UFC Vegas 26: Rodriguez vs Waterson – Main card predictions

A rather short-notice card finally comes together this weekend when Marina Rodriguez takes on Michelle Waterson in the main event.

After the original main event between Cory Sandhagen and TJ Dillashaw fell through due to an injury to the former champion, the UFC were left scrambling and managed to throw together two strawweights competing at flyweight to headline the card.

In the co-main event, Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone will now also face off against a short-notice opponent when Alex Morono replaces Diego Sanchez in the welterweight division. There’s also a big welterweight bout on the card between Geoff Neal and Neil Magny, with both men looking to get back on the winning trail and among the contenders of the division.

Last week at UFC Vegas 25, we went 8/11 with four perfect picks to improve to 302/473 (63.85%) with 133 perfect picks (44.04%).

With a fun 12 fight card ahead of us this weekend and after predicting the prelims here, let’s look to improve that record with the main card now.


Phil Hawes (10-2) vs Kyle Daukaus (10-1) – (Middleweight/185lbs)

An absolute banger at middleweight as Phil Hawes takes on Kyle Daukaus in this one. Hawes is on a six-fight win streak including an 18 second KO against Jacob Malkoun at UFC 254, before a dominant decision win over Nassourdine Imavov at UFC Vegas 19 in February. Daukaus lost his UFC debut to Brendan Allen at UFC Vegas 4, before winning against Dustin Stoltzfus at UFC 255 in his most recent fight.

Hawes is an incredibly powerful striker with legit one-punch knockout power, but he showed his wrestling chops in his last fight too. Daukaus on the other hand is a brilliant grappler, who has good height and reach against most opponents. He’s taller than Hawes, but not longer and that’s an issue for him. Hawes will know that and will look to stand and strike with him, using his wrestling only defensively to keep this fight standing.

Daukaus is pretty hittable and has shown a good chin in the past, but he’s never been hit by someone like Hawes. If Hawes lands clean as Daukaus tries to close the distance for a takedown, this will be a short night.
PICK – Phil Hawes via Knockout, Round 1

Amanda Ribas (10-2) vs Angela Hill (13-9) – (Strawweight/115lbs)

A very fun strawweight fight to open up the main card as Ribas looks to bounce back from a defeat when she takes on the most active woman in the division. Ribas was on a five-fight win streak beating Emily Whitmire, Mackenzie Dern, Randa Markos and then Paige VanZant at UFC 251 before losing to Marina Rodriguez at UFC 257. Hill bounced back from her main event defeat to Michelle Waterson at UFC Vegas 10 with a decision win over Ashley Yoder at UFC Vegas 21 in March.

Ribas is a brilliant jiu-jitsu grappler and decent striking on the feet, while Hill is a great all-round mixed martial artists. Hill loves an active fight, where she keeps pushing forward with kicks and Muay-Thai clinches using knees. Her issue with going for those clinches could be that Ribas will try and get her to the ground which is a whole world of trouble for her.

On the feet Hill has the advantage but Ribas can hold her own and won’t get overpowered, and I can’t imagine Hill keeps the fight standing for the full 15 minutes and Ribas is skilled enough to finish it quickly down there.
PICK – Amanda Ribas via Submission, Round 3

Diego Ferreira (17-3) vs Gregor Gillespie (13-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)

An especially fun fight in the lightweight division here as Diego Ferreira takes on the returning Gregor Gillespie. Ferreira lost his last fight via decision against Beneil Dariush at UFC Vegas 18, while Gillespie hasn’t fought since getting knocked out by Kevin Lee at UFC 244 in November 2019.

Ferreira is a solid technical striker with good jiu-jitsu skills on the ground, while Gillespie is arguably the best wrestler in the division now that Khabib Nurmagomedov is retired. Ferreira will use his kicks and speed to avoid the wrestling, but if Gillespie gets hold of him it could be a long night for the Brazilian. He’s a good scrambler and if he ends up on top the level of jiu-jitsu he has is far superior to Gillespie’s, but ‘The Gift’ is likely to get that top position and look to hold it throughout.

From the top, Gillespie will land ground and pound and control the position en route to a good decision win.
PICK – Gregor Gillespie via Decision

Maurice Greene (9-6) vs Marcos Rogerio de Lima (17-8-1) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)

The big boys are back in the heavyweight division as two guys coming off losses meet here. Greene has lost three of his last four, beating Gian Villante via submission at UFC Vegas 4 before losing to Greg Hardy via knockout at UFC Vegas 12. de Lima has lost two of his last three including getting dominated by Alexander Romanov and submitted in round one at UFC Vegas 13.

Greene is a power striker with a solid chin and in his last fight showed some decent kicking too. de Lima is a good striker too, with good Muay-Thai and some good takedown defence to back it up also. He has alternated wins and losses in every fight since 2015 but he has got skills. Fast hands (for the division), good power and despite a size advantage Greene doesn’t really know how to use it.

Greene has the advantage of the ground but he rarely looks for takedowns and doesn’t have a wide enough advantage to work a submission, so I think de Lima lands one of his big overhand rights and ends the night early.
PICK – Marcos Rogerio de Lima via Knockout, Round 2

Neil Magny (24-9) vs Geoff Neal (13-3) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

My pick for fight of the night right here, as two scary welterweights go head to head. Both men lost their last fights after good win streaks, with Magny losing to Michael Chiesa at UFC Fight Island 8 while Neal got well beaten by Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson in December at UFC Vegas 17.

Magny is an excellent wrestler who has used that to beat some top level opposition in the past, but he also has some really good striking too. Neal on the other hand is a powerhouse with a nasty left-hand, who stays very technical and tight at all times. Neal has some good leg kicks too and is without a doubt the more powerful of the two, but if Magny is able to get the fight to the ground he has the ability to grind his opponents out and land good ground and pound.

With that said, Neal seems to have all the tools to get the win here. His takedown defence is decent and the power and accuracy with which he lands his left hand should cause Magny enough problems to earn ‘Handz of Steel’ the win.
PICK – Geoff Neal via Decision

Donald Cerrone (36-15) vs Alex Morono (18-7) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

Short-notice co-main event alert as Donald Cerrone looks to snap a five-fight winless streak against Alex Morono in the welterweight division. Cerrone has lost to Justin Gaethje, Tony Ferguson, Conor McGregor and Anthony Pettis before a draw against Niko Price got overturned to a no contest due to a positive marijuana test for Price. Morono has lost two of his last three, getting a win over Rhys McKee at UFC Vegas 14 in between defeats to Khaos Williams and Anthony Pettis at UFC Vegas 17.

Cerrone is a great kickboxer with so much experience, but also has terrific wrestling and jiu-jitsu skills if he needs it. Morono on the other hand is a solid wrestler who uses his striking to get close enough to clinch up and get it down for a grind. Cerrone has got a brilliant head kick in his arsenal and if Morono keeps his hands relatively low to look for takedowns he could quite easily get caught with it, but Morono’s submission skills are really good and dangerous enough to make Cerrone be wary.

‘Cowboy’ is notorious for being a slow starter and Morono could look to take advantage, but if he performs as he did against Pettis then he could get lit up at kickboxing range. It’ll be close, but the short-notice nature of the bout takes me in Cerrone’s direction.
PICK – Donald Cerrone via Decision

Marina Rodriguez (13-1-2) vs Michelle Waterson (18-8) – (Flyweight/125lbs)

An even shorter notice main event as two ranked strawweights meet in the flyweight division. Rodriguez won her last fight against Amanda Ribas via knockout at UFC 257, while Waterson won her last fight against Angela Hill at UFC Vegas 10 via split decision.

Rodriguez is a power puncher with great range and kicks, while Waterson is a karate fighter who uses her kicks a lot to maintain distance and look to work the body a lot. Rodriguez is without a doubt one of the better strikers in the division and that doesn’t bode well for Waterson. She has got nine wins via submission in her career and her takedowns are decent, but Rodriguez has a lot of size on her and with them both moving up a division for this short-notice clash she’ll be at even more of a disadvantage.

I don’t think Waterson will have enough to get the fight down to the ground and Rodriguez’s power is excellent so I think she could get the stoppage win pretty early on.
PICK – Marina Rodriguez via Knockout, Round 2

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