’m not sure it’s going to be as action packed as some want. I think this fight will start slow, but will pick up in the middle rounds.

Once they really get going, I think Bobby Knuckles is going to catch Till was something big. I expect Till to have big moments because he is an elite striker, but I think Whittaker is just on a higher level overall as a fighter.

Prediction: Robert Whittaker by TKO – Round 4

Shogun Rua vs Antonio Rogerio Nogueira

The co-main event of the evening features a contest between two legends of the sport from Brazil as Shogun Rua (26-11-1) takes on Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (23-9).

Nogueira enters this fight just after turning 44-years old. We haven’t seen Nogueira since UFC 237 where he was knocked out by Ryan Spann. Nogueira has been dealing with a nagging back injury.

Nogueira throughout his career has been known for his crisp boxing and his elite skills on the ground. He has very good pop in his shots, and is deceptively accurate with his strikes.

The problem is that we really don’t know what kind of Nogueira we are going to see. He didn’t look great in his last fight, and he’s been dealing with back issues. Combine that with his age and there are a ton of question marks.

Shogun Rua has fought just six times in the last five years. However, he has gone 4-1-1 in those six fights with wins over Corey Anderson and Nogueira.

Shogun is a former UFC light heavyweight champion who is also nearing the end of his career. He has been known in his career for his solid overall game and his spurts that often catch fighters off guard.

Shogun has made a career on rocking or finishing opponents with sudden spurts that fighters are not ready for. In his last contest, Shogun fought to a draw with Paul Craig.

These two men have fought each other twice, and Shogun has won both. With all of the question marks surrounding Nogueira, I don’t see how the result will change in this third fight.

Prediction: Shogun Rua by TKO – Round 2

Alexander Gustaffson vs Fabricio Werdum

The fifth fight on the main card features former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum (23-9-1) welcoming Alexander Gustaffson (18-6) to the heavyweight division.

Just a few years ago, people were making the argument that Werdum was the greatest heavyweight in history. Those talks of course coming after wins over guys like Fedor Emelianenko and Cain Velasquez.

Of course, Werdum would go on to be knocked out and lose his heavyweight title to Stipe Miocic which halted those talks. Since that loss, Werdum has gone 3-3.

Werdum showed off improved striking a few years ago to go with his world class ground game. Werdum might be the best Jiu Jitsu practitioner in heavyweight history. However, Werdum looked horrendous in his last fight where he lost to Alexey Oleynik.

Alexander Gustaffson will be making his heavyweight debut tomorrow night. Gustaffson retired just over a year ago after he lost to Anthony Smith in Sweden.

Of course that retirement was short-lived. Gustaffson is one of the better fighters over the last few years who hasn’t won a UFC title. He’s fought for the title three times, coming up short each time. Two of those fights were razor close.

Gustaffson has built his career on his elite boxing skills, good footwork, and solid takedown defense. All of these are going to give him an advantage tomorrow night.

For Werdum to win this fight, he’s going to have to get the fight to the ground. There is no way that Werdum can win a stand up fight with Alexander Gustaffson. Werdum looked slow in his last fight, and he doesn’t have great takedowns.

I believe that for those reasons, the fight is going to stay on the feet. I fully expect Gustaffson to light Werdum up in this contest. Not 100% convinced he’s going to get a finish, but I don’t see this fight being close.

Prediction: Alexander Gustaffson by TKO – Round 3

Marina Rodriguez vs Carla Esparza

The fourth fight on the main card features a matchup between two top ten UFC strawweights in Carla Esparza (16-6) and Marina Rodriguez (12-0-2).

Esparza burst onto the UFC scene back in 2014 when she became the promotions first strawweight champion. Since winning the title, Esparza has gone 6-4 in the UFC.

The good news for Esparza is the fact that she’s on a three fight winning streak. Esparza has some of the best wrestling in the division. She has decent striking, but it’s mainly used as a way to setup her dynamic wrestling attack.

Marina Rodriguez is one of the brighter prospects in the strawweight division. While she’s actually older than Esparza, many consider her to be more of a prospect given her experience.

She’s fought four times in the UFC to a record of 2-0-2. Her last fight she fought to a draw with Cynthia Calvillo. Rodriguez has really good striking and good pop for the division.

She also does a really good job at striking at a high volume. Her cardio does hinder her later in fights and her wrestling defense is not great which could hurt her in this matchup.

The first round is going to decide the fight for me. If Esparza can come right out and take Rodriguez down, she’s going to march to a decision victory. However, if Rodriguez can keep it standing for a while, I can’t see her getting beat by Esparza.

This fight is going to be very close. I believe that Esparza will win the third round, but I think Rodriguez’s striking will also gain her a round. This is going to be a split decision that I think will go to Rodriguez with her high striking output.

Prediction: Marina Rodriguez by Split Decision

UFC Fight Island 3 Outlook

The UFC is leaving Fight Island with a massive card. The card has former champions and top contenders up and down the card. A record 15 fights will have fight fans glued to their TVs tomorrow night.