Marina Rodriguez will try to punch her way one step closer to a UFC title shot tomorrow night (Sat., May 8, 2021) at UFC Vegas 26 live on ESPN/ESPN+ from inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, when she matches up with veteran Michelle Waterson in a five-round main event.
This is a massive opportunity for Rodriguez who steps into her first official UFC headliner. Rodriguez was expected to fight Waterson as part of the regular ESPN main card, but after Cory Sandhagen vs. T.J. Dillashaw was bumped from the marque the promotion had to look elsewhere.
Luckily, Rodriguez will be given the chance to hold down the main event spot and build on her TKO upset over touted contender Amanda Ribas back at UFC 257 (highlights HERE). It was a massive victory for Rodriguez and one that ultimately landed her this matchup with “Karate Hottie.”
“To be picked to fight in the main event is very gratifying,” Rodriquez told Ag Fight. “You know that the company trusts you, they know you’ll deliver a great fight and that motivates me to show our work. All eyes will be on this fight. Firstly, I need to do a good job. To win by knockout would be perfect. My focus is to put on a good performance and the knockout will come naturally.”
With a main event fight at her fingertips Rodriguez must be prepared to compete for all five rounds. The 34-year-old fighter has never fought for more than three rounds so it will certainly be a learning experience. Rodriguez never seems to gas in her UFC fights even as a high volume striker so she has that going for her.
“In a five-round fight, on short notice like this one, you need to be strategical.” Rodriguez said. “You can’t be hasty. The strategy is all about finding the right moment and connect my shots where I need to. That’s what I’m going to do and the knockout may come naturally. I need to be relaxed, technical, but I can’t deliver a boring fight. Waiting around is not like me. At the right moment I’ll land a shot and the knockout may come.”
Rodriguez may be confident that she can finish Waterson with a surprise knockout at some point during their five-round headliner, but it’s worth noting that “Karate Hottie” isn’t someone who is often finished. Her lone knockout loss came all the way back in 2009 and the last time she was finished she was submitted by Rose Namajunas just over four years ago.
Still, Rodriguez believes in her power and will be looking to put a stamp on her first ever UFC main event on ESPN.
“Even though Michelle is behind me in the rankings, she’s very experienced. She has a gigantic name in the UFC. If I can knock her out and get back-to-back knockouts on my record, I’m sure my name is going straight to the top. I’m focused on the fight. Let’s see how it goes and what comes next. It’s going be the result of what I can accomplish in there.”
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 26 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+ preliminary card bouts at 6 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN/ESPN+ main card start time at 8 p.m. ET.