Prime Picks: UFC Fight Night 214 ‘Rodriguez vs. Lemos’

The Ultimate Fighting Championship soldiers on, always looking to the next event to meet the requirements of a 42-show-in-52-weekends schedule in 2022. An improvement on paper from the week before, more ranked fighters populate this event beyond the two in the headliner, and only one bout maintains a betting favorite above -300 odds. The UFC Fight Night 214 edition of Prime Picks focuses heavily on a tangible intangible that could factor into several matchups, as well as a glass cannon who can explode his way to a solid upset.

Marina Rodriguez (-220)

As of 12 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Amanda Lemos was not in Las Vegas. Due to Brazilian political turmoil, three Sao Paulo-based athletes on the UFC Fight Night 214 lineup were trapped in the city, blocking their travel until the middle of fight week. This does not bode well for athletes with finely tuned schedules, to-the-hour weight cuts and even basic human issues like jet lag. Of the three—Lemos, Polyana Viana and Tamires Vidal—Lemos left the country the latest, which likely put a damper on her plans the most. There was a stretch of time from Monday to Tuesday that fans and media did not even know if the main event would continue, and by the publication of this piece, the ladies have landed and all three matches are still intact. While Rodriguez already serves as a decent favorite with a line slightly above -200, these troubling intangibles tip the scales even further in her favor.

Lemos has zero experience competing beyond the 15-minute mark as a pro, while two of Rodriguez’s last three outings have reached the final bell after five rounds. This is not typically Lemos’ game, however, with just two decision wins to her credit across 12 victories. Eight first-round finishes—with five on the Brazilian scene against five women who combined for a record of 3-4 even though four were making their pro debuts against her—may indicate that she has generally feasted on weaker opposition, but flattening Livinha Souza and Montserrat Ruiz in back-to-back 2021 outings show her power still remains when against higher-level foes. Still, the bantamweight-turned-strawweight’s game is primarily one driven by serious physical strength and explosive movement, coiling like a spring and attacking out of nowhere. It is unknown as to whether she has the gas tank to back that up for more than a round and a half, and Rodriguez certainly has the tools to weather an early storm and cruise.

While Rodriguez’s lone career blemish has come against current champion Carla Esparza, it is the takedowns that stifled her not just off her back but on the feet as well. “Cookie Monster” did enough to take Rodriguez out of her game to snag two scorecards out of three, and a powerful Lemos could try to throw Rodriguez to the mat early to send a message. While the takedowns might come easy—relatively speaking—for Lemos in Round 1, landing them in the later frames will be a tough ask, all while Rodriguez is working her over on the feet from a distance as she avoids the haymakers that come back at her. The technical skills of Rodriguez can give her the edge should she not get reckless or get placed on her back for long stretches of the early rounds to wear her out. Once Lemos flags even a little, Rodriguez can capitalize and pick up her pace, stuffing telegraphed takedowns and hammering the lead leg of the southpaw to take the sting out of her strikes. While the moneyline still has value, prop of Rodriguez winning on the scorecards at +175 might be the way to go, although it eliminates the possibility of a late finish when Lemos peters out and Rodriguez is very much still there.

Darrick Minner Wins Inside Distance (+300)

Minner, a throwback fighter—a term meant with all possible respect—is a true “live by the sword, die by the sword” competitor. A whole 85% of his wins are by submission, but he also has been finished 11 times throughout his lengthy, well-traveled career. The 32-year-old comes out of his corner when the bell rings like he is shot out of a cannon, and that hyper-aggressive nature has led to a whopping 21 first-round stoppages across his 26 victories. It can cost him when he runs into an object that does not move when he slams into them, and his cardio wanes as the bouts progress. That may not be an issue here, as Nuerdanbieke Shayilan is the perfect kind of opponent that the Glory MMA export can capitalize on. Shayilan getting outgrappled less than 18 months ago by Joshua Culibao spells problems for the fighter from China, as Minner is much more willing to attack when the fight hits the mat. A submission should ensue, and it will likely be early. Strangely enough, the line from most books for Minner getting the submission is +295 while him scoring a finish at all is +300, so barring some corrections, the stoppage is the way to go.

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While his striking is decent enough, Shayilan would very much like to employ wrestling and hold top position. This would be akin to sticking your hand through the lion’s cage when it comes to Minner, who wants to bring the fight to the mat so badly that he pulls guard to get it there. As soon as it hits the ground, Minner will either hunt for sweeps and reversals on his back or an exposed limb or neck on top, as the Nebraska native is a submission over position athlete if there ever was one. “Wolverine” has a bad habit at times of shooting for naked takedowns, foregoing any setup in hopes that his physical strength will be the difference maker. Minner can seize on a neck in an instant, and Shayilan has already succumbed to five chokes against some less-than-stellar opposition in recent years. While it will be in the best interest of the 28-year-old Chinese competitor to keep things on the feet, or at least survive and escape grappling exchanges long enough to tire Minner out, his willingness to engage in these kinds of endeavors may prove to be his undoing in this featherweight contest.

Jinh Yu Frey Wins by Decision (+175)

There are some parallels to Frey-Viana and the headliner of Rodriguez-Lemos. Namely, Frey’s technical yet defensive style against Viana’s willingness to leap into the fire in hopes of snatching up a sub or connecting with a windmilling right hand. The similarities run out when Frey gets going on the feet, largely because she does not often do that. Rather than using the most of her muscular frame and quick hands, Frey can tend to settle into fights, doing just enough to take a nip-tuck decision—or worse yet, lose by razor-close margins. While Frey could drop the first round as Viana races out like her hair is on fire, settling down and outlasting the gradually slowing Brazilian to take the latter frames will be how Frey can get her hand raised—and at plus money with this most likely method of victory.

Despite winning two-thirds of her outings by submission, with a 100% overall finish rate, Viana has the ground game of a submission fighter and not a well-rounded grappler. Instead of shooting for a double, for example, “Dama de Ferro” would be more willing to initiate some kind of grappling and force scrambles and situations that would allow her to take a dominant position. Using her strength to bolster her attacks, she can toss around some women, while others that hold their ground like J.J. Aldrich or are savvier on the mat like Tabatha Ricci can shut her down. After five Octagon outings, Frey has yet to land more significant strikes than her opponent, and her ultra-low finish rate without a stoppage in nearly eight years spells a long, protracted fight that could get grimy and be closer than necessary. Frey’s experience of going the distance, especially in championship rounds, along with her in-cage wherewithal to not get reckless and not get caught, should give her the edge to pull off the decision win.

Ramona Pascual (+120)

A bet on the curtain jerker might be a bridge too far for some bettors, especially when it comes between a UFC newcomer with a fair resume on paper and an adversary that has not won inside the Octagon yet. The shiny resume of Tamires Vidal, with victories over fellow UFC fighter Ailin Perez and Professional Fighters League semifinalist Martina Jindrova looks solid from a distance, coupled with her lone defeat against current top-10 bantamweight Karol Rosa. It also measures up well when underdog Pascual has only defeated one woman with a winning record, but everything falls apart under scrutiny. Vidal’s wins have been far from thrilling, as her style displays little more than winging low-accuracy punches and kicks in an effort to close in, clinch up and drag the fight down. This approach may not work on Pascual, who can muscle her around and turn the tables on the Brazilian. An unknown X-factor is whether these two fighters make weight—Vidal for the travel-related issues, and Pascual as she needed a catchweight at 150 pounds at the beginning of this year—but if Pascual is on weight, the opportunity could be hers to land her first UFC win in three tries.

But for the cornucopia of fouls—12-6 elbows, punches to the back of the head, knees to the groin and then knees to a downed opponent—Vidal might have come out on the wrong end of a rough decision that saw her outstruck and outmuscled during her encounter with Ailin Perez. Practically the only offense from Vidal came in the form of low-percentage heel hooks off her back, and Perez simply spun out of them and punched Vidal in the face repeatedly. Pascual can follow this specific grappling-heavy path to victory, evading the submission attempts from Vidal off her back. If and when the Brazilian attempts to clinch up and try to body lock her way down, Pascual figures to be the stronger woman. Additionally, Pascual should measure longer in the arms, and she can use her reach to catch Vidal lumbering towards her. If one thinks that this three-woman combo of Rodriguez, Frey and Pascual will indeed all get the job done against their late-arriving foes, their three-leg parlay that can be coined the “Jet Lag Trio” will clock in at about +610.
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