A women’s flyweight fight between Marina Rodriguez and Michelle Waterson will serve as a short-notice main event at UFC Vegas 26 on Saturday (May 8).
Rodriguez vs. Waterson Prediction UFC Vegas 26
Cory Sandhagen and former UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw were slated to headline at the UFC Apex prior to the latter being forced to withdraw due to a cut.
Rodriguez (13-1-2) and Waterson (18-8) will instead go to war over five rounds, though the strawweight pair will fight at 125 pounds as a result of the late change:
Marina Rodriguez will meet Michelle Waterson in the five-round main event of #UFCVegas26 on Saturday, the promotion announced today.— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) May 4, 2021
Rodriguez and Waterson are both top strawweights, but the bout will be contested at flyweight due to the short-notice nature of the situation. pic.twitter.com/Ye92anhDAq
This bout represents Waterson’s third main event in her last four bouts, though “The Karate Hottie” is still a +180 underdog with William Hill USA. That’s because her opponent, -210 favorite Rodriguez, has only one loss on her professional record and was last seen finishing fellow Brazilian prospect Amanda Ribas in January:
UFC Vegas 26 Info
Date: Saturday, May 8
Venue: UFC Apex, Enterprise, Nevada
Prelims: 5 p.m. ET (10 p.m. BST)
Main Card: 8 p.m. ET (1 a.m. BST)
Prediction: Rodriguez to win (-210)
That TKO victory was Rodriguez’s first stoppage with the UFC in what was her sixth fight for the promotion. The 34-year-old could hardly have asked for a better comeback after losing a split decision to Carla Esparza in her previous outing.
Waterson suffered the same fate when she met Esparza only a few months prior, and she too has since returned to victory lane with the narrowest of wins over Angela Hill in September.
At 35, the former Invicta atomweight champion continues her reign as one of the toughest-to-finish female athletes in her division, having fought the distance in each of her last seven bouts, two of which were over five rounds.
This being Rodriguez’s first experience at that distance might leave her at a slight disadvantage, though a five-inch cushion in reach does more than balance the books. Waterson may hold the edge on the ground after she was awarded her Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt following her win over Hill, but other competent fighters have tried and failed to get Rodriguez to those terms.
The -210 frontrunner may find it a struggle to put Waterson away in the same manner she did Ribas, who was far too gung-ho in her efforts to stand and trade. That being said, the Brazilian should still expect to succeed in her efforts to dominate from range provided she can keep the more compact Karate Hottie at bay.
Rodriguez vs. Waterson Moneyline Odds
Marina Rodriguez: -210
Michelle Waterson: +180
Odds via William Hill NJ