Marina Rodriguez had to survive a possible jaw injury and a late comeback attempt from Michelle Waterson but she still put on a punishing performance to win the UFC Vegas 26 main event.
After accepting the fight on extremely short notice, Rodriguez didn’t skip a beat over five rounds as she was fast and furious with her striking combinations that forced Waterson to show off her ability to absorb a lot of damage. While Waterson did manage to storm back in the fourth and fifth rounds, Rodriguez was just too much over 25 minutes and the end result was a unanimous decision win for the Brazilian.
The scorecards read 49-46, 49-46 and 48-47 with Rodriguez notching her second straight victory while moving to 4-1-2 in her UFC career.
#UFCVegas26 Official Scorecard: Rodriguez Vs. Waterson— UFC News (@UFCNews) May 9, 2021
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When the fight started, Waterson was quick to attack but Rodriguez backed her off with a powerful right hand that cracked the former Invicta FC champion. It only took a few punches for Waterson to become a little more cautious with her combinations to avoid the long, power strikes coming from the outside courtesy of Rodriguez.
Waterson started to diversify her attacks by mixing in a series of kicks including a hard shot to the Rodriguez’s lead leg as well as another straight to the knee. Still, Rodriguez was undeterred as she began moving forward with more aggression while throwing punches and a nasty knee from the clinch.
The confidence from Rodriguez continued to grow while bullying Waterson around the cage with her punishing combinations and then dominating from the clinch, which also included a variety of knees to the body and head. Just before the close of the second round, Rodriguez unleashed a punishing series of strikes that left Waterson with blood trickling from her nose.
Rodriguez is setting an impressive pace!— UFC (@ufc) May 9, 2021
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The assault continued with Rodriguez uncorking a beautiful head kick at the start of the third round and then following that with a blistering series of punches while trapping Waterson against the cage. While she continued to hunt for the finish, Waterson kept finding a way to survive by attacking the lead leg with her kicks.
Waterson also managed her first takedown in the fourth round that finally stalled Rodriguez’s offense as she started to put together some good ground and pound. While it was enough to mount a comeback for that round, Waterson had to know she needed a finish.
She nearly delivered that after blasting Rodriguez with a head kick and then one more to the body that had the Brazilian wobbled momentarily. Despite the damage done, Rodriguez refused to back down as she returned fire with continued pressure including another blistering combination of punches and a kick to the head that ricocheted off Waterson’s face.
When the fight ended, Rodriguez clearly did enough to win, although she was unable to talk about her handiwork thanks to an injury suffered in the fight — likely from the head kick Waterson delivered that resulted in significant swelling in the jaw.
Still, Rodriguez had plenty of reason to celebrate as she wins in her first UFC main event and while this fight technically took place at flyweight, the overall performance definitely serves notice that a new contender has arrived in the 115-pound division.