Ripping on UFC Vegas 64 is fair game given the lack of depth on the card, but no one should be crapping on the main event. That’s even after the original main event between Movsar Evloev and Bryce Mitchell was cancelled. In other words, this looked like one hell of a card before the typical injuries took their toll. As it stands Marina Rodriguez could very well earn herself a shot at the title with a win over Amanda Lemos. I’m sure it would take a bit more for Lemos to garner that opportunity, but given her typical manner of winning fights, she’ll likely be given a faster road to gold than Rodriguez is currently on.
Marina Rodriguez vs. Amanda Lemos, Women’s Strawweight
There’s a solid chunk of fans and analysts who are a bit frustrated Rodriguez hasn’t received her opportunity at championship gold yet. In nine UFC fights, her lone loss has come against the reigning champion, Carla Esparza. Her current four-fight win streak features wins over the likes of Mackenzie Dern and Yan Xiaonan. What’s holding her back is her point fighting style does little to titillate viewers enough to get them excited to watch her fight, resulting in just one of her UFC victories coming before the final bell.
It’s unfortunate as Rodriguez isn’t a boring fighter by any means, at least not in the sense that many people think of boring fighters. She rarely looks for takedowns, preferring to throw fisticuffs. She’s not too bad about keeping herself up on her feet either, having shown noticeable improvements in her takedown defense since her loss to Esparza. Even if she does end up on her back. Rodriguez has proven to be one o the better defensive grapplers on the roster. The list of strawweights who can last damn near an entire round with Dern on their back is pretty short.
All that may not matter though as Lemos prefers to stand and trade herself. Not that Lemos is averse to fishing for takedowns, but Lemos knows she has rare power for a woman her size and can save herself a lot of time and energy if she can land the right counter. That said, Lemos understands the threat of takedowns can open up her power that much more. Plus, if she does secure the takedown, it isn’t like Lemos is a novice on the mat, having secured a couple of submission wins in her UFC run.
Thing is, if Lemos can’t land her powerful left hand cleanly on Rodriguez, she’s going to have a hard time securing a decision victory. Rodriguez is one of the most technical strikers in the division, perhaps the most technical striker. Her measurement of distance, use of angles, and lack of wasted movement make her difficult to outpoint, especially since she tightened up her takedown defense. Like any technical striker, she can end the night early if she lands in the right spot. Lemos’ best chance for a decision would be long periods of control with takedowns, an outcome that isn’t impossible, but is highly unlikely. The fact that Rodriguez has proven to be effective over five rounds while Lemos has yet to fight in championship rounds doesn’t help her chances.
In many ways, many view this as a two-true outcome fight. Either Lemos gets a finish or Rodriguez takes a decision. I wouldn’t say a late finish by Rodriguez is out of the question as there is still some mystery to how well Lemos can go late into rounds four and five, though I would still favor a decision to be the most likely outcome from a Rodriguez win. Some have lost faith in Lemos following her one-sided loss to Jessica Andrade, but Rodriguez is a completely different fighter stylistically. Rodriguez is good defensively, but I would fall short of calling her great, leaving enough of a window for Lemos to put her away. I fear Lemos might try to hold back just enough in order to ensure she can go five rounds, giving Rodriguez the edge she needs to take her fifth consecutive win. Rodriguez via decision
Neil Magny vs. Daniel Rodriguez, Welterweight
For many MMA fans, Magny has been a fixture in the official UFC welterweight rankings for as long as they can remember. While a clear ceiling has been attached to Magny, only the very best in the division have been able to get past him with a W. It’s easy to find things to criticize about him – he doesn’t have a lot of power, he struggles with top-heavy grapplers, etc. — but what can never be denied is that he’s a gamer.
This time around, being stubborn about going away isn’t going to be enough for Magny as Rodriguez is similar in that manner. In fact, Rodriguez developed the same type of reputation Magny earned early in his UFC career when he was willing to take just about every fight that was offered to him. Hell, Rodriguez even had a similar run of success. What Rodriguez excels at is stepping into the pocket and getting the better of the exchanges. Being dedicated to working over all levels while stringing together boxing combinations consistently has been key to his success. It might be a stretch to call him a power puncher, but he has enough oomph in his shots that he can end the night early if he lands in just the right spot. Given how often he lands, that happens a fair amount.
The question will be whether he can maintain his edge in volume against the lanky Magny. If the fight stays in the pocket, Rodriguez will cruise to a win as Magny is least comfortable in that range. Magny prefers either landing potshots on the outside or clinching up against the fence where his spindly frame often entangles opponents. Many have underestimated Magny’s strength in close quarters, but he’s very technical in that range and does a fantastic job sneaking in takedowns from there as well.
It’s a mystery how Rodriguez will respond should he find himself in the clinch as very little of his fight time has taken place there. That’s a credit to his ability to dictate where the fight takes place, but given he hasn’t faced someone on the level of Magny also leaves questions to whether he can continue to fight his fight. What we have seen out of Rodriguez indicates he isn’t lacking for strength or physicality, indicating he should be able to hold his own. That said, it would be a stretch to give him the advantage.
This is not an easy contest to pick. There’s factors that lead me to vacillate quite a bit. Many see Rodriguez as the up-and-comer in this fight, but he’s older than the 35-year-old Magny. Then again, he doesn’t have as many fights under his belt as Magny. But Rodriguez also fights with a style that doesn’t shy away from receiving damage. Ultimately, I’m leaning towards Rodriguez. Magny’s last two fights are indicative of a fighter on the decline. If one wants to argue Rodriguez didn’t look great in his most recent contest, he at least has the excuse of cage rust, returning after more than a year away. In Magny’s case, he struggled with opponents who took the fight to him... much in the way Rodriguez will. Magny hasn’t lost consecutive fights since 2013. I expect that to change. Rodriguez via decision
- Why does the UFC continue to put low-tier heavyweights on just about every Fight Night main card? Even my wife, who rarely watches fights, groans whenever she sees heavyweights are throwing down. Regardless, we get Chase Sherman — he of a 4-9 UFC record – and Josh Parisian on the main card. Sherman is a paper tiger of sorts. He absolutely looks the part, sporting one of the more impressive frames in the division. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the requisite power to put his opposition away with regularity. Couple that with a chin that’s crackable and his record isn’t much of a mystery, despite his solid boxing skills. Parisian has one of the more imposing heavyweights on the roster, needing to cut weight to make the heavyweight limit. He probably has the power advantage over Sherman, but doesn’t have the boxing prowess. Then again, Sherman’s defense is subpar and he’s proven to be a turtle on his back. Given how heavy Parisian is from the top, Sherman is likely done if he ends up in that position. Parisian is lighter on his feet than he appears – and has an affinity for spinning back-fists – so the guess here is he finds a finish before Sherman can outpoint him on the judges scorecard. Parisian via TKO of RD2
- Y’all remember the hype around Tagir Ulanbekov when he was signed to the UFC? A teammate of Khabib, Ulanbekov was expected to plow through his opposition much in a similar fashion to his famed now-coach. Instead, Ulanbekov has had some tough weight cuts and struggled to push the necessary pace his wrestling-heavy style requires for him to be the dominant machine he was expected to be. That’s fair given Ulanbekov is a big boy for 125, but it has also seen him be outworked by the likes of Tim Elliott, casting doubt on whether Ulanbekov can fulfill expectations. It’s hard to know what to expect out of his opponent, Nate Maness. Maness is dropping down from bantamweight, a move that caught many by surprise given he wasn’t on the small side at 135. Maness doesn’t excel in any particular area, but he’s as gritty as they come and has proven to have a high fight IQ. That does make me second guess the move down a bit less, but not enough to be confident enough to pick him. Maness’ lanky frame isn’t ideal for stopping takedowns and it isn’t going to help dehydrating himself more than he already has. Perhaps Maness can catch Ulanbekov with a punch, but that seems unlikely, especially at flyweight. Ulanbekov via decision
- I’m still not quite sure what to make of Grant Dawson. There’s no doubt he’s got talent. The fact he has yet to taste defeat after seven fights in the organization is proof of that. But there’s signs the bullish wrestler is close to brushing up against his ceiling. For one, even though he’s no longer killing himself to make it down to 145, he still tends to fade badly down the stretch at lightweight. Then again, despite that, he has picked up finishes in the third round in each of his last two victories, proving he’s willing to fight through adversity. He’ll be facing someone who’s proven just as willing to fight through long odds in Mark Madsen, who won’t let anyone forget he’s an Olympic silver medalist in Greco-Roman wrestling. Despite being 38 and having picked up the sport of MMA in earnest about five years ago, Madsen still believes he’s going to be champion someday. While that seems unlikely, he has shown some growth in his game, proving there’s still some room for him to improve yet. That said, he’s fairly predictable in his attack, either looking for a takedown or straightforward boxing. Dawson has proven to be more diverse in his attack than originally thought, showing some grappling chops beyond just being heavy from the top. If Madsen didn’t have similar worries about him slowing down late, I’d probably feel comfortable picking him for the upset. As it is, I don’t see him being able to take advantage of a fading Dawson. Thus, given Dawson’s youth and further developed MMA game, I like him to score the hard fought decision. Dawson via decision