UFC Vegas 26: Rodriguez vs Waterson – Prelims 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, lets look to improve that record starting with the prelims here.


EARLY PRELIMS

Christian Aguilera (14-7) vs Carlston Harris (15-4) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

A fun welterweight bout to open up the card as Christian Aguilera looks to get back on the winning trail against UFC debutant Carlston Harris. Aguilera beat Anthony Ivy on his debut at UFC Vegas 2 via knockout, before being submitted by Sean Brady at UFC Vegas 8 in August, while Harris won his last three including most recently in January via submission.

Aguilera is a striker with a very heavy right hand and good pressure, but his gas tank has given him problems in the past. Against a solid grappler and cardio machine in Harris, that is a bad recipe. Aguilera has got the power to turn a fight around with just one punch but the way Harris shoots in at the hips and holds his opponents down, the opportunities to land that big punch will be few and far between.

Harris should be able to get a takedown and work his top game and search for submissions, but I think he grinds out a comfortable decision win.
PICK – Carlston Harris via Decision

Jun Yong Park (12-4) vs Tafon Nchukwi (5-0) – (Middleweight/185lbs)

A middleweight bout between two relative newcomers to the UFC is next. Park is on a two-fight win streak, with a win over John Phillips on Fight Island 6 most recently while Nchukwi is an undefeated prospect who went the distance for the first time in his UFC debut win over Jamie Pickett at UFC Vegas 17.

Park is a very adept boxer but has shown great wrestling chops in his most recent wins, making him able to dictate where this fight takes place. Nchukwi on the other hand is still very green, with activity on the feet not the best although he does possess great power. Nchukwi has won his last five fights before he’s entered the cage, with his frame just intimidating guys into respecting him way too much.

The skillsets aren’t too indifferent but with Park’s experience and ability to switch it up, I think he’ll come in confident and stick to his game plan of working behind the jab and mixing in takedowns to get the decision.
PICK – Jun Yong Park via Decision

PRELIMS

Ryan Benoit (10-7) vs Zarrukh Adashev (3-3) – (Flyweight/125lbs)

An interesting flyweight bout between two guys who have lost their last two in a row. Benoit has fought a bunch of top level competition in the UFC, but his most recent defeats came against Heili Alateng and Tim Elliott at Fight Island 1 last summer. Adashev on the other hand is a weird one, currently 0-2 in the UFC, losing to Tyson Nam in 32 seconds at UFC Vegas 2 and Su Madaerji at Fight Island 8 in January.

Benoit is an okay striker with decent best takedowns, but he has great cardio and absolutely never gives in. Adashev is a brilliant kickboxer who hasn’t had the rub of the green with opponents, who have had him outgunned in size. Adashev has good power of his own too and has won two of his three victories via knockout. Benoit has good power in his hands and has a much better ability of mixing the fight up to make it happen in different places.

It should be a high energy fight between the two but I think Benoit is able to mix it up enough to take a close decision.
PICK – Ryan Benoit via Decision

Ludovit Klein (17-2) vs Mike Trizano (8-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)

A hugely fun fight coming up at 145lbs here as kickboxing demon Ludovit Klein takes on former Ultimate Fighter winner Mike Trizano. Klein won his UFC debut at UFC 253 with a beautiful knockout against Shane Young, while Trizano returns after almost exactly two years out following a loss to Grant Dawson.

Klein has brilliant striking and has won each of his last three fights via head kick, but also has good submissions on the mat too. Trizano is a good kickboxer on his own accord, but also has really good takedowns and is a bit more of a physical fighter. If the fight is a clean, technical bout then Klein will eat him alive but if Trizano can make it ugly and mix it up he has a path for victory.

Overall though, I think Klein’s stopping power just seems to be the biggest difference between the two. He has good takedown defence, nasty knees and elbows and is a powerful puncher so I think he could get the finish.
PICK – Ludovit Klein via Knockout, Round 2

Ben Rothwell (38-13) vs Phillipe Lins (14-5) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)

A heavyweight banger in the featured prelim slot as the veteran Ben Rothwell takes on Phillipe Lins. Rothwell has lost four of his last six including his most recent bout against Marcin Tybura at UFC Fight Island 5, while Lins has lost his last two to Andrei Arlovski and Tanner Boser at UFC Vegas 4.

This is not going to be a great fight in all honesty. Rothwell has great power and a good chin but other than the big right hand there’s nothing special going on for him. Lins is a wrestling heavyweight who doesn’t really go for takedowns much and just tends to throw strikes that are there for the sake of being active.

This fight won’t be the most memorable, but Lins got knocked out by Boser who doesn’t hit nearly as hard as Rothwell so I think this one goes a similar way.
PICK – Ben Rothwell via Knockout, Round 1

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