This weekend sees the UFC head to New York for its latest Fight Night card, which is set to be shown on the ABC network in the US.
With this in mind, here are the predicted outcomes for UFC Fight Night: Brian Ortega vs. Yair Rodriguez.
#1. UFC featherweight division: Brian Ortega vs. Yair Rodriguez
To say that this is a huge main event for the UFC featherweight division would be a massive understatement. With reigning featherweight kingpin Alexander Volkanovski’s rivalry with Max Holloway now over, it’s very likely that the next title shot could go to the winner of this one.
Sure, both Brian Ortega and Yair Rodriguez are coming off losses, coincidentally to Volkanovski and Holloway respectively, but that doesn’t really matter. With both men still ranked in the top three at 145lbs, an impressive showing here would almost definitely vault the winner ahead of Josh Emmett in the queue.
Of the two, it’s likely that the promotion will be hoping that Rodriguez wins. Not only is ‘El Pantera’ a favorite with the brass, including Dana White, thanks to his reckless and exciting style in the octagon, but Ortega has, of course, already faced Volkanovski once.
To be fair, nobody would complain about seeing ‘T-City’ face ‘Alexander the Great’ again, as their first bout was one of the very best of 2021 and featured one of the promotion’s all-time great rounds.
So who will win this clash? In all honesty, it’s hard to say.
On paper at least, Ortega should theoretically hold all of the advantages. He’s a far better grappler, as he’s capable of snaring a variety of chokes from various angles. While his wrestling isn’t a massive strength, he tends to latch onto things from the clinch and he’s also more than happy to pull guard if need be.
On the feet, meanwhile, he’s come on leaps and bounds since his first title shot against Max Holloway, as we saw when he comfortably outstruck Chan Sung Jung in their 2020 bout, even hurting ‘The Korean Zombie’ at one point with a spinning elbow.
However, he’s up against a uniquely dangerous striker here in Rodriguez. ‘El Pantera’ is definitely not what you’d call a technical wizard on the feet. That said, he can utilize jabs and leg kicks as well as most fighters in the featherweight division.
What makes him so dangerous, though, is his willingness to throw low-percentage strikes basically from nowhere. While they come at a risk, they offer a great reward if they do land.
We’ve seen two of them stop opponents in the octagon before. The Mexican famously used a bizarre upward elbow to finish Jung in their fight, and used a leaping switch kick to turn off the lights on Andre Fili in their 2016 clash.
On the ground, meanwhile, Rodriguez is not as skilled a grappler as Ortega, but he’s an expert scrambler who rarely, if ever, gets caught in a horrible position.
Overall, this is a difficult one to pick purely because Rodriguez’s reckless style makes him such a wild card to predict. It seems unlikely that either man will be finished, so the bout could come down to which man can produce the biggest moments throughout. With that considered, the pick is Rodriguez via decision.
The Pick: Rodriguez via unanimous decision
#2. UFC strawweight division: Michelle Waterson vs. Amanda Lemos
This weekend’s co-headliner sees strawweights Michelle Waterson and Amanda Lemos throwing down. While both women are coming off losses, they remain ranked in the top 15 and could use a win here to springboard into title contention.
Of the two, Waterson is definitely the bigger name. ‘The Karate Hottie’ has headlined multiple UFC shows since her 2015 debut and has done remarkably well for herself, especially when you consider she’s a natural 105lber.
Waterson has picked up wins over the likes of Angela Hill, Felice Herrig and Karolina Kowalkiewicz. Her smaller stature hasn’t really caused her much grief, as none of her losses really saw her outmuscled by her opponent.
Lemos, on the other hand, lost her octagon debut in 2017, but then reeled off five wins in a row to climb into contention before being choked out by Jessica Andrade in her most recent bout. A striker by trade, the Brazilian possesses serious power and a willingness to trade off with her opponents.
Where she could come unstuck here, based on what we’ve seen of her, is if Waterson can take her down. Lemos’ defeat to Andrade was the first time she’d been submitted, but to see her caught in a standing arm triangle choke seemed to be a red flag.
More to the point, ‘The Karate Hottie’ possesses a massively underrated submission game as well as some sneaky takedowns, with the head-and-arm throw from the clinch being a perennial favorite of hers.
Add in the fact that Waterson is an excellent technical striker in her own right – even if she doesn’t have the toughest chin at this stage – and it seems likely that she’ll do enough to compete on the feet with the Brazilian before getting to the clinch.
From there, if she can secure a trip or a takedown, then this one is probably her fight to lose, assuming she makes no silly errors.
The Pick: Waterson via second round submission
#3. UFC Fight Night: The Main Card
In a welterweight bout, Li Jingliang takes on Muslim Salikhov. This is Li’s first fight since his throttling at the hands of Khamzat Chimaev last year. However, nobody should hold that against him, and he’s still a very dangerous opponent for any 170lber.
Salikhov, meanwhile, has been on an excellent streak and has won his last five bouts, with the most recent three coming via decision.
This one should come down to how well Li can deal with ‘The King of Kung Fu’ and his explosive techniques. It’s hard to call because Salikhov has shown more patience in recent bouts. Furthermore, we don’t know how well Li will return from the Chimaev loss. Therefore, the pick is Salikhov via decision.
In a flyweight clash, Matt Schnell faces Su Mudaerji. This is an interesting one because China’s Su packs a ton of power. While he doesn’t have the overall experience of Schnell, ‘Danger’ has come up short against explosive foes in the past.
With that said, Schnell is also underrated to a degree and has extremely tricky skills in all areas as well as a lot of toughness. This one could go either way, but Schnell via submission is the pick.
At featherweight, Shane Burgos takes on Charles Jourdain in a fight that could well earn both men a performance bonus. Both fighters come out with a similar style in that they’re unorthodox strikers with tons of power and a willingness to eat shots in return.
Of the two, though, Burgos is perhaps more dangerous. A huge 145lber who tends to stalk his prey before unleashing brutal combinations, he’s also faced tougher opponents, including Josh Emmett and Cub Swanson.
This should come down to which fighter can land the heavier blows more consistently, and so despite Jourdain’s talents, the pick is Burgos via decision.
Finally, Lauren Murphy and Miesha Tate finally square off in a flyweight bout after the clash was removed from UFC 276 due to Murphy testing positive for COVID-19 a couple of weeks ago.
Murphy won’t be an easy out for Tate by any means; she’s a tough, hard-nosed veteran who has picked up big wins in the octagon before. However, assuming ‘Cupcake’ is healthy at 125lbs, it’s hard to find an area that she’s outgunned in.
With that in mind, the pick is Tate via decision.
#4. UFC Fight Night: The Prelims
Picks in bold
UFC bantamweight division: Ricky Simon vs. Jack Shore
UFC middleweight division: Dalcha Lungiambula vs. Punahele Soriano
UFC featherweight division: Bill Algeo vs. Herbert Burns
UFC light-heavyweight division: Dustin Jacoby vs. Da Un Jung
UFC middleweight division: Dwight Grant vs. Dustin Stoltzfus
UFC welterweight division: Phil Rowe vs. Abubakar Nurmagomedov
UFC strawweight division: Jessica Penne vs. Emily Ducote