With its top two scheduled fights already canceled, UFC Vegas 26 is looking like one of the most cursed UFC events of 2021.
A distinct lack of name-value on the undercard means this event isn’t likely to get much interest this week, even though some of the fights may be exciting.
Here are the predicted outcomes for UFC Vegas 26: Michelle Waterson vs. Marina Rodriguez.
#1 UFC Flyweight division: Michelle Waterson vs. Marina Rodriguez
Not only has this bout been put together on late notice to save the main event, but it’s also an odd one in terms of weight class.
Both Michelle Waterson and Marina Rodriguez usually fight at strawweight (115lbs), with Waterson regularly fighting at atomweight (105lbs) before her UFC tenure.
Due to the late notice, though, the fight has reportedly been booked at flyweight (125lbs) instead.
It’s unlikely that either woman will stick around at the higher weight class after this one is done, meaning it has more meaning to the title picture at strawweight, given Rodriguez is ranked at #6 and Waterson at #9.
So who is more likely to come out on top?
Of the two, it’s arguable that Waterson is the more proven fighter, given she has more fights in the UFC (10, including three main events), although she’s ranked below Rodriguez right now.
'The Karate Hottie' defeated the likes of Karolina Kowalkiewicz, Paige VanZant, and Angela Hill, using her clean and technical striking as well as an underrated ground game to good effect.
However, she’s also run into plenty of trouble in the past, losing four bouts inside the octagon.
Essentially, Waterson isn’t the most physically imposing fighter – largely due to her history fighting as an atomweight – and when she’s been beaten, it’s been by more powerful fighters, harder hitters, or a mix of both.
On the other hand, Marina Rodriguez has shown somewhat of a pattern in her UFC career thus far.
The Brazilian is 3-1-2, with her only loss being a somewhat controversial one at the hands of Carla Esparza.
Nearly all of Rodriguez's fights have seen her do excellently on the feet, landing heavy shots at her opponents with pinpoint accuracy and plenty of aggression.
But take Marina Rodriguez down, and she’s definitely more vulnerable. We saw Esparza, as well as Cynthia Calvillo and Randa Markos, have plenty of success once they put the Brazilian on her back – despite Rodriguez reportedly holding a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
This one, then, will likely come down to a simple question: will Rodriguez be too big and powerful for Waterson to handle?
If the Brazilian can stuff Waterson’s takedown attempts – particularly that hip throw from the clinch – and land the heavier blows standing, then there’s a definite chance that she’ll win.
But if Waterson can use her technical striking to open Rodriguez up for takedowns, then there’s every chance that it’ll be her fight, too.
It’s a tough one to call, but despite Rodriguez’s higher ranking, Waterson should be hopeful – particularly as only kickboxer extraordinaire Joanna Jedrzejczyk has really beaten her standing in the UFC. Therefore, the pick is Waterson via decision.