A card largely thrown together on short notice delivered some pretty decent scraps in the end as UFC Vegas 26 marked the rise of a new contender and potentially the end of a legend.
In the main event, number six ranked strawweight Marina Rodriguez took on number nine ranked strawweight Michelle Waterson in a five-round flyweight fight due to the short-notice nature of it.
Rodriguez used her size and power advantage to dominate the fight for the most part, landing big combinations and walking Waterson down. ‘Karate Hottie’ did well with her kicking game to keep moving and she beat up the lead leg of Rodriguez to hold her own, but being a natural atomweight the weight class was just too big.
While Waterson did have big joy on the ground in the fourth round, landing some vicious elbows and causing big problems for Rodriguez. Once the round ended and they got back to their feet though, Rodriguez made sure it didn’t happen again and continued to land some nice flurries to ensure she earned the victory.
Following the unanimous victory which should now see her move into the top five of the rankings despite the fight happening in a different weight class, she called to face off against the former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk in her next fight.
Jedrzejczyk hasn’t fought since a defeat to Weili Zhang in one of the greatest women’s mixed martial arts history back in February 2020 at UFC 248. It means she has now lost four of her last six fights, with all of them coming in title fights. Despite that, she remains one of the standard bearers for the 115lbs division and a fight against Rodriguez would be fantastic spectacle.
While we saw a new contender rise in one division, we saw potentially the end of a legend’s career in another as Donald Cerrone was knocked out in the first round of his co-main event against Alex Morono.
‘Cowboy’ was scheduled to face Diego Sanchez in a grudge match before the Ultimate Fighter 1 winner was released on medical grounds. That meant Morono stepped in on about one-weeks notice and put his stamp on the fight early.
He landed big right hands and some brutal body shots before a wild overhand right caught Cerrone cold and started proceedings for the end of the bout. It means Cerrone has now lost five of his last six, with the only anomaly being a no-c ontest against Niko Price. Even that fight against Price was originally a draw, only because Price had a point deducted during the fight for a couple of eye pokes.
While Cerrone insisted after the fight that he wasn’t done and didn’t want to see his legacy end this way, it’s hard to see a way back for him. The welterweights are beating him up and four of those five defeats have come by way of vicious knockout and there just isn’t any need for him to take more damage.
The UFC should look to promote him to a backstage role, in a similar way to Forest Griffin and stop allowing him to take unnecessary punishment at his age.
Also a quick shoutout to Neil Magny, whose excellent performance against Geoff Neal moved him up to 18 wins in the welterweight division in the UFC – just one behind the all-time record of Georges St-Pierre. After a win where he used his cardio as a weapon and long rangy jab, ‘The Haitian Sensation’ called out Vicente Luque for a possible fight in August which would be a very fight bout too, although Khamzat Chimaev was quick to get on Twitter and call him out too.