This past weekend saw a new contender emerge in the Light Heavyweight division when Jiri Prochazka flattened Dominick Reyes, and this weekend promises to bring an even more stunning card.
Fortunately, replacements for both the main and co-main have been found as Marina Rodriguez and Michelle Waterson collide in our Strawweight headliner, while Alex Morono stepped in against a game veteran, as Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone looks to put an end to his losing streak. The card has even more ranked fighters competing and is sure to provide some competitive fights!
Michelle Waterson vs. Marina Rodriguez (SW)
Michelle Waterson (18-8, 6-4 UFC) got back on the winning track in her last bout against Angela Hill, previously dropping decisions to former champions Carla Esparza and Joanna Jedrzejczyk. “The Karate Hottie” has a high-output karate striking style, as well as nine career submissions on her resume. Though her offensive wrestling presents an area where she can improve, she has slick top control and sticks to her opponent like peanut butter to jelly. Her rangy striking attack works well with her submission offense, proving her a threat wherever the bout goes. Her primary weakness comes from the amount of strikes she absorbs when entering the pocket, as her punches and kicks work best from a kickboxing range.
An appearance on the Contender Series brought Marina Rodriguez (13-1-2, 3-1-2 UFC) to the big show, where she slightly underperformed with a draw against Randa Markos. Her most recent outing saw a significantly more dominant performance, as she knocked out highly venerated prospect Amanda Ribas. Two decisions saw her successfully able to work past the wrestling of Tecia Torres and utilize her height and reach to get ahead on the scorecards. However, the dominant top control of Carla Esparza proved too much, as she dropped a split decision to the former champ. Rodriguez is a lanky Muay Thai striker who looks to find her range and then tee off in the clinch and with her composed long strikes. She does not want any part of the ground game and seeks to keep the fight standing with her 59% takedown defense rate. She is most ineffective when positioned on her back and able to be controlled, as her clinch game is her most effective takedown defense.
This bout should primarily play out upon the feet, as both fighters are credentialed strikers comfortable exchanging at range. The chief advantages of Rodriguez come from her size advantage, taking home three advantages in both height and reach. On top of that, she does better work with her hands while Waterson’s more versatile striking arsenal mixes it up more with kicks. Waterson takes a clear advantage through her grappling, but she will need to be more reliant upon the takedown here than in previous showings. These fighters will likely compete closely on the feet, with Rodriguez landing more power and Waterson more damage. This is an incredibly close fight, and I like the grappling ability of Waterson to edge out a decision.
My Pick: Michelle Waterson via Decision
Donald Cerrone vs. Alex Morono (WW)
Fan favorite Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone (36-15-1, 23-12-1 UFC) is currently on the worst losing streak of his career, winless in his five past fights with three of those losses by knockout. His last fight showed more patience, as he fought to a draw against Niko Price before the bout was overturned to a no contest due to a positive marijuana test on Price. Though his durability is more of a concern nowadays, Cerrone still brings the technical and dangerous Muay Thai that has kept him among the elite for so many years. He has fantastic combinations and works well from the outside, quickly firing off powerful kicks and straight punches. Cowboy also has seriously underrated jiu-jitsu and it has come through for him many times over, with seventeen of his twenty-seven stoppages coming in by submission.
Alex Morono (18-7, 7-4 UFC) will be making his first appearance of 2021 following a decision loss to Anthony Pettis in his last outing. “The Great White” likes to keep it on the feet and use his diverse striking skillset, but can mix it up with some offensive wrestling when needed. He has a high output and a fairly good chin, but does leave his chin exposed sometimes. Morono typically likes to strike inside of the pocket and unload with his volume, as he can be pieced up at range. His gas tank is typically not a concern, and he has the output to use his pace as a weapon. Morono has eleven stoppage wins with six by submission and is a versatile finishing threat with real power when he sits down on his punches.
This is an important turning point for both fighters. Cerrone desperately needs another win or he is almost certianly looking at retirement, while Morono is looking to not wind up on the first losing streak of his career. On the feet, this is a fun contest, as Morono will look to power into the pocket and unload with volume, while Cerrone will use his technical Muay Thai and two-inch height advantage to pick Morono apart from distance. Cowboy also brings in the more dangerous ground game, and the porous takedown defense of Morono shows a clear hole to be exploited by the submission specialist. A close battle on the feet will be complemented by domination on the mat by Cerrone for his first finish in over two years.
My Pick: Donald Cerrone via Submission
Neil Magny vs. Geoff Neal (WW)
Neil Magny (23-8, 16-7 UFC) scored three dominant decision victories over the likes of Li Jingliang and former champion Robbie Lawler before running into Michael Chiesa, who overworked him on the mat in a five-round decision. “The Haitian Sensation” uses his massive 6’3 frame and eighty-inch reach to outstrike his opponents, using long strikes and expert clinch work to dictate the range at which the fight takes place. Magny also has fantastic wrestling to back him up and a wealth of knowledge at his disposal about submissions, although he clearly favors position. Magny is a UFC staple and versatile threat, relying on distance striking and top control to net the victory.
Geoff Neal (13-3, 5-1 UFC) came into the UFC off the Contender Series and has built a good bit of hype behind his name with a series of dominant performances. His first main event opportunity was a bust however, as Stephen Thompson more than doubled him in output to win a decision. Neal is an explosive kickboxer, who uses well-timed pocket entries mixed with serious power to finish the job. “Handz of Steel” is able to succeed at keeping the fight on the feet with his ability to avoid takedowns, holding an impressive takedown defense rate of 92%. He banks on his southpaw stance, featuring a left high kick and powerful left cross, using his lighting-quick movement and defense to dictate the fight on the feet.
Neil vs. Neal, what a fun bout. Magny has carved himself a clear spot in the rankings since coming off the sixteenth season of The Ultimate Fighter, but has been somewhat labeled as a gatekeeper. Neal is a striking sensation rising from the Contender Series with a high level of technique and clear power. Magny has an edge with his wrestling, but will struggle to find his way to the mat matched up against Neal’s ludicrous ninety-two percent takedown defense. While a rangy striker with clear physical advantages, Neal has a clear edge in both technique and power, capable of outpointing or knocking out Magny if this fight stays on the feet. I expect to see a tentative first round, but Neal opening up with superior striking in the latter half of the fight to edge a decision.
My Pick: Geoff Neal via Decision
Maurice Greene vs. Marcos Rogerio de Lima (HW)
Maurice Greene (9-5, 4-3 UFC) came in with a fair bit of hype off the Ultimate Fighter, and quickly racked up three straight wins. He is just 1-3 since; however, being knocked out by Greg Hardy in his last outing. Greene is a massive man standing at 6’7, but his only size advantage here will be two inches of height against the former NFL star. He possesses sneaky submissions off his back, but Greene can also get the job done with his professional kickboxing background. “The Crochet Boss” showed off that technical kickboxing in his decision over Hughes and KO of Junior Albini, whose base is entirely boxing.
A Light Heavyweight stint with two weight misses sent Marcos Rogerio de Lima (17-7-1, 6-5 UFC) back to Heavyweight, where he has since gone 2-2. His last fight against Alexandr Romanov saw him submitted with a forearm choke in the very first round. “Pezao” is a dangerous striker with thirteen knockouts to his name. He has furious one-punch power and an advantage in quickness over most Heavyweights, giving him plenty of opportunities to close the gap. He has a clear Kryptonite in defensive grappling, as he can be taken down easily and has quite poor submission defense, with six of his eight losses coming by sub.
This is about as binary as a fight can get, so I am certainly shocked by the odds, as they have de Lima as a -200 favorite at time of writing. Greene, though a former pro kickboxer, suffers with his head movement and can be susceptible to the knockout, which de Lima has more than enough power to take advantage of. On the other hand, de Lima is one of the worst grapplers in the UFC right now, and Greene’s more than viable submission offense presents a serious danger. Ultimately, this fight comes down to who can succeed fastest in their preferred realm of the bout. Greene’s sneaky triangles and willingness to pull guard are serious concerns for de Lima, as his ability to consistently underachieve expectations is a nightmare up against the stylistic challenge of Greene.
My Pick: Maurice Greene via Round 1 Submission
Diego Ferreira vs. Gregor Gillespie (LW)
Diego Ferreira (17-3, 8-3 UFC) quietly amassed a six-fight winning streak in the Lightweight division, but lost an incredibly close decision in his last outing to Beneil Dariush. Ferreira has powerful striking with a persistent volume as well as a slick skill in wrapping up submissions. Ferreira can wrap up tight chokes from anywhere, but has struggled against better wrestlers. When standing on the feet, the Brazilian has some pretty polished kickboxing, granting him a few KO’s over UFC competition with his recent improvement, racking up over five average strikes per minute inside the Octagon.
This will be the first appearance for Gregor Gillespie (13-1, 6-1 UFC) since his brutal KO defeat to Kevin Lee back in October of 2019. “The Gift” brings a high-level wrestling base which has expertly transitioned to MMA, scoring an insane average of over seven takedowns per 15 minutes in the cage. He prioritizes position, but can quickly shred through his opponent’s guard and hunt for the finish. He has finished eleven of his pro bouts including six by knockout, with all but one of his UFC wins coming before the final horn. Gillespie is no slouch when striking, either, with crisp straights and composed kicks. Still, he is most threatening with his relentless catch-wrestling, utilizing his hellacious ground and pound and slick submissions from top control.
I expect an early Fight of the Night candidate out of this one. Both fighters come in with high level grappling pedigrees, but accomplished striking as well. On the feet, I do hand Ferreira the advantage in volume, though Gillespie may take the edge in pure stopping power. At any rate, we will not have to wait long for this fight to head to the mat, as Gillespie is relentless in his pursuit of takedowns. He will need to be wary of Ferreira’s defensive submissions, but the Brazilian does his best grappling when in top position. Say what you will about Ferreira, he is nothing if not durable, so I expect the two to compete in an all-out scrap that sees Gillespie’s hand raised due to control time and superior damage.
My Pick: Gregor Gillespie via Decision
Amanda Ribas vs. Angela Hill (SW)
Amanda Ribas (10-2, 4-1 UFC) made a name for herself as one of the most talented prospects in the organization, dominating jiu-jitsu world champion Mackenzie Dern on the feet and the mat before submitting Paige VanZant last July. She was knocked out by headliner Marina Rodriguez at UFC 257 in the second round. Ribas has a well-rounded skillset, with quick striking and a high volume on the feet, as well as an insane 71% striking defense rate. Her real skills lie on the mat, however, as the Judo black belt has skilled takedowns and top control, as well as a litany of submissions in her arsenal. She has finished seven of her pro wins, including four by submission.
You really have to give it up for Angela Hill (13-9, 7-7 UFC) and her activity, securing the record for most fights within a calendar year in 2020. She just brutalized Ashley Yoder to a decision in March, more than doubling her opponent’s output and showing improved wrestling. Her record is deceptive, as Hill is, without question, one of the elites in the division, particularly when it comes to striking. “Overkill” is a Muay Thai striker who backs up her punches with a relentless pace and a surprising pop to her strikes. Hill had poor success in her early Octagon career, due in part to her lackluster grappling defense. Her game is best when she can dictate the striking exchanges and mix it up with all eight striking points, wearing her opponent out the longer the fight goes with her ferocious output.
This is a nice stylistic clash, as either fighter has a clear advantage depending where the fight goes. Ribas will take the edge in both securing and working on the mat, as she can secure the takedown and work submissions accordingly. On the feet, Hill has an outrageous output, and will look to find Ribas’ recently exposed chin. What stands out to me for this bout is Hill’s poor takedown defense. That is a worrisome figure when facing Ribas, who has the judo pedigree to punish that weakness as well as extensive finishing ability. Though Hill will likely find a few shots on the feet, Ribas’ ground control and grappling pedigree will work Hill down to a submission.
My Pick: Amanda Ribas via Submission
Four prelim fights accompany the main card, so be sure to tune into Joao Mendes Coelho’s breakdown of those!
As always, pay attention to our home page and Twitter account (@film_fight) for any news or fight updates!
Categories: UFC Predictions