UFC Vegas 26 Results: Marina Rodriguez Withstands Late Push from Michelle Waterson

UFC Vegas 26 Marina Rodriguez
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MAY 08: (R-L) Marina Rodriguez of Brazil punches Michelle Waterson in a flyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on May 08, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Marina Rodriguez displayed hand speed and power in her first main event at UFC Vegas 26, diffusing a late comeback effort from Michelle Waterson.

Your makeshift main event on Saturday night at UFC Vegas 26 saw Michelle Waterson and Marina Rodriguez throw down, a battle of ranked strawweights moving up a division due to the short-notice nature of the affair.

No, it wasn’t Dillashaw vs. Sandhagen. But change has been constant over the past year, something fight fans have come to accept in pandemic-era MMA.

Waterson start things with a side kick attempt then a successful left straight. She peppered Rodriguez with kicks to the body, who answered with a body kick of her own. A heavy combination of punches came in from Rodriguez, but was mostly thwarted by Waterson’s defense. Waterson landed a hook kick up top and was on the receiving end of another Rodriguez combination. A big leg kick stopped Rodriguez in her tracks, then Rodriguez caught a kick, but Waterson turned it into a side kick to the chin. Rodriguez closed the round strong with a heavy combination and a knee to the head in the clinch.

The start of the second round was marked by distance-finding until Rodriguez began to open things up. She fired a combination up top and forced Waterson to retreat. Rodriguez was pressuring successfully in the second round, as Waterson couldn’t meet her output. Towards the end of the round, Rodriguez began to slow down, but she made sure the judges wouldn’t remember that by firing a flurry of punches and another knee in the clinch.

Waterson went to the oblique kick right away but ended up slipping, then ate a head kick when she returned to her feet. Waterson then grabbed a clinch to slow things down. After they separated, Rodriguez unloaded a heavy combination that Waterson had to jab her way out of to keep the referee away. Waterson connected with a leg kick that troubled Rodriguez, so she went back to it a few more times. Rodriguez settled things down and regained momentum by hurting Waterson with a right hand. Rodriguez began unloading flurries, but was eating desperation punches from Waterson on the other side that were doing damage. Rodriguez was running away with the fight.

Rodriguez kept the pressure on in the fourth round, landing a combination out of the gate. The combinations from Rodriguez were not as damaging as they were in the previous round, then she was taken down by a surprise shot from Waterson. Waterson moved to half guard and began landing big elbows. Rodriguez was pinned down and eating elbows, as Waterson fought off wrist control to keep it going. Waterson had over three minutes of top control in the round as time expired.

It was a tense fifth round, with Waterson landing a combination that was capped off by a heavy head kick. Waterson kept a higher pace, hitting a side kick to the body that wobbled Rodriguez. Rodriguez was still landing heavy punches, but they weren’t at the unbelievable rate we saw earlier in the fight. The strawweights threw down to close out the contest, with Rodriguez landing a big right hand and Waterson hitting a front kick to the face.

Marina Rodriguez def. Michelle Waterson by Unanimous Decision (49-46 x2, 48-47)