It’s ladies’ night in Las Vegas on Saturday, Nov. 5, as the UFC rolls into the month with UFC Fight Night: Rodriguez vs. Lemos. The main event is a showdown in the strawweight between two top-10 fighters looking to make a late career title run, as they both are closer to their 40th birthdays, than they are to their 30th birthdays. Third-ranked Marina Rodriguez will be the last woman to make the walk to the cage as she fights in the main event for the third time in her last four contests. For fellow Brazilian Amanda Lemos, this is her second UFC main event, and she is looking to make a better showing than the first time she was scheduled for a five-round fight, when she was submitted with a standing arm-triangle choke by Jessica Andrade. With the strawweight title being contested just a week after this showdown, the winner on Saturday will have the inside track to challenge the victor of the title fight at UFC 281 between reigning champion Carla Esparza and former divisional queen Zhang Weili.
For the second week in a row, the welterweight division hosts the co-main event, and it is another pair of grizzled veterans looking to make a climb up the rankings. Oddly enough, just like the main event, both fighters in the co-main are 35 years old. Daniel Rodriguez was part of the musical chairs action back at UFC 279 in September and wound up notching a split-decision win over Li Jingliang. Neil Magny will be looking to get back on track, and rinse the taste of defeat out of his mouth, after suffering a second-round submission loss to Shavkat Rakhmonov back in June.
Opening up the main card is a lightweight contest between two extremely talented grapplers. Greco-Roman Olympic silver medalist Mark Madsen is undefeated and has gone 4-0 since joining the UFC. He takes on Grant Dawson, who has lost just once in his professional career, and, like Madsen, he is yet to lose under the UFC banner. One of those unbeaten streaks will have to go after the two men clash in the center of the cage.
UFC Fight Night: Rodriguez vs. Lemos goes down from the friendly confines of the UFC Apex. The event airs live in its entirety on ESPN+ with the preliminary card starting at 4 p.m. ET, followed by the main card at 7 p.m. ET. Combat Press writers Dan Kuhl and Matt Petela preview the action this week as they go Toe-to-Toe.
Marina Rodriguez has been perfect since a split-decision loss to current champion Carla Esparza; does she keep her winning streak alive and make it past her countrywoman Amanda Lemos?
Kuhl: The headlining clash of top-10 strawweights will likely put into position the next challenger to the strawweight throne. Champion Carla Esparza will look to defend her belt against former champion Zhang Weili next week, and, depending on the outcome of that fight, either Marina Rodriguez or Amanda Lemos could get the next crack at the belt.
Rodriguez and Lemos are both 35 years old, and got relatively late starts to their pro careers. Rodriguez made her pro debut seven years ago, but has been very successful all the way from the smaller promotions in Brazil to the big leagues, stopping seven opponents in 16 wins. Lemos, on the other hand, made her pro debut in 2014, cruised through Jungle Fight, made her Octagon debut in Jul. 2017, and has only lost twice in 15 bouts. She was stopped by Leslie Smith in her UFC debut and submitted in her second-to-last fight against Jessica Andrade in Apr. 2022.
Rodriguez’s sole loss to the once-and-future champion Esparza was a split decision, and she also has two draws on her UFC record to Randa Markos in her promotional debut and Cynthia Calvillo three years ago. Since fighting Esparza, she knocked out Amanda Ribas, picked up two dominant decisions over Michelle Waterson-Gomez and Mackenzie Dern and walked away with two performance bonuses. Her last fight was in Mar. 2022, when she barely squeaked by Yan Xiaonan.
Lemos and Rodriguez have been on a collision course for years, facing a couple of the same opponents, but their styles are quite a bit different. Rodriguez is a more calculated striker, while Lemos is a gritty Southpaw. In the grappling department, Lemos holds the upper hand, as she has better takedown defense and is an overall better wrestler.
Rodriguez has a bit more experienced, especially in high-profile fights, and, in this particular match-up, it will likely pay off that the fight, and all the subsequent rounds, start standing. Lemos’ best chances are in getting Rodriguez to the ground to implement her ground game, but her fellow Brazilian has been able to implement the proper game plans against superior grapplers like Dern and Ribas.
If Rodriguez is unable to finish the ultra-tough Lemos inside the allotted time, she will likely take this one by decision.
Petela: When she is at her best, there is not a strawweight on the planet who can beat Marina Rodriguez. That split-decision loss to Carla Esparza was the first time she tasted defeat as a professional mixed martial artist and may have been the best thing that could have happened to her career. Since then, she has looked unbeatable in three of her four subsequent fights, outside of her most recent bout against Yan Xiaonan. That fight was incredibly close, but it was also a three-round contest, after two straight five-round main events, so it is reasonable to think that Rodriguez had been accustomed to the pace of a five-round fight and had something left in the tank at the end of those 15 minutes. This weekend, she is back in her five-round comfort zone and will prove that she is the rightful next challenger for the strawweight crown.
My colleague is absolutely right that, if Amanda Lemos is going to have a chance to win this fight, she has to get this fight to the ground. Rodriguez’s takedown defense stands at 65-percent, which is not stellar, but it is not awful either. Expect Rodriguez to use a steady dose of jabs early to set the distance and keep Lemos on her heels. It will be hard for Lemos to get this fight to the mat when she’s constantly on her back foot trying to avoid the forward pressure of Rodriguez. Like the other two five-round fights for Rodriguez, this one will go the distance, but it will be clear at the end of 25 minutes that Marina Rodriguez did the better work throughout, and she will come away victorious and hopefully will use her time on the mic post-fight to call for the title shot that she has earned.
Daniel Rodriguez is also riding a hot streak coming into this contest; how does he fare against perennial contender Neil Magny?
Petela: This fight pits two guys who prefer to fight on their feet but in very different ways. Daniel Rodriguez likes to trade power punches and pressure his opponents with a combination of technical boxing skills and toughness. Meanwhile, his opponent Neil Magny is more apt to rely on his cardio as his main weapon, as he moves constantly and peppers the opposition with a high volume of strikes that don’t necessarily have a lot behind them. Sometimes, a matchup between two striking threats turns into a grappling-heavy contest, with each man looking to avoid the other’s strengths – such, as the Michael “Venom” Page vs. Paul Daley bout. That won’t be the case with these two, because Rodriguez won’t be scared of the power coming back at him from Magny, and Magny will think he can wear down Rodriguez and pick him apart by utilizing his six-inch reach advantage.
The power of Rodriguez is going to stand out early and allow him to dictate how this fight plays out. Daniel Rodriguez is constantly improving, in no small part due to the tutelage of Joe Schilling. Schilling knows a thing or two about how important it is to have a diverse striking attack, and he has imparted some of that wisdom onto his pupil. Crisp punches will still be the backbone of Rodriguez’s attack, but expect him to get into close range against the lengthy Magny, where he can connect with slicing elbows. Rodriguez will manage distance well this weekend, staying all the way out or getting all the way in to nullify the reach advantage of Magny. It will be a long night for Neil Magny. He is durable, so he will make it the distance, but, by the time the third round is over, it will be a clear-cut victory for the California native.
Kuhl: I agree with my colleague that Magny would likely get into trouble, if Rodriguez gets into close-range striking, but, if he does get inside on Magny, he won’t be able to stay there very long. Magny recently had experience getting somewhat rag-dolled in his last outing against Shavkat Rakhmonov, and he certainly has been focused on takedown defense since then. Even with three wins and five losses by submission, I feel like his record does not accurately reflect his superior grappling skills compared to Rodriguez.
I anticipate Rodriguez trying to press forward with his exceptional power, but as he closes in on Magny, I see Magny tying him up, getting the fight to the mat, and using his length to entangle his opponent. Ultimately, I have Magny scoring a submission win in this one. And, to be clear, I fully understand this is the third biggest underdog bet, standing only behind a Rodriguez submission win and a draw.
What one fighter’s UFC career is on the ropes at this event?
Petela: Shanna Young. She may be coming into this fight off of a win in her last bout, but this contest against Miranda Maverick was originally supposed to take place in August, before weight cutting issues forced Young into the hospital, and the bout had to be scrapped. If there is one thing that gets under the skin of the UFC executives, it is fighters missing weight. If Young doesn’t come out on top in this fight, it will bring her record inside the UFC to 1 – 3. That may be the end of the road for her with the organization.
Kuhl: I mean, Chase Sherman is the obvious choice here, as he has already been cut once this year, and that was the second time he had been cut by the UFC. He got back in four days later, as a short-notice replacement, and is 1-1 since then. However, I’d be a little more concerned if I was Darrick Miiner.
Minner lost his bid on the Contender Series in Aug. 2019, but got signed as a short-notice replacement against Grant Dawson in Feb. 2020. He lost that one as well. In his next four fights, he had one win and one loss by decision, and he had one win and one loss by finish. This puts him at 2-3 going into his bout with Shayilan Nuerdanbieke. A 2-4 record in the UFC featherweight division almost certainly puts him in a position to get bounced, so he absolutely needs a win on Saturday night.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
Kuhl: I’m not sure how appropriate it is to call a main-card clash a sleeper, but this card does not carry a ton of star power. Therefore, I’m expecting unranked heavyweights Josh Parisian and Chase Sherman to put on one hell of a fight.
After earning a first-round knockout on the Contender Series two years ago, Parisian has won and lost decision fights, and won and lost TKO finishes. He is fully aware that a 2-3 record to kick off his UFC career is dangerous, and he could be shown the door. His back is against the wall, but nowhere near as close to the wall as Sherman.
As I previously mentioned, Sherman is technically on his third stint with the UFC, even though his second and third runs butted up against each other. Between Aug. 2016 and Sep. 2018, Sherman only produced two wins in seven fights before being released. He then scored three first-round TKO victories in Island Fights before rejoining the UFC roster in May 2020. But after going 1-3, he was released again in early 2022. That release was short-lived.
Only four days after being released for the second time, Sherman was re-signed as a short-notice replacement to face Alexander Romanov. While that fight was ultimately rescheduled to Apr. 2022, Sherman ended up getting submitted for only the second time in his career. He then fought Jared Vanderaa last July and won, as the underdog, with a third-round TKO.
This fight features two guys who are essentially fighting for their jobs, and that should make for an absolute war.
Petela: Jake Hadley vs. Carlos Candelario. Admittedly, I’m a sucker for flyweight fights. I was devastated when there were rumblings that the UFC was going to do away with the division a few years ago. In that weight class, the fighters have to be so well-rounded to compete at a high level that, no matter how these fights play out, they are hardly ever boring. This is going to be no exception. Neither of these fighters have picked up a win since joining the promotion, and they both need to make a statement to prove that they belong on the roster. Combine that with the almost frenetic pace that all flyweight fights have, and it is the perfect recipe for a clash that leaves you at the edge of your seat.
Who takes home the “Performance of the Night” honors?
Petela: Grant Dawson. He goes up against Olympic silver medalist Mark Madsen, so these two will likely spend the bulk of this fight in the grappling realm. The Greco-Roman style of Madsen against the high-school wrestling and brown belt in jiu-jitsu of Dawson will make this a fun fight full of scrambles. In one of those scrambles, it will be Dawson who finds an opening and is able to get to Madsen’s back, where he will sink in a rear-naked choke for his 13th career submission. Not only does that extend his unbeaten streak to 10 but, it will also earn him an extra 50-thousand dollars in bonus money.
Kuhl: I’m going to stick with my longshot pick for the co-main event and say Neil Magny will showcase a submission finish for the first time since Valentine’s Day of 2015. Magny has underrated submission skills and a D’Arce choke from hell. If he really wants to maintain relevance in the welterweight division, he needs to get back in the win column, and trading strikes with a hard hitter like Rodriguez is not the recipe for victory. Rodriguez has decent grappling skills, but I feel Magny is better on the mat. If what I think might happen actually happens, he will walk away with some bonus cash.
Pair this card with…
Kuhl: Halloween candy. The week started with Halloween, and the stash should be depleted by the end of the week. For innumerable reasons, including blood health and dental bills, do not enter next week with any of this crap left. The card should have plenty of healthy blood and busted jaws, so let’s leave it in the cage.
Petela: Luckily for me, my candy stash at work has already been ravaged, mostly by my sister, I assume. So, there’s no risk of me overloading on sugar. Sometimes, I like to pair these cards that I expect to outshine their name recognition with a food or drink that is also underrated. But I have wildly high hopes for this card, so it might be best to pair this one with something low-key. Don’t rock the boat for this one, keep it simple with the old faithful, pepperoni pizza. Enjoyable and easy to hold in your hands for each time this card makes you jump out of your chair.
Main Card (ESPN+, 7 p.m. ET)
StrawW: Marina Rodriguez vs. Amanda Lemos
WW: Neil Magny vs. Daniel Rodriguez
HW: Josh Parisian vs. Chase Sherman
FlyW: Tagir Ulanbekov vs. Nate Maness
LW: Mark Madsen vs. Grant Dawson
Preliminary Card (ESPN+, 4 p.m. ET)
FW: Darrick Minner vs. Shayilan Nuerdanbieke
Women’s FlyW: Miranda Maverick vs. Shanna Young
BW: Mario Bautista vs. Benito Lopez
Women’s StrawW: Jinh Yu Frey vs. Polyana Viana
BW: Johnny Munoz Jr. vs. Liudvik Sholinian
FlyW: Jake Hadley vs. Carlos Candelario
Women’s BW: Ramona Pascual vs. Tamires Vidal
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