Jessica Aguilar was seen as one of the best strawweights in the world for years, defeating opponents left and right inside the Bellator and WSOF cages before finally joining the UFC in 2015.
Yet, “Jag” hasn’t been able to put a winning streak together on the biggest stage possible.
The American Top Team product dropped a decision to Claudia Gadelha in her Octagon debut in Rio de Janeiro. Almost a year later, Aguilar lost to Courtney Casey in Dallas. Aguilar finally picked up a win in 2018, defeating Jodie Esquibel in Boise, but returned to the losing column months later, tapping to Weili Zhang in Beijing.
Aguilar has the opportunity to bounce back on Saturday, taking on Marina Rodriguez at UFC Philadelphia, but the Brazilian prospect wonders if her opponent really was that good — or if it was a matter of competition.
“Facts show she hasn’t been able to perform well yet (in the UFC),” Rodriguez told MMA Fighting. “Actually, I just got in the UFC and every fighter there is tough, a level above normal. Maybe she was doing great because she didn’t get in the UFC earlier. It was different for me too because I got in and fought a ranked opponent. I don’t know… It will be a good fight. She’s an experienced fighter and we’ll put on a show.”
Rodriguez entered the UFC after making quick work of Rizin veteran Maria Oliveira at the Brazilian version of the Contender Series last August, and fought to a majority draw with Randa Markos at UFC Sao Paulo in her debut.
“That fight with Randa was a draw,” Rodriguez said. “But it confirmed to me that all the hard work we’ve done before the UFC, going 10-0, was well-executed and got us ready to fight the No. 13 ranked fighter in the UFC, with a complete opposite fighting style, and win two rounds against her. We’re on the right path. I know there’s no easy fight in the UFC, so will keep working hard.”
Rodriguez was originally booked to meet Alexa Grasso in February and then March, but Grasso couldn’t make to fight night. With Aguilar stepping in on 11 days’ notice, the Brazilian talent doesn’t see many differences between her and Grasso.
“They called me to say that Grasso was injured and offered Jessica Aguilar right away,” Rodriguez said. “I was tense for a second, but then we watched her fights to see what we would have to adapt, but we haven’t really changed anything in terms of strategy. We were doing a similar gameplan for Grasso. Everything will be alright.”
Rodriguez doesn’t think her UFC Philadelphia bout will last three rounds, and hopes to add another knockout victory to her record.
“I believe it will be my chance to show what I can do,” said Rodriguez, unbeaten in 11 professional bouts with a 10-0-1 record. “I wasn’t able to show everything I can do when I fought Randa, but now it’s my time to impress everybody. I know that’s possible, and I will do that on Saturday.”
“(Grappling) can be an option, but the real best path to victory is on the feet, maybe the clinch,” she continued. “I have many options to finish this fight on the feet. If we go to the ground, my jiu-jitsu has evolved a lot and (a submission is) possible. I have many cards up my sleeve that can surprise her on the ground.”