UFC 272: Strong Second Half by Marina Rodriguez Secures Victory Against Yan Xiaonan

Marina Rodriguez and Yan Xiaonan, UFC 272
Marina Rodriguez and Yan Xiaonan, UFC 272 ceremonial weigh-in Credit: Gabriel Gonzalez/Cageside Press

The women’s strawweight scrap between Marina Rodriguez and Yan Xiaonan at UFC 272 had been flying somewhat under the radar, perhaps unfairly.

The fight had the potential to produce the next title challenger in the weight class, or to at least leave the winner all of a fight away from a shot at gold. But with little hype, it had been left off the main card in favor of less deserving match-ups.

China’s Xiaonan came out aggressive to start the fight, and landed a crisp right hand that knocked Rodriguez back a step in the opening minute. Each time Rodriguez looked to close the distance, she was getting clipped. Xiaonan mixed in leg kicks, and Rodriguez at one point opted to literally chase her opponent. Lucky for her, she didn’t pay for it, but the frustration was showing. As the round progressed, however, she settled down, and the Brazilian found her rhythm.

The rest of the round was a little more even-keeled, though the action would be halted in the final minute due to a full-force knee by Rodriguez that landed low. Back underway, Rodriguez went right at it, launching a flying knee, but Xiaonan took her down right at the buzzer.

The stage had been set in the opening round. The back-and-forth continued in the second, fast combos exchanged each time the pair came together, which was frequently. About two minutes in, Xiaonan lunched for a body lock, but Rodriguez fought it off. She’d go back to the takedown strategy later in the round, controlling from the back and trying for a trip along the fence — but Rodriguez, again, managed to stay upright. In the final minute, Rodriguez landed a knee in the Thai clinch, while Xiaonan again looked for a late takedown. Instead, Rodriguez landed an elbow, and a right hand just before the horn.

Round three looked like it could be pivotal, at least for Rodriguez. There was an argument that she was trailing heading into the final frame; at best it was even, but that was no safe bet. Rodriguez continued to work combos, while Xiaonan appeared to try to lure her opponent in for a takedown attempt. Those weren’t there, but a left hook was. Rodriguez was landing as well, and had the edge in volume. Rodriguez got fired up in the final minute, going on the attack as Xiaonan began to taunt her, pumping her arm in the air. Rodriguez moved in with elbows landing, and regardless of the outcome, she had absolutely finished strong.

“I’m ready for the belt. I want to be the new champ,” Rodriguez called out following the fight.

Official Result: Marina Rodriguez def. Yan Xionan by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)