The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) women’s Strawweight division’s most decorated submission artist and one of its most potent strikers duke it out this Saturday (Oct. 9, 2021) when Mackenzie Dern squares off with Marina Rodriguez on ESPN+. UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, will also host a potentially wild Welterweight bout between Randy Brown and Jared Gooden, as well as Tim Elliott locking horns with Matheus Nicolau in a clash of elite Flyweight ground specialists.
UFC Vegas 39 features six “Prelims” undercard bouts to set the stage before that, though, so let’s have a look at the first batch:
145 lbs.: Charles Rosa vs. Damon Jackson
Now seven years and 10 fights into his UFC career, Charles Rosa (14-5) continues to alternate losses and wins with clockwork regularity. His two-fight 2021 campaign has seen him suffer a decision defeat to Darrick Minner before bouncing back with a decision of his own over Justin Jaynes.
He faces a two-inch height advantage and four-inch reach disadvantage.
Four years after first leaving the world’s largest fight promotion, Damon Jackson (18-4-1) finally secured his first UFC victory by upsetting Mirsad Bektic via bonus-winning guillotine. The run wasn’t to last, as he suffered a one-punch knockout loss to top prospect Ilia Topuria soon after.
He hasn’t seen the judges since 2016 and has scored 14 submission wins overall.
Two weeks back, we saw one of Rosa’s fellow alternators lose their streak when Taila Santos handed Roxanne Modafferi her second defeat in a row. Unfortunately for “Boston Strong,” that looks like a one-off occurrence. Rosa’s complete and fundamental inability to stop a takedown figures to doom him once again against Jackson, whose top game is more than sufficient to shut down whatever offense Rosa tries to generate off of his back.
Rosa is admittedly quite a bit more durable than Jackson, who’s been knocked cold three times in his professional career, but his historical struggles with Jackson’s archetype and apparent lack of improvement in his defensive grappling despite all of those setbacks has me picking “The Leech.” In the end, Jackson cruises to victory with regular takedowns.
Prediction: Jackson via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Charlie Ontiveros vs. Steve Garcia
Eight years into his professional career, Charlie Ontiveros (11-7) answered the call to meet Kevin Holland in the Octagon when Makhmud Muradov withdrew. Things didn’t quite work out for the long-time Welterweight, suffering a brutal technical knockout slam lost midway through the first round (watch it).
He boasts a two-inch height advantage and a three-inch reach advantage.
Steve Garcia (11-4) saw a potential “Contender Series” contract evaporate due to a flubbed weight cut, then missed the weight class above in his subsequent bout with Jose Mariscal. He finally reached UFC by stepping up on short notice against Luis Pena, who dominated “Mean Machine” on the ground for a wide decision.
This marks his first fight in more than 19 months.
One has to respect UFC matchmakers here; they looked at two huge dudes who can’t grapple and made the correct decision to slam ‘em against each other like action figures to see what would happen. At the risk of poisoning the experiment with a preconceived idea of the outcome, Ontiveros is getting squashed. Though he figures to be the bigger man against Garcia — who somehow used to fight at Bantamweight — his utter lack of durability figures to be his undoing once again.
Ontiveros is capable of some solid offense, as seen in his ultra-slick one-hitter quitter against Washington Luiz, but he’s got seven stoppage losses to his name and consistently gets folded when he tries to step up in class. That puncher’s chance, legitimate though it may be considering Garcia’s raw aggression, pales in the face of Ontiveros’ historical inability to stay intact. In short, Garcia bulldozes him in the first few minutes.
Prediction: Garcia via first-round knockout
115 lbs.: Lupita Godinez vs. Sam Hughes
Lupita Godinez (5-1) — who went 1-0-1 with Hughes as an amateur — defeated Vanessa Demopoulos to claim LFA gold and a spot in the Octagon. “Loopy” wasn’t quite as successful in her UFC debut, however, dropping a split decision to the returning Jessica Penne in April 2021.
She stands three inches shorter than Hughes, who also sports a 3.5-inch reach advantage.
Though a comeback submission from the aforementioned Demopoulos ended Sam Hughes’ (5-3) bid for the LFA Strawweight title, she returned to form by choking out Danielle Hindley in impressive fashion. Her efforts got her dropped right into the UFC deep end, where she fell to striking standouts Tecia Torres and Loma Lookboonmee.
All four of her professional finishes have come inside two rounds.
With all due respect to Hughes, a very talented fighter who’s had the misfortune of fighting two top-notch kickboxers in the Octagon, this is essentially a litmus test for Godinez’s ability to execute. When she’s firing on all cylinders, she has Hughes beat virtually everywhere thanks to super-crisp boxing and impressive-if-underutilized wrestling. That said, she threw the Penne fight away with some jaw-droppingly poor decision-making and allowed Demopoulos back into their title bout after beating her half to death in the first two rounds.
I’ll go ahead and indulge my optimism by saying that the Penne loss should serve as a wake-up call, especially since Hughes lacks the elite submission skills that Godinez clearly feared. Even if it doesn’t, Hughes’ tendency to compromise her reach advantage by initiating the clinch will allow even a half-cocked Godinez to punish the body and hit takedowns as needed. Once the dust settles, Godinez enters the win column with a clear decision.
Prediction: Godinez via unanimous decision
Three more UFC Vegas 39 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict, including the latest from unbeaten Heavyweight finisher Alexandr Romanov. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 39 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ at 4 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 39: “Dern vs. Rodriguez” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.