UFC on ESPN: Rodriguez vs. Waterson Predictions & Betting Tips

UFC on ESPN: Rodriguez vs. Waterson Predictions

Michelle Waterson vs Marina Rodriguez

Just a few days before the event this fight was hastily put together as the new headliner for the event to replace TJ Dillashaw vs. Cory Sandhagen.

Not only is it short notice, but Waterson will also be stepping up to flyweight for the opportunity, which is a bit of a daunting challenge given that earlier in her career she actually was fighting at atomweight and will be given up 4″ in height and 5″ in reach to Rodriguez.

On top of that, Rodriguez is one of the 125lb division’s hardest hitters with her muay thai striking and is coming off a TKO victory against highly touted prospect Amanda Ribas back in January.

With that in mind, though Waterson is generally comfortable striking, this feels like a fight where she’d be outgunned, so she’s going to have to lean into her wrestling, and that is a potential path to victory as her opponent’s takedown defense isn’t the best.

Still, Rodriguez’s size and power advantage are going to make life difficult for Waterson and I think the Brazilian emerges with the decision win here.

Prediction: Marina Rodriguez to win by decision.

Donald Cerrone vs. Alex Morono

Cerrone is in dire need of a win heading into this one, having lost four fights in a row, followed by narrowly scraping a majority draw verdict against Niko Price last time out (later amended to a no-contest).

Originally he was scheduled to fight Diego Sanchez and that looked like a very winnable fight for him given how bad ‘The Nightmare’ has looked recently, but a behind-the-scenes disagreement with the UFC led to Sanchez being cut from the promotion altogether and now ‘Cowboy’ faces Morono on less than a week’s notice instead.

After so many wars over the years there’s no doubt that the 38-year-old Cerrone is now slowing down and becoming less durable, as evidenced by three of his losses in the past two years having come by way of TKO.

He may not have the same spark as he used to, but he’s still a skilled, technical striker who can operate effectively from range with his kicks and punches, while his knees are another effective weapon at closer range.

This is a big opportunity for Morono, who has gone 7-4 (+1nc) in his UFC career so far, but has yet to defeat a big star that could help take him to the next level.

He’s a solid fighter who can mix things up on the feet and on the mat and likes to press the action, but he’s not a particularly heavy-handed striker and will also find that Cerrone is a handful on the mat, so I’m not so sure he can find a finish here.

Instead I feel Cerrone’s striking superiority will pay dividends as he keeps Morono at bay to earn a decision victory.

Prediction: Donald Cerrone to win by decision.

Neil Magny vs. Geoff Neal

Magny saw a three-fight winning streak ended last time out against the in-form Michael Chiesa, while Neal’s five-fight unbeaten run since joining the UFC was halted by Stephen Thompson.

Magny is the more well-rounded of the two fighters here and is also the bigger man, with a 4″ height and 5″ reach advantage to work with.  He’s not a heavy hitter on the feet, but he has very good cardio and operates nicely on the outside with punches and kicks to keep opponents at bay, while at closer range he can also bring his wrestling into the equation.

Neal isn’t as versatile as Magny, but he’s a fast, powerful striker who has a proven record of finishing fights with both punches and kicks, but is still methodical with his output, and his ability to cover ground quickly will be an important factor against his rangier opponent.

Importantly for Neal, his takedown defense is also very solid and I think that’s a big concern for Magny here, as I don’t fancy his chances of getting a result on the feet, so I’m going to take Neal to win by TKO in the second round.

Prediction: Geoff Neal to win by TKO in Rd2.

Maurice Greene vs. Marcos Rogerio de Lima

Greene started off his UFC run with three wins in a row, but he’s only produced a 1-3 record since then, while de Lima has moved up and down between 205lbs and heavyweight without ever shifting from the win-one lose-one pattern that’s followed him for virtually his entire 11-fight run in the octagon so far.

Greene is a big man even by heavyweight standards, and with de Lima being on the shorter, stockier side of the equation that gives ‘The Crochet Boss’ a 6″ height and 7″ reach advantage.

Regardless of which division he’s fought in, de Lima has proven to be a dangerous man in the striking department courtesy of his heavy hands and chopping leg kicks.  He’s actually fairly solid defensively too and has a good chin.

Greene is a decent striker, but his game is very unrefined and despite his size he’s hittable and he has been stopped via strikes a couple of times lately.

Greene’s ground game is a bit rough and ready too, but he is a submission threat and that’s a been an achilles heel of de Lima’s, accounting for five of his UFC losses to date.

Greene’s mat work isn’t on the same level as some of the others that have finished de Lima though, and I think the Brazilian’s low kicks and punches upstairs can lead him to a TKO stoppage here.

Prediction: Marcos Rogerio de Lima to win by TKO in Rd2.

Carlos Diego Ferreira vs. Gregor Gillespie

It’s now been a year-and-a-half since Gillespie last set foot in the Octagon and saw his six-fight winning streak snapped by Kevin lee, who KO’d him with a first round head kick.

Coincidentally, Ferreira was also on a six-fight unbeaten stretch until losing out by split decision to Beneil Dariush last time out, so both men are looking to prove that was just a one-off when they lock horns in the cage on Saturday night.

Gillespie is a tremendous wrestler and his knockout loss will surely only have strengthened his resolve to get his next fight to the mat early and often, which to be fair was already his standard approach.

What makes Gillespie particularly fearsome is the fact that once he gets opponents down he doesn’t just settle for controlling the action on top, and instead keeps up a ferocious pace as he looks for a finish by either ground-and-pound or submission – and far more often than not finds one or the other.

Ferreira is also a very good fighter though and he brings real intensity and pressure to his work on the feet as well as possessing very good Jiu-Jitsu ability.

However, Ferreira isn’t a knockout specialist and we have seen high-level wrestlers get the better of him in the past, so I feel Gillespie definitely fits into that category and will emerge victorious here, although I think he’ll have to settle for doing so on the scorecards.

Prediction: Gregor Gillespie to win by decision.

Angela Hill vs. Amanda Ribas

Ribas was picked as ‘One To Watch’ by Dana White at the start of the year following a strong 4-0 start to her UFC run, but her first fight of 2021 didn’t go to plan after being TKO’d by this card’s headliner Marina Rodriguez, so she’ll be looking to make amends this time out.

Hill will have other plans though as she’s been in fine form of late.  On paper she actually lost two of her last three fights, but the defeats were both by split decision against good quality opposition in Michelle Waterson and Claudia Gadelha, so there were positives to take away from those closely contested performances.

Hill is a very active striker who takes a high volume approach while demonstrating clean technique and good movement.  She doesn’t have much in the way or raw power though, so even though Ribas was TKO’d last time out and has been KO’d one other time earlier in her career, I’m not expecting to see that here.

Ribas is a capable striker and has a slight reach advantage here, but it is in her best interests to pursue her grappling game as she has excellent Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and a background in Judo too.

If Hill can stay mobile and fend off the early takedowns then this could get very interesting, but I think Ribas will have some success in getting her down and that will lead her to a second round submission finish.

Prediction: Amanda Ribas to win by submission in Rd2.

UFC on ESPN: Rodriguez vs. Waterson Prelims

(Predicted winners in bold)

Ben Rothwell vs. Philipe Lins

Phil Hawes vs. Kyle Daukaus

Ludovit Klein vs. Michael Trizano

Junyung Park vs. Tafon Nchukwi

Zarrukh Adashev vs. Ryan Benoit

Christian Aguilera vs. Carlston Harris

Ross Cole
About the Author: Ross Cole

Ross Cole is one of the most prolific mixed martial arts writers in the world, having written more than 17,000 MMA news stories for MMA Insight, which he founded in 2009 as a way to channel his passion for the sport of mixed martial arts, and reaching millions of die-hard MMA fans in the process.
You can read more of Ross’s work at MMAInsight.com.