Marina Rodriguez had to fight out of some dangerous spots on Saturday during her matchup against Mackenzie Dern, but once Rodriguez found her groove, she took over the fight and earned the biggest win of her UFC career.
Rodriguez made a statement in January when she scored an impressive second-round knockout win over the favored Amanda Ribas. She followed that with a flyweight win over Michelle Waterson before earning a win over Dern in the main event of UFC Vegas 39.
Rodriguez might have been an afterthought in the strawweight division at the start of this year, but through her efforts inside the octagon, she has shined a spotlight on herself and she has now positioned herself as a potential title challenger in 2022.
Marina Rodriguez: Marina Rodriguez had some rough spots in her fight against Mackenzie Dern, but she gutted through them and earned unanimous decision win over Dern in the main event of Saturday’s UFC Vegas 39 (49-46 x 3).
The win will most likely score Rodriguez a title eliminator in her next fight and she deserves that shot. The 34-year-old is now 3-0 in 2021 after going 2-1-2 in her first two years with the UFC.
The final striking totals of this matchup show how Rodriguez got it done against Dern. Rodriguez landed 144 significant strikes to Dern’s 49 and had a landing rate of 51 percent to 28 percent.
Rodriguez has been a revelation in 2021 and it won’t be a shock to see her fighting for the UFC strawweight title in 2021.
Randy Brown: Randy Brown was a .500 fighter through his first six UFC fights. Since 2019, he’s now on a 4-1 run and with his win over Jared Gordon in the co-main event of UFC Vegas 39, Brown is knocking on the door of the top-15.
Despite injuring his toe early in the fight, Brown soldiered on and showcased his striking abilities in earning a win over Gordon. One of the most noticeable things about Brown in this matchup was his growing confidence. At 31, Brown looks to be reaching his peak.
Matheus Nicolau: Matheus Nicolau had a rough go in the first round against Tim Elliott. He fell victim to a takedown and struggled to dial in his striking thanks to Eliott’s odd style. Nicolau adjusted in the second stanza and improved his timing and target selection and took control of the fight.
Nicolau was the faster and more powerful striker, but Elliott’s unorthodox style gave him a little trouble, but over time he was able to time the openings Elliot provided, especially to the body. There will be debate if Elliott gave away the fight in the third stanza or not, but the fact is, Nicolau won.
Chris Gutierrez: There was a nice moment after Chris Gutierrez defeated Felipe Colares via decision where he pulled in his coach, Marc Montoya, and told UFC commentator Paul Felder how much he meant to him in dedicating the victory to his team at Factory X.
Damon Jackson: Damon Jackson did a good job of dominating Charles Rosa, especially with his wrestling and grappling, but what really stood out about this fight was the composure Jackson displayed after Rosa busted him wide open with a nasty elbow. MMA fighters are a different breed.
Lupita Godinez: Lupita Godinez Godinez showed good wrestling and did well to control the octagon and keep her opponent, Silvana Gomez Juarez against the fence to facilitate her takedowns. It was those takedowns that led directly to Godinez getting an armbar submission win.
If Godinez can add some striking to her wrestling to help set up her submission attempts, the 28-year-old could be someone to watch.
Steve Garcia: Steve Garcia got back in the win column with a gutsy performance against Charlie Ontiveros. Garcia got rocked early in the first round with an impressive axe kick, but he showed poise and composure and used a takedown to recover and he finished the round in top position. Not only that, he used a heavy top game to bloody and seemingly break Ontiveros in the first five minutes.
Garcia got rocked again in the early going of the second round. He once again took the fight to the mat and wasted no time in getting to mount and earning himself his first UFC win.
Garcia, a pro since 2013, showed good fight IQ in this matchup.
Cageside doctor: The cut in the Jackson vs. Rosa fight was nasty, but the doctor did a nice job in allowing the fight to continue. The cut was deep and bloody, but it was not in a spot that affected his sight, nor did it seem to be a risk for long-term nerve damage.
Carla Esparza: I’m one of these folks who thought the UFC should have given Carla Esparza the title shot against Rose Namajunas over Weili Zhang. I also thought that had Mackenzie Dern defeated Marina Rodriguez, the UFC would have penciled in Dern to face the winner of that fight. There’s no guarantee that Esparza, a former champion on a five-fight winning streak, will get the winner of the Namajunas vs. Zhang fight, but Dern’s loss makes it more likely.
Jason Parillo: How good is Jason Parillo as an MMA coach. Well, here’s an example. With Mackenzie Dern looking like she was running out of gas, Parillo asked his fighter if she was tired. When she indicated she was, Parillo quickly spun that into Dern being smart and taking the round off to recover and be ready for the next stanza. There was no screaming and no hysteria. Parillo looked at the situation, which would have panicked many other coaches, and turned it into a positive.
Parillo’s calm demeanor between rounds was also noticeable. He gave simple and easy-to-understand instructions to his fighter and sent her back out with no question as to what she needed to do to succeed. Parillo is an excellent coach.
Mackenzie Dern: When Mackenzie Dern came to the UFC, the knock on her was that her striking was bad. She has taken steps to improve that striking. What we found out on Saturday was that maybe her wrestling was more of an issue than her striking. Perhaps we were enamored by her grappling prowess and ignored the fact that her takedown success was a measly 10 percent going into her fight opposite Marina Rodriguez. After she went 1-8 in takedowns in a losing effort, it became clear that if Dern wants to reach elite level status in MMA, she needs to work on her takedowns.
I think Dern can develop her wrestling. She is coachable, and that is important. If Dern concentrates on takedown drills in the gym and improves incrementally over her next few fights, I think the 28-year-old can still develop into a UFC title threat.
Dern’s next few octagon outings could determine the trajectory of her UFC career.
Tim Elliott: Social media and UFC commentator Paul Felder took Elliott to task for “stalling” off his back in the third round of his fight against Matheus Nicolau. When Elliott and his team rewatch this flyweight scrap, they might regret that approach, which might have cost him the fight.
Sabina Mazo: Sabina Mazo is only 24, so she is still developing as a fighter, but she was either unable or unwilling to make adjustments to the striking coming her way from her opponent, Mariya Agapova and that led to her undoing.
Charlie Ontiveros: Charlie Ontiveros looked good in the opening moments of his lightweight fight opposite Steve Garcia in scoring a knockdown via axe kick, but he could not capitalize on hurting his opponent because of his lack of takedown defense and inability to get off the mat. Ontiveros has good striking skills and technique, but once things went against him, he really struggled.
UFC: Another UFC card, another event where a fighter speaks about financial problems in their post-fight interview.
Chris Gutierrez vs. Felipe Colares: This was a disappointing fight. Felipe Colares was game and throwing with power, but his striking was telegraphed and sloppy. Colares’ style should have allowed Chris Gutierrez to light him up, but Gutierrez was either looking for a perfect opening or reluctant to engage for some reason. Gutierrez did well with his jabs, but he didn’t use that technique nearly enough in the first two rounds.
Gutierrez looked much better in the third round. He was much more aggressive and used his jab to great effect, but the question is, where was that during the first 10 minutes.
This fight should be an eye-opener for Gutierrez. He needs to adjust much quicker to the way his opponent approaches the fight, especially if he is going to be the one using counters and fighting off his back foot.