UFC Fight Night Report: Marina Rodriguez defeats Michelle Waterson by decision
On Saturday night, the UFC held a Fight Night event at the Apex Facility in Las Vegas, Nevada. This was a card that was heavily impacted by fight changes and cancellations, most notably the original main event between T.J. Dillashaw and Cory Sandhagen, which was postponed following a severe cut that Dillashaw received in his training camp. In need of a new main event, the UFC brought in ranked strawweight contenders, Marina Rodriguez and Michelle Waterson, for a short notice matchup at flyweight. Both fighters were coming off significant wins in their last bouts, with Rodriguez stopping Amanda Ribas, and Waterson getting a split decision victory over Angela Hill. In the co-main event, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone was scheduled to face Diego Sanchez, but Sanchez was released from the UFC last week, and Cerrone fought Alex Morono instead.
Aside from the original main event, there were a number of fights that fell apart shortly before the event. Angela Hill was scheduled to face Amanda Ribas on the main card, but Ribas was forced to withdraw from the bout hours beforehand due to a positive COVID test. Ben Rothwell and Philipe Lins were expected to headline the preliminary card, but Lins didn’t make it to the weigh-ins, reportedly falling ill beforehand. In one of the scarier scenes in some time, Ryan Benoit nearly collapsed while weighing in, and his fight against Zarrukh Adashev was canceled.
The commentary team for this card consisted of Jon Anik, Daniel Cormier, and Dominick Cruz. Performance of the Night bonuses went out to Carlston Harris and Alex Morono. Fight of the Night honors was awarded to Gregor Gillespie and Carlos Diego Ferreira, but Gillespie received the entirety of the bonus due to Ferreira missing weight.
*Carlston Harris def. Christian Aguilera by anaconda choke at 2:52 of Round 1
*Jun Yong Park def. Tafon Nchukwi by majority decision (30-25, 29-26, 28-28)
*Michael Trizano def. Ludovit Klein by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
*Phil Hawes def. Kyle Daukaus by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 29-27)
*Gregor Gillespie def. Carlos Diego Ferreira by TKO at 4:51 of Round 2
*Marcos Rogerio De Lima def. Maurice Greene by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-27)
*Neil Magny def. Geoff Neal by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
*Alex Morono def. Donald Cerrone by TKO at 4:40 of Round 1
*Marina Rodriguez def. Michelle Waterson by unanimous decision (48-47, 49-46, 49-46)
CHRISTIAN AGUILERA (14-7, 170.5) VS CARLSTON HARRIS (15-4, 170.5) – WELTERWEIGHT
Harris immediately began to pursue a takedown. Aguilera defended the attempt, and he landed a short uppercut. Harris landed a left hand that backed Aguilera up, and Aguilera shot for a takedown that Harris defended. Harris locked in an anaconda choke, and Harris passed out in the hold.
WINNER: Carlston Harris by anaconda choke at 2:52 of Round 1
It looked as though Aguilera passed out, woke up, and then passed out again in the hold. Harris locked the submission in tightly, and this was a fantastic submission victory for Harris’s UFC debut. With this win, Harris is on a four-fight win streak.
TAFON NCHUKWI (5-0, 186) VS JUN YONG PARK (12-4, 186) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
Both fighters landed strong shots in the opening minute, and if you just watched the first sixty seconds of this fight, you likely would not predict this one going the distance. Nchukwi began to pick away at the lead leg of Park, but he was eating a lot of 1-2’s from Park in return. Park’s jab could not miss, but it did not deter Nchukwi from advancing. Park landed a lead hook but ate a kick low that had him writhing on the ground in pain. He was able to recover, and while the fight resumed, not much happened until the end of the round. 10-9 Park.
Nchukwi flurried forward to begin the second round. Park had Nchukwi in a standing headlock, and he ate a pair of knees to the groin that sent him back to the ground. Nchukwi was deducted a point for the repeated low blows, and the fight resumed. Park attempted to change levels and bring the fight to the ground, but Nchukwi defended the attempt with an impressive display of power. Park was poked in the eye, but it was missed by the referee. Park ended the round with a tight guillotine attempt, but time ran out before he could finish it. I thought Park stole the round back with his late submission attempt. 20-17 Park.
Park was able to get Nchukwi down after catching a kick, two minutes into the final round. Nchukwi attempted to find his way back to his feet against the cage, but Park dragged him right back down. Park worked his way into mount, and he cut Nchukwi open with his ground and pound. Nchukwi was leaking blood, but he made it out of the round. 30-26 Park.
WINNER: Jun Yong Park by majority decision (30-25, 29-26, 28-28)
One judge saw this fight as a draw, which seemed insane to me. The second round was close, but given the point deduction, I’m not sure how you could possibly arrive at a score of 28-28. Regardless, the right fighter ultimately got his hand raised. Park looked good throughout this fight, and he has really shown a ton of improvement these last two fights. He is now 3-1 in the UFC.
LUDOVIT KLEIN (17-2, 146) VS MICHAEL TRIZANO (8-1, 146) – FEATHERWEIGHT
Trizano moved forward, as Daniel Cormier compared Trizano’s appearance to that of Kerry Von Erich. Klein was somewhat tentative but seemed to be landing the stronger strikes. With just over a minute remaining in the round, Klein shot for a takedown, as was able to seat Trizano down against the cage. Towards the end of the round, Cormier responded to CM Punk’s tweet asking Cormier why he associated the Von Erich’s with Mid South instead of World Class. 10-9 Klein.
Klein connected with a backhand and mixed in a body kick afterward. Trizano defended a takedown attempt and landed a number of leg kicks. Klein was beginning to really put some power into his counter strikes, and I thought he was taking over this fight, despite moving backward. Klein ended the second round with another takedown. 20-18 Klein.
Trizano landed a pair of huge right hands to begin the third round and defended Klein’s following takedown attempt. Klein responded with a 1-2, and they fell into a similar rhythm to the first two rounds. Trizano was finding much more success throughout this final round on the feet. Klein shot for a takedown late in the round, as he did at the end of the prior rounds, but this time he was caught in a tight guillotine, and just managed to survive until the end of the round. 29-28 Klein, on my scorecard.
WINNER: Michael Trizano by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
I scored the fight for Klein and was surprised to see Trizano get his hand raised here. I assume the judges gave him credit for constantly advancing, but I thought the 30-27 scorecard was out there. Still, Trizano gave a good account of himself throughout the fight, and likely would have secured the finish if there was any time left in the final round. Trizano is now 3-1 in the UFC.
PHIL HAWES (10-2, 186) VS KYLE DAUKAUS (10-1, 186) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
Hawes changed levels and took Daukaus down about ninety seconds into the first. Hawes went for a Von Flue choke, but Daukaus scrambled out into top position. Hawes escaped to his feet, and Daukaus pursued a takedown of his own. Hawes defended the attempt but found himself pressed to the cage for the remainder of the round. 10-9 Daukaus.
Daukaus cracked Hawes with a huge spinning back fist early in the second round, and Hawes could barely stand, but he was able to wrap Daukaus up against the cage and take some time to recover. When they broke apart, Daukaus was repeatedly landing hooks, and Hawes began to fire back with heavy hands of his own. Hawes landed a right hand that affected Daukaus, and Daukaus shot for a takedown to relieve the pressure. Hawes defended the attempt, and now it was Hawes who went on the attack. He landed a number of body shots, and they were beginning to change Daukaus’s entire demeanor. This was a very tough round to score, and despite being hurt badly early on, I gave this round to Hawes.
Hawes continued to attack the body in the third round and took Daukaus down against the cage. Hawes began to unload with strong ground and pound, as he attempted to put Daukaus away. An elbow from Hawes cut Daukaus open. Daukaus was unable to get back to his feet, and this was a clear 10-8 round in favor of Phil Hawes. 29-27 Hawes.
WINNER: Phil Hawes by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 29-27)
The second round of this fight was wild. Daukaus had Hawes hurt badly at the beginning of the second, but Hawes began to really turn it on following that backfist, and he took over the rest of this fight. Hawes has looked solid every time he’s stepped foot in the octagon, but he looked like a much better fighter than he did in his last fight, showcasing cardio that didn’t seem to be there in that last outing. Hawes is now 3-0 in the UFC.
CARLOS DIEGO FERREIRA (17-3, 160.5) VS GREGOR GILLESPIE (13-1, 156) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Ferreira missed weight by 4.5lbs and was fined 30% of his purse.
Gillespie found a home for his left hand a few times throughout the opening minute. Gillespie shot for a takedown, and there were some extremely high-level scrambles coming out of this attempt, culminating with Ferreira landing a left hand that cut Gillespie open. Ferreira landed a number of right hands that hurt Gillespie, and he continued to defend Gillespie’s attempts to take the fight to the ground. They continuously found themselves in stalemates on the ground, but the pace of this fight was incredible. Ferreira took Gillespie’s back late in the round, but he didn’t have enough time to get the finish. 10-9 Ferreira.
The pace of the fight did not let up at all, as these two continued to grapple. The fight felt like a never-ending scramble, and could not have been more entertaining. Finally, Gillespie was able to secure top position, and it seemed like Ferreira was beginning to fatigue. Gillespie took his back, and Ferreira was unable to scramble out this time, as Gillespie flattened Ferreira out, and rained down ground and pound until the fight was stopped.
WINNER: Gregor Gillespie by TKO at 4:51 of Round 2
This was one of my favorite fights of the year thus far. The grappling exchanges throughout this fight were insanely high level, and I thought Gillespie might have been done after the first round, but he came back for round two with the same pace he fought at in the first round, and Ferreira was eventually overwhelmed. This was Gillespie’s first fight since his loss to Kevin Lee in 2019, and this marked the biggest win of his career thus far. He gave an emotional post-fight interview, and as you would expect from Gillespie, discussed his fishing ability and plans to go hiking after the fight.
MAURICE GREENE (9-5, 237) VS MARCOS ROGERIO DE LIMA (17-7-1, 264.5) – HEAVYWEIGHT
De Lima was throwing bombs from the opening seconds of the fight. De Lima took Greene down near the cage and began to work from his guard. De Lima spent the near entirety of the first round in this position. 10-9 De Lima.
De Lima immediately took Greene back down to begin the second round. Once again, he spent the vast majority of the entire round on top, didn’t really threaten any submissions, but landed enough ground and pound to prevent a stand-up. De Lima landed his best shot of the fight after the round had ended. 20-18 De Lima.
Herb Dean told both fighters off for their fouls (Lima for the late punch, and Greene for eye rakes). The round began, and De Lima took Greene down yet again. He continued to pepper Greene with strikes and controlled the entire round from half guard. 30-27 De Lima.
WINNER: Marcos Rogerio De Lima by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-27)
In stark contrast to the fight that preceded it, this bout was absolutely dreadful. De Lima controlled the entire fight, but never seemed interested in advancing his position, and was just doing enough to keep the fight from being stood up. Greene had nothing for De Lima, and the most exciting part of this fight was Herb Dean warning both fighters for their fouls between rounds. One of the worst fights in recent memory. De Lima is now 7-5 in the UFC, and Greene is now 4-4 in the promotion with this loss.
NEIL MAGNY (24-8, 170.5) VS GEOFF NEAL (13-3, 171) – WELTERWEIGHT
Neal partially ate a head kick but responded with a straight left that backed Magny up. Neal began to unload on Magny with combinations against the cage. Magny wrapped Neal up in the clinch, and after the earlier combinations, he was doing his best to give Neal no room to work. Magny changed levels and took Neal down, but he couldn’t keep him there for long. Magny landed a pair of body kicks to end the round. 10-9 Neal.
Magny was the more active striker in the opening half of the second round. Neal took Magny down and landed a huge left hand as Magny picked himself up. Neal defended a pair of takedowns and held Magny against the fence. Magny continued to pursue the takedown but was largely unsuccessful. Neal was landing with significantly more power than Magny, but he couldn’t quite match his output. Close round. 29-28 Magny for me.
Neal’s output had really slowed by the final round, and whenever he let loose, Magny was tying him up against the cage. I thought Magny’s striking was looking its best throughout this round, as he was doing a great job of getting his offense in, before getting out of the way before Neal could fire back. This was the clearest round of the entire fight, and while Neal landed some hard shots late, this was a Magny round. 29-28 Magny.
WINNER: Neil Magny by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
It was a close fight, but the difference maker was Magny’s output. He fought with a very smart game plan, and as the fight progressed, it became easier and easier for him to implement it. He called out Vicente Luque in his post-fight interview, which would be a sensible fight to make. For Neal, this was a tough loss, but he remains one of the top prospects at 170lbs. I do imagine he will be facing a step down in competition after his last two losses, however. A fight against Michel Pereira would be a ton of fun, but if he doesn’t want to fight an unranked opponent, Li Jingliang would make a ton of sense.
DONALD CERRONE (36-15, 2 NC, 170) VS ALEX MORONO (18-7, 1 NC, 170.5) – WELTERWEIGHT
This marked Cerrone’s 37th fight in the UFC.
Morono immediately changed levels and Cerrone wrapped him up in the clinch. They exchanged kicks, and both men landed some hard right hands as well. Cerrone was throwing a lot of kicks to the body. Morono defended a takedown from Cerrone and landed a hard hook as Cowboy got up. Morono connected with a right hand that knocked Cerrone off balance. He threw the same right hand late in the round and he rocked Cerrone badly. Cerrone tried to recover, but Morono gave him no room. He kept attacking, continuously landing that right hand, and eventually the fight was stopped as Cerrone covered up against the cage.
WINNER: Alex Morono by TKO at 4:40 of Round 1
Morono took this fight on short notice after Diego Sanchez’s release, and he made the most of the opportunity here. Cerrone was doing good work with his body kicks, but Morono’s right hand couldn’t miss, and I thought this was a very good stoppage from Marc Goddard. Morono has had a bit of a roller-coaster run in the UFC, but he’s been in there with a couple of big names throughout his last two fights, and this was arguably his biggest win yet. As for Cerrone, Cowboy is now 0-5-1 throughout his last six fights, and 4-9-1 throughout his last fourteen. This could very well mark the end of Cerrone’s run in the UFC, but he doesn’t sound like he has any intention of walking away from the sport. Regardless, there will be a lot of pressure on Cerrone next time he steps into the cage.
MARINA RODRIGUEZ (13-1-2, 125.5) VS MICHELLE WATERSON (18-8, 125) – FLYWEIGHT
Waterson connected with a left hand to begin the fight. Rodriguez stepped in and landed a pair of right hands. Waterson slapped Rodriguez with a head kick, and the fighters exchanged right hands. Waterson threw a heavy leg kick, and partially connected with a sidekick to the head. Rodriguez landed a pair of body kicks in the final minute, but she was eating a lot of kicks herself whenever she attempted to move forward. 10-9 Rodriguez for me.
Rodriguez was finding a home for her combinations in the second round. She was walking Waterson down and doing her best to negate Waterson’s kicks by closing the distance. They both landed shots in the clinch, but it seemed as though Rodriguez was getting the better of these exchanges. Rodriguez defended a takedown attempt and flurried forward to end the round. 20-18 Rodriguez.
Waterson ate a big head kick early in the third. Rodriguez continued to press forward, and she was doing a ton of damage with her combinations. Waterson’s leg kicks were beginning to add up, but that seemed to be Waterson’s only consistent success offensively as the fight progressed. Rodriguez kept landing that right hand of hers, and Waterson was getting overwhelmed at times by Rodriguez’s offense. Waterson did land a solid uppercut near the end of the round. 30-27 Rodriguez.
Waterson was able to get the fight to the ground about two minutes into the fourth. Waterson was able to control the fight from half-guard, but she wasn’t in the optimal position against the cage to threaten a submission. She finished the round in this position and likely took this round on the scorecards. 39-37 Rodriguez.
After a slow opening minute, Waterson landed a head kick, as well as a body kick that hurt Rodriguez. Waterson didn’t capitalize on the moment, and Rodriguez swung back with a right hand. Rodriguez’s jaw had begun to swell considerably following the head kick from Waterson. Rodriguez continued to press forward despite the injuries and was the more active fighter. Rodriguez landed a head kick of her own late in the round. The fight ultimately went the distance. 49-46 Rodriguez.
WINNER: Marina Rodriguez by unanimous decision (48-47, 49-46, 49-46)
Waterson had her moments, but by and large, this was a dominant performance from Marina Rodriguez. Waterson is very tough, but she didn’t have many answers for Rodriguez’s hands, and it felt as though when she did hurt Rodriguez, she didn’t capitalize on the moments as well as she potentially could have. Regardless, both of these fighters deserve credit for fighting a twenty-five-minute fight at a high pace on short notice. Rodriguez is working her way into contendership status at strawweight, and personally, I’d love to see her fight Joanna Jędrzejczyk next.