UFC books title eliminator between Marina Rodriguez and Yan Xiaonan

The UFC has finalized a big time matchup in the strawweight division which very well might be a title eliminator. MMA Junkie was the first to report this afternoon that Marina Rodriguez (15-1-2) will be taking on Yan Xiaonan (13-2).

The matchup will take place at UFC 272 which goes down on March 5th. For Xiaonan, she will be looking to bounce back after her first loss in the UFC. That loss came back in May against Carla Esparza.

We know that Esparza is getting the next shot at the title, but whoever wins this matchup will likely be next. Prior to the loss to Esparza, Xiaonan was perfect in the UFC.

She made her debut with the promotion back in 2017 and started a perfect 6-0. Some standout victories in that start were wins over Angela Hill and former title challengers Karolina Kowalkiewicz and Claudia Gadelha.

Xianoan looked to be on a destined path to a UFC title shot. However, Esparza stopped her in a big way. Now, she has a big test in front of her in Marina Rodriguez.

UFC title eliminator

When it comes to the female fighters of the year in 2021, it’s hard to pick against Marina Rodriguez. After suffering her first professional loss back in July of 2020, Rodriguez made a massive statement in 2021.

For Rodriguez it all started back in January at UFC 257. That night, she was taking on Amanda Ribas who was riding a big hype train. Rodriguez put a stop to that hype train by finishing Ribas in the second round.

The Brazilian followed that win up with back-to-back main event victories. First, she defeated the tough veteran Michelle Waterson. After that, she took on Mackenzie Dern who was also riding a big hype train.

Rodriguez was being looked at as a dark horse for the next UFC title shot. However, the UFC gave Esparza the shot which was the correct call since Rodriguez’s lone loss came to Esparza.

This is a huge strawweight contest that should setup a summer clash for the winner and whoever is the champion.

What to make of the UFC’s strawweight title picture

Just over a week ago at UFC 268, Rose Namajunas (11-4) defended her strawweight title against the former champion Zhang Weili (21-3). The two had met earlier this year with Namajunas scoring a first round knockout.

Given the way the first fight ended, the UFC decided to run things back immediately given how dominant Weili had been. The second fight was what fans expected from the first fight. The fight was razor close.

Weili did a great job through the first half of the fight. If the fight was a three round fight, she would’ve won going away. However, Namajunas came on strong in the championship rounds and won a split decision.

Now, the UFC is left with figuring out who is next for Namajunas. While the answer seems incredibly obvious to most of us, the promotion is hedging against the obvious choice.

Who will get the next UFC title shot?

The obvious choice would be having Rose Namajunas fight Carla Esparza (18-6) next. Esparza has won five fights in a row and she’s the next in line according to the UFC rankings. She also has history with Namajunas.

Thug Rose and Esparza squared off for the inaugural UFC strawweight title with Esparza getting the win. All of these things paint the obvious picture that Esparza should be next. However, Dana White seems hesitant to make this fight.

The UFC President said after UFC 268 that there are other options outside of Esparza and he said that it wasn’t a good idea to wait for a title shot. Esparza was seemingly next in line after Namajunas knocked out Weili, but the promotion booked the rematch instead.

Other options?

If the UFC decides to look past Esparza again, there are a couple of options on the table. Marina Rodriguez (15-1-2) would be a name to watch. However, this would infuriate the masses because Esparza has defeated her during her winning streak.

An option that I think the UFC is leaning towards is the trilogy with Jessica Andrade (22-9). Andrade knocked Namajunas out with a slam to take the strawweight title from her in their first fight. In their second fight, Namajunas edged Andrade by split decision.

Andrade moved up to flyweight after the loss to Namajunas. She’s gone 2-1 with two first round stoppages and a lopsided defeat against Valentina Shevchenko. After her last fight, she said that she wanted to move back down to strawweight to fight the winner of Namajunas and Weili.

Unfortunately for Carla Esparza, I think the UFC is leaning towards going with Jessica Andrade. However, it’s still a fluid situation and something to watch over the next month or so.

What’s next for Zhang Weili after UFC 268 loss?

This past Saturday in the co-main event of UFC 268, we saw a rematch for the strawweight title. Rose Namajunas (11-4) was defending her title against Zhang Weili (21-3). The two had previously met at UFC 261 with Namajunas scoring a head kick knockout.

However, given how dominant Weili had been (winning 21 fights in a row), the UFC decided to give the former champion an immediate rematch despite the definitive result in the first fight. The general consensus was that these two were very close in skill and the first finish was more of a flash.

Personally, I thought we’d see an ultra competitive fight with Namajunas squeaking out a decision and that is exactly what we got. However, I underestimated how well Weili would do in the rematch. I figured she’d have her moments, but I didn’t think she’d do as well as she did.

In fact, watching it live, I scored the fight for Zhang Weili at UFC 268. I had her winning the first three rounds with Namajunas winning the last two. One judge saw the fight this way, however, two of the judges gave the fight and the victory to Rose Namajunas.

What’s next after UFC 268?

Despite losing at UFC 268, Zhang Weili shouldn’t hang her head. She put on a great performance and like I said, I scored the fight for her and many others did as well. However, there’s a clear argument for Namajunas winning so the decision isn’t a robbery by any stretch.

With two consecutive losses to Namajunas, where does that leave the former UFC champion? Well, she’s going to need to string together a few wins before a trilogy can make sense. She is going to have to force the UFC’s hand just like Valentina Shevchenko is doing with the Amanda Nunes trilogy.

With that, who should she take on next? There’s two opponents that make a ton of sense for Weili’s next fight. The first opponent is Marina Rodriguez (15-1-2). Rodriguez has impressively won three straight which has launched her to third in the strawweight rankings.

Given her style and still, the UFC couldn’t go wrong with booking her against Weili. I think the leader in the clubhouse for Weili’s next fight is a matchup with Joanna Jedrzejczyk (16-4). Jedrzejczyk was recently removed from the UFC rankings due to inactivity, but she’s still one of the very best in the world.

Weili and Jedrzejczyk had the Fight of the Year in 2020 and a rematch makes all the sense in the world. Both are former UFC champions and both have lost to Namajunas twice in virtually the same manner. First fight by knockout, second fight by close decision.

Something tells me the UFC might pass over Carla Esparza in favor of Marina Rodriguez, but that’s far from guaranteed, just something to watch. If I’m betting money, I say the UFC books the rematch between Zhang and Jedrzejczyk for sometime in the spring.

After falling short at UFC Vegas 39, what’s next for Mackenzie Dern?

This past Saturday in the main event of UFC Vegas 39, we saw a pivotal matchup in the strawweight division. Top contenders battled it out as Mackenzie Dern (11-2) took on Marina Rodriguez (15-1-2).

Heading into the matchup, the path to victory seemed relatively clear for both ladies. For Dern, she was going to need to get the fight to the ground. She arguably has the best jiu-jitsu out of any female fighter in the UFC.

She has improved striking, but Rodriguez is so much more seasoned on the feet. Rodriguez needed to keep the fight standing where she was going to have a massive advantage, especially from range.

One of the things that concerned me about Dern going into the fight was her takedowns. Despite all of her submission wins, Dern is not effective at all with her takedowns. Coming into UFC Vegas 39, she was only succeeding at a 10% clip.

While the fight did touch the mat a few times on Saturday, Dern’s inability to take the fight down ended up being her downfall. Rodriguez controlled most of the fight on the feet and survived the grappling exchanges to win a decision.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 39?

For Dern, this fight is a reset. The surging contender had won four fights in a row and she was looking to become the star that the UFC believes she can be. As mentioned, she’s becoming more well-rounded, but she’s still a little too one-dimensional.

With the loss, Dern falls to 6-2 in eight fights in the UFC. She’s still one of the better strawweights in the world, but she has to continue to improve her striking and she definitely needs to improve her offensive wrestling.

If Dern can become a fighter who’s dangerous with takedowns, she can easily become a world champion. Now that her winning streak is snapped, who should be next for Mackenzie Dern?

Well, one fighter I like for Dern is a little down the rankings in Tecia Torres (13-5). Torres is just inside the top ten and she’s won three fights in a row. She’s been begging the UFC for a top contender and I think Dern fits the bill.

She showed great striking in her last fight, but she’s been known throughout her career for her wrestling. It would be an interesting stylistic matchup and it would be fun to see how both ladies would approach it. For Dern, it would be the slight step back she needs while still taking on a tough customer.

After impressive win at UFC Vegas 39, what’s next for Marina Rodriguez?

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.

UFC Vegas 39 Preview: Mackenzie Dern – Marina Rodriguez

Tonight in the main event of UFC Vegas 39, we are going to see a pivotal showdown in the strawweight division. Top contenders will battle it out as Mackenzie Dern (11-1) takes on Marina Rodriguez (14-1-2).

Rodriguez will be making the walk for the eighth time in her UFC career. After entering the octagon for the first time a perfect 10-0, Rodriguez has gone 4-1-2 through her first seven fights.

Heading into UFC Vegas 39, she’s on a two-fight win streak. In her last fight, she fought Michelle Waterson, but the two fought at 125 pounds. It was an entertaining fight that Rodriguez pulled off by decision.

Standing across from Rodriguez tonight will be Mackenzie Dern. Dern has everything the UFC is looking for a in a potential star and she’s really coming into her own. Known for her tremendous jiu jitsu, it’s been her striking that has impressed in her last few fights.

After losing her first career fight to Amanda Ribas, Dern has gone on a four-fight win streak. She continues to look better and better and at UFC Vegas 39, she’s going to look to put herself in title contention.

UFC Vegas 39 Prediction

To me, this is a really tough main event to predict. On one hand, you know that if the fight touches the mat at UFC Vegas 39, Dern becomes a massive favorite. Marina Rodriguez doesn’t want to come close to touching the mat against Dern.

That said, will the fight ever get there is the question. Dern is not the best when it comes to landing takedowns. Despite her impressive wins by submissions in the UFC, she’s only succeeding on a little over 10% of her offensive takedowns.

Her submissions have come when others have shockingly taken her down or followed her to the ground. Rodriguez is not going to do this. In her last few fights, Rodriguez has looked like a sniper at range and I expect her to strike from the outside.

You should expect a lot of pressure fighting from Dern at UFC Vegas 39. She doesn’t want this to be a technical striking match because she will lose. She wants this fight in close and best case scenario it touches the mat.

I really thought I’d pick Dern in this spot, but I have a suspicion that Rodriguez pulls this off tonight. I think she’ll be able to land some nice counters and big shots from distance which will be just enough to score a decision. However, don’t be shocked at all to see a Dern submission if the fight goes to the ground.

Prediction: Marina Rodriguez by Decision

UFC targeting Mackenzie Dern – Marina Rodriguez next

The UFC is close to finalizing a pivotal matchup in the women’s strawweight division. Dana White announced on TMZ Sports over the weekend that rising star Mackenzie Dern (11-1) will be fighting Marina Rodriguez (14-1-2) next.

Dern and Rodriguez are both inside the UFC‘s top six at strawweight. As of now, the promotion doesn’t have an exact date, but White indicated that the fight is agreed to. An official announcement is expected in the coming weeks.

Marina Rodriguez looks like she wants to become the killer of the UFC‘s social media darlings. Just this year, Rodriguez knocked out Amanda Ribas and then she defeated Michelle Waterson by decision.

Now, she has her sights set on stopping Mackenzie Dern. Rodriguez has incredible striking and very good power for the strawweight division. She looks like she can become a future UFC champion.

So far, she is 4-1-2 in her seven octagon appearances. her lose loss came against Carla Esparza on Fight Island last July by Split Decision. Other than that, she’s been a very tough out in the UFC and she looks to be a big challenge to Mackenzie Dern.

Next UFC women’s star?

Over the last year, Mackenzie Dern has really turned the corner in the UFC. At one point, Dern was looked at as someone with a ton of talent, but she was looked at as someone who lacked the dedication to becoming a star.

All of that talk has been thrown out the window. Dern gave birth to her daughter in 2019 and immediately came back to fight Amanda Ribas. She fell short by decision, but ever since that loss, she’s looked like a different fighter.

Dern has finally been putting it all together and she’s 4-0 with three first round submissions in her last four UFC appearances. Her striking is progressing to go along with her world class skills on the ground.

The way Mackenzie Dern looks now, it’s going to be hard to stop her. This matchup is putting together two of the rising stars in the strawweight division. Whoever wins this matchup looks to be in a great position in terms of the strawweight title.

After loss at UFC Vegas 26, what’s next for Michelle Waterson?

This past weekend at UFC Vegas 26, two top ten strawweights went head-to-head as Michelle Waterson (18-9) took on Marina Rodriguez (14-1-2). The main event came together on short-notice, but both of these strawweights brought it.

For The Karate Hottie, this was her second straight short-notice main event. Back in September, Waterson was set to take on Angela Hill. After the original main event fell through, the UFC moved Waterson and Hill up to the main event.

Despite not training for it, both ladies went five hard rounds. Waterson walked away with a split decision victory. Two weeks ago, this fight wasn’t even on the card for UFC Vegas 26.

However, after TJ Dillashaw fell out of the main event, the promotion approached Waterson and Rodriguez about headlining. Due to the short-notice nature, the two agreed to meet at flyweight to avoid a drastic weight cut.

It was a back-and-forth affair at UFC Vegas 26. However, Marina Rodriguez was clearly getting the better of the exchanges. While it was competitive, Rodriguez walked away with decision victory on all three judges scorecards.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 26?

While it was short-notice, UFC Vegas 26 was a very big opportunity for The Karate Hottie. Had Waterson won on Saturday night, she would’ve had two consecutive wins and she would’ve been in line to fight someone in the top five.

However, she didn’t get the job done on Saturday. With the loss, Waterson falls to 1-3 in her last four. Granted two of the losses came to former UFC champions and one was to Rodriguez who looks like she can be a future champion.

I don’t think the loss hurts Waterson at all and she was the betting underdog heading into the fight. So what should the UFC do with The Karate Hottie next? Well, I don’t think they have to look far in the rankings.

I actually really like the potential matchup between Waterson and Claudia Gadelha (18-5). Both strawweights are just inside the top ten and they are both coming off of losses in their last fight.

I feel like both of them are in a similar position. Both need a win and whoever loses would really have to take a step back and consider what’s next. I think it’s a matchup the UFC should pursue and I’m all for it being what’s next.

After impressive victory at UFC Vegas 26, what’s next for Marina Rodriguez?

This past Saturday at UFC Vegas 26, Marina Rodriguez (14-1-2) took on Michelle Waterson (18-9) in the main event. The fight came together on short-notice, but both of these ladies threw down for five minutes.

With a full camp, I really liked Marina Rodriguez in this matchup. She’s much bigger than Waterson with more powerful striking. However, I wasn’t sure how she would hold up under the short-notice circumstances.

Waterson just fought in a short-notice UFC main event back in September. That combined with her grappling ability, I thought she could pickup a decision. However, Marina Rodriguez looked sensational.

The two top ten strawweights both had their moments throughout the fight, but it was clear that Rodriguez was getting the better of the exchanges. Ultimately, all three judges gave the win at UFC Vegas 26 to Marina Rodriguez.

It’s a massive win for Rodriguez who has bounced back strong from her first UFC loss last July. Now, Rodriguez has won two in a row and she’s looking towards the top of the strawweight division.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 26?

After UFC Vegas 26, it’s time for Rodriguez to take the next step up in competition. Having won two fights in a row, Rodriguez is now 4-1-2 in her seven fights inside the octagon. However, she’s looking better every time she steps in there.

So who should the UFC pair her up with? Rodriguez and others have hinted at a potential matchup with former UFC champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk (16-4). Jedrzejczyk is looking to make her comeback soon and a matchup with Rodriguez does make sense given their standing.

Not too mention the fact that it would be an incredibly fun matchup stylistically. Another option that could be out there is Mackenzie Dern (11-1). Dern has been surging having won four fights in a row.

A matchup between Rodriguez and Dern could present the UFC’s strawweight division with a fresh title contender. Either one of these ladies would be a perfect next opponent for Marina Rodriguez.

UFC Vegas 26 Preview: Michelle Waterson – Marina Rodriguez

Tomorrow night in the main event of UFC Vegas 26, we will see a matchup between two of the best strawweights in the world. The Karate Hottie Michelle Waterson (18-8) is taking on Marina Rodriguez (13-1-2) in a short-notice main event.

Just over a week ago, this fight wasn’t even on this card. The main event was supposed to be TJ Dillashaw – Cory Sandhagen. However, Dillashaw suffered a cut in training and that fight had to be pushed back.

The UFC got together with Waterson and Rodriguez and made this fight happen. While these are both top ten strawweights, the fight will be taking place at flyweight given the short-notice nature of the main event.

Waterson comes into this one off of a great win over Angela Hill last September. That was another fight that turned out to be a short-notice main event. After the main event fell through, Waterson and Hill agreed to move their fight to five rounds and move up the card.

That is telling here because it shows you the kind of shape Michelle Waterson is in. At UFC Vegas 26, I have no doubts that she will be able to push a pace as if she was preparing for a fight the entire time.

This is a massive opportunity for Marina Rodriguez. Rodriguez is coming off of knocking out Amanda Ribas back at UFC 257. If she’s able to knock off Waterson, she could be only a win away from a title shot at 115 pound.

UFC Vegas 26 Prediction

The UFC Vegas 26 main event is so interesting to me especially considering the short-nature aspect of it. I know that Michelle Waterson is going to be able to fight as if she was preparing for this fight, but I’m not sure how Rodriguez is going to do with it.

Not having to cut to 115 pounds should definitely help Rodriguez here as she’s the much bigger fighter. For Rodriguez, she’s going to have to keep this fight standing. While Waterson’s nickname is ‘The Karate Hottie’ she usually gets wins by using her wrestling and grappling.

When she’s forced to stand and trade with strikers, she’s susceptible to getting hit. Waterson is always undersized and it’s important to remember that she naturally fought at 105 pound in Invicta, but when she moved to the UFC, she had to fight at 115.

Rodriguez has the power advantage and if Waterson can’t get this down, I could even see Rodriguez getting a finish. However, I do think Waterson is going to be able to use her grappling a lot in this fight. We saw Amanda Ribas have success taking Rodriguez down and holding her there.

With the fight being short-notice, I’m actually going to lean slightly towards Waterson here. With full camps, I’d probably pick Rodriguez, but with all the circumstances on the table here, I’m going to pick the Karate Hottie to get a decision win using her wrestling.

Prediction: Michelle Waterson by Decision