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UFC 272 preview: Can Marina Rodriguez seal a title shot with a win?

Get the scoop on the televised prelims on UFC 272, featuring top flight strawweight Marina Rodriguez looks beef up her resume by securing a win over Yan Xiaonan.

Marina Rodriguez kicking Mackenzie Dern at UFC UFC Vegas 39
Marina Rodriguez kicking Mackenzie Dern at UFC UFC Vegas 39
Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

Pure BS. Where the UFC is placing Marina Rodriguez on the UFC 272 PPV card is pure BS.

After being the headliner in her last two fights – including one where she stepped in on about a week’s notice to fight five rounds – the UFC doesn’t have the decency to put her on the PPV main card. As much as I love Kevin Holland, he has zero wins in his last three fights. The same could be said of his opponent, Alex Oliveira. And who really thinks Greg Hardy and Sergey Spivak is going to add more PPV sells than Rodriguez and her opponent, Yan Xiaonan? To make matters even worse, the UFC can’t even set up Rodriguez and Xiaonan in the featured prelim spot. I get in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t mean much to be in that position, if it means anything. But the UFC promotes it. Given the winner of the fight could be fighting for a title – not a guarantee, but a possibility – it shouldn’t be hard to give their fight a quality spot on the card.

What’s truly irksome is Uncle Dana will probably come around later and deny the winner a title shot since they don’t “move the needle.” Yeah, when you don’t place them in a spot designed to get eyeballs, no wonder they don’t “move the needle.” Sheesh.

For the early prelims preview, click here.

Marina Rodriguez vs. Yan Xiaonan, Women’s Strawweight

I’ve already spoiled what direction I’m going with this fight given I believe the UFC was particularly disrespectful towards Rodriguez, but it isn’t too hard to see why I’m leaning in that direction. Since the outset of 2021, the Brazilian has taken her game to another level. She blew the doors off Amanda Ribas, went toe-to-toe with respected striker Michelle Waterson and emerged victorious by a comfortable margin, and finally put on an absolute clinic on Mackenzie Dern. I get Dern Isn’t a great striker, but Rodriguez did what she’s supposed to do and even survived going to the mat with one of the BJJ aces in all of women’s MMA.

On the flip side, Xiaonan’s record is exceptionally watered down. While she has wins over former title challengers Karolina Kowalkiewicz and Claudia Gadelha, both were at the tail ends of their careers, a shell of their former selves. It isn’t the fault of Xiaonan; she beat them as she was supposed to. But given their fallen state, it also means Xiaonan, who may have been a win over Carla Esparza away from fighting for the title, was oversold heading into that fight. Not only did Xiaonan lose to Esparza; she was flat out embarrassed.

Xiaonan’s lack of wrestling was exposed by Esparza. Fortunately for Xiaonan, it’s unlikely it’ll be challenged in that area by Rodriguez as Rodriguez has only landed a single takedown in her UFC run. Regardless, Xiaonan went to Team Alpha Male in hopes of shoring up her wrestling. If she’s planning to take Rodriguez down, it’s hard to say how much success she can find. Rodriguez has improved her takedown defense since her own contest against Esparza and proved exceptionally difficult to submit by surviving long stretches on the mat with Dern.

Thus, Xiaonan will most likely look to utilize her striking. That’s a tricky engagement. Though they utilize different striking bases – Rodriguez comes from a Muay Thai base, Xiaonan is more of a kickboxer – there are some similarities. Both mix up their strikes to all levels pretty well. Rodriguez mixes them up a bit better. Neither are power strikers, but can surprise. Rodriguez has just a bit more power. Both are solid in the clinch, but Rodriguez is better. It is the fight game, so all it takes is one punch Rodriguez doesn’t see coming, but I feel very confident Rodriguez should cruise comfortably to a win. Rodriguez via decision

  • There isn’t a fan out there aware of who Jamie Mullarkey is that doesn’t love the guy. The definition of hard-nosed, he gets by on guts and guile to the extreme. An average athlete at best, Mullarkey has had to rely on outworking, outsmarting, and out-toughing his opponents as the times he has been the more physically gifted fighter has been few and far between, at least in the latter part of his career. Thus, it’s nothing new for him to see a superior athlete across the cage as he will this time around against Jalin Turner. A monstrous lightweight at 6’3”, Though primarily thought of as a striker, Turner has delighted at showing his ground skills in recent contests, obtaining two RNC’s and a GNP stoppage in his last three contests. Despite that, there are major concerns about his takedown defense as the last dogged wrestler who faced him got him down several times. Mullarkey fits the description of dogged wrestler to a tee. Not a great wrestler, but a dogged one. I also worry about Turner’s ability to face adversity, typically jumping out ahead of his opponents and staying ahead in his wins. Mullarkey has proven he can dig deep, meaning he won’t be out of the fight should Turner get off to a quick start. Throw in that Mullarkey’s learning curve appears to be sharper than Turner’s and I’m leaning towards the Aussie, though I have a hard time finding a spot I’d be willing to bet on in this contest. Mullarkey via decision
  • At first glance, you’d think Kennedy Nzechukwu is a heavyweight. At 6’5” with an 83” reach, he’s bigger than a lot of heavyweights on the roster. It’s not like he’s rail-thin either, at least not in his upper body. Basically, he’s an absolute beast at 205. However, Nzechukwu fights more like a mouse, at least to start a fight. He appears to get in his own way, overthinking the action in the cage, resulting in inactivity to start his contests. After he’s been woken up by a few punches or gets rolling, he can throw hard and fast, showing an incredible amount of stamina for someone his size. Whether Nzechukwu will be able to show off his tank is a question as he’s taking his fight with Nick Negumereanu on short notice. The Romanian fighter had an embarrassing UFC debut, but after some time away, rebounded to show off his athleticism and power. Negumereanu is still far from a technical savant, but he has made strides in both his striking and his wrestling in those areas. The question is whether he’ll be able to address his tendency to leave his chin out there. Nzechukwu does hit hard, but he hasn’t shown the one-hitter-quitter power you’d expect of someone his size. It’s been via attrition he’s put his opponents away. Given Negumereanu is aggressive and has thus far proven durable – even if his chin hasn’t been properly tested – I like the smaller fighter in this one. The late notice is too much for me to feel confident in Nzechukwu, particularly in regards to his weight cut. Negumereanu via decision
  • In terms of actual heat, there aren’t many rivalries that are hotter than that between Maryna Moroz and Mariya Agapova. Both trained at ATT before Agapova left and the two exchanged accusations and harsh words for one another, amongst other things. Moroz is the more experienced combatant, but she hasn’t been very active, having only fought four times since 2017, her last appearance coming almost two years ago. Given the progress she was making in her wrestling and grappling at that time, she could be a completely different fighter altogether. Moroz has always been a fundamentally sound boxer who mixes in body shots and the occasional low kick. Unfortunately, she lacks power, meaning her volume may not be enough for her to turn away Agapova’s aggression. As for Agapova, no one denies her natural gifts; it’s been her maturity that has been questioned. After an embarrassing loss to Shana Dobson, Agapova appears to have grown up some, turning in a mature performance against the lanky striker with a measured attack. Agapova is also the more dynamic striker of the two, but she also appears to be the more emotional fighter. Given the events in her native country of Ukraine, Moroz is almost certainly to have the crowd behind her... which could also mess with Agapova’s head. Granted, the emotional state of Moroz will be worth watching too as the events in her homeland could have a negative effect on her, but she’s been good at sticking to her gameplan. Plus, it’s hard to question the resolve of a Ukranian after seeing how they have responded to the Russian invasion. It’s a hard call if Agapova has her head on straight, but I’m not sure if she will. Moroz via decision
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