Marina Rodriguez poses a threat on every square foot of the Octagon. In open space, the Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s strawweight contender can be downright lethal.
Rodriguez deployed a multi-faceted standup attack, withstood two edge-of-your-seat ground exchanges with Mackenzie Dern and laid claim to a unanimous decision over the 2015 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist in the UFC Fight Night 194 main event on Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. All three judges scored it 49-46 for the Brazilian muay Thai practitioner.
Dern dominated the second round—she accrued more than four minutes of control time—after luring her counterpart to the mat and managed to work to full mount again late in the fourth, but she was woefully out of her depth on the feet. The rest of the 25-minute encounter belonged to Rodriguez, who pieced together crisp punching combinations, paired them with punishing kicks and mixed in occasional knees and elbows. She outpaced Dern by a staggering 144-49 margin in significant strikes and held a 148-80 advantage in total strikes, all while connecting at better than a 50% clip.
In the aftermath of UFC Fight Night “Dern vs. Rodriguez,” here are four matches that ought to be made:
Marina Rodriguez vs. Carla Esparza: Now on a three-fight winning streak, Rodriguez carries the look of a potential title challenger at 115 pounds. That she experienced a significant brush with adversity against Dern, maintained her composure and kept panic at bay only improves her stock in a division waiting for the Rose Namajunas-Weili Zhang rivalry to run its course. Rodriguez would likely be considered a viable opponent for anyone else inside the Top 10, including Esparza—the woman responsible for the only defeat on her resume. “Cookie Monster,” who eked out a contentious split decision over Rodriguez a little more than a year ago, has not competed since she put away Xiaonan Yan with punches in the second round of their UFC Fight Night 188 pairing on May 22.
Randy Brown vs. Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos-Benoit St. Denis winner: The toolsy and physically imposing Brown further distanced himself from an August 2020 knockout loss to Vicente Luque, as he took a unanimous verdict from an overweight Jared Gooden in the three-round welterweight co-headliner. “Rude Boy” swept the scorecards with 30-27 marks across the board. Brown fought through the pain of a significant toe injury, leaned on a penetrating jab and cut loose with potent punching volleys whenever he sensed an opening to do so. Still just 31 years of age, the former Ring of Combat champion has rattled off four victories in five appearances and remains a person of interest at 170 pounds. Zaleski dos Santos will collide with the unbeaten St. Denis at UFC 267 on Oct. 30.
Matheus Nicolau vs. Alex Perez-Matt Schnell winner: While virtually everyone else seems preoccupied with the Brandon Moreno-Deiveson Figueiredo drama at the top of the 125-pound weight class, Nicolau continues to creep toward the Top 10 and beyond. The 28-year-old extended his latest winning streak to four fights with a unanimous decision over former Titan Fighting Championship titleholder Tim Elliott in a three-round flyweight showcase. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28 for the surging Brazilian. Nicolau has not suffered a setback in more than three years and figures to be in line for a major opportunity in the not-too-distant future. Perez and Schnell are scheduled to lock horns at UFC 269 on Dec. 11.
Chris Gutierrez vs. Nathan Maness: Unbeaten at 5-0-1 over his past six appearances, Gutierrez marked off another name on his hit list at 135 pounds by capturing a split decision—28-29, 30-27, 30-27—against Felipe Dias Colares in their three-round bantamweight attraction. “El Guapo” struggled to get in gear initially but established a rhythm in the second round and wound up outstriking Colares by substantial margins, once again tipping his spear with the damaging leg kicks for which he has become known. Gutierrez connected 25 times to the Brazilian’s lower extremities. Maness last competed at UFC Fight Night 192, where he brought down former King of the Cage champion Tony Gravely with punches in the second round of their memorable Sept. 18 battle.
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