UFC on ESPN 24: Waterson vs Rodriguez - Breakdown and Prediction
Michelle Waterson vs Marina Rodriguez
The UFC scrambled to put together a main event last minute when T.J Dillashaw dropped out of his fight against Cory Sandhagen. Ultimately Michelle “The Karate Hottie” Waterson got the call to take on Marina Rodriguez. Interestingly enough due to the short notice, both ladies will be fighting in a division above (flyweight) what they normally fight in (strawweight).
Michelle Waterson (18-8-0) actually used to fight as low as atomweight (105). Before arriving in the UFC she snagged the atomweight championship in Invicta. She’s fought 10 times in the UFC at strawweight (going 6-4) against very stiff competition. This fight will be her 4th headlining 5 round main event (currently 2-1). Her last two fights were insanely close split decisions and I’m sure she will be looking to keep it out of the judges hands for this one.
Marina Rodriguez (13-1-2) got a shot on Dana White’s Contender Series where she made the most of it, TKO’ing her opponent in the first round. She’s fought 6 times in the UFC so far, (3-1-2). Her one loss was a split decision to Carla Esparza, a fighter who also won by split decision against Waterson (double also, that happened 2 fights ago for both ladies). Rodriguez’s last fight was an incredibly impressive TKO victory over Amanda Ribas. The stoppage was truly bizarre and hopefully you guys see it or catch it in the promos.
How They Match Up
This is a very tough fight to call. I’ve had write ups done making the case for both fighters and they are both convincing. The icing on the cake was when I typo’d the official prediction combining both fighters into one - Michelle Rodriguez, that's some subconscious mental struggle for ya. Or I just saw a fast and the furious trailer or something, who knows.
Anyway, let’s look at what we know. Waterson is a small strawweight as is, so fighting at flyweight is certainly going to benefit Rodriguez by a lot. In terms of 5 round fights, Waterson has all the experience here and has shown to have decent fight IQ going into late rounds. Despite the Karate moniker, she actually uses takedowns quite a bit and is pretty good at controlling her opponent on the ground when she does take the fight there.
On the feet I actually favor Rodriguez by quite a bit. The counter shot she blasted Ribas with was very impressive. She moves well, holds edges in all striking metrics, will have a 3 inch reach advantage, and has noticeable power which should be even more dangerous without any strenuous weight cut. On that same note, Waterson is very hittable - she absorbs 4 significant strikes per minute and we have 10 fights of data for that number so it’s telling.
On the flip side, Rodriguez’s takedown defense is 59%. It’s not good, it’s not disastrous but I gotta say, once she does hit the mat on her back, there is absolutely no urgency to get up. Her technique on the shots she does defend is also pretty bad, to the point that even undersized Waterson could have success. Carla Esparza (another small strawweight) took her down 5 times to control the majority of the fight. However, Waterson is not the wrestler that Esparza is, and in her last fight Waterson shot for 18 takedowns and only secured 1. I do expect her to do better than that this time around but the problem for her will be in the unsuccessful attempts that find her tied up with Rodriguez. Rodriguez has legit Muay Thai that will punish Waterson in this very scenario. For that reason (as well as the size, power, striking edge, and current momentum), I’m slightly favoring Rodriguez to prevail.
*stats provided by ufcstats.com