Main Card (8 p.m. ET on ESPN)
– #6 Marina Rodriguez (-210) vs. #9 Michelle Waterson (+170) – W. Strawweight Bout
– Donald Cerrone (-175) vs. Alex Morono (+145) – Welterweight Bout
– #9 Neil Magny (+150) vs. #10 Geoff Neal (-185) – Welterweight Bout
– Marcos Rogerio de Lima (-200) vs. Maurice Greene (+160) – Heavyweight Bout
– #12 Diego Ferreira (+155) vs. #14 Gregor Gillespie (-190) – Lightweight Bout
– #11 Amanda Ribas (-180) vs. #12 Angela Hill (+145) – W. Strawweight Bout
Prelims (5 p.m. ET on ESPN+)
– Ben Rothwell (-115) vs. Philipe Lins (-105) – Heavyweight Bout
– Kyle Daukaus (-125) vs. Phil Hawes (+105) – Middleweight Bout
– Ludovit Klein (-265) vs. Mike Trizano (+210) – Featherweight Bout
– Ryan Benoit (-140) vs. Zarrukh Adashev (+115) – Flyweight Bout
– Tafon Nchukwi (-140) vs. Jun Yong Park (+115) – Middleweight Bout
– Carlston Harris (-155) vs. Christian Aguilera (+130) – Welterweight Bout
Marina Rodriguez (-210) vs. Michelle Waterson (+170)
Saturday night’s main event is going to be a tough bout between two of the top contenders in the most active and most competitive women’s division in the UFC. The winner of the bout will likely be considered in the mix to take on some of the title hopefuls in eliminator matches, so the stakes couldn’t be higher for Marina Rodriguez or Michelle Waterson. The women’s side of the sport doesn’t move nearly as fast as some of the men’s divisions so with the clock ticking on the window of opportunity for both women, Rodriguez being 34 and Waterson 35, this fight will be paramount if there’s a dream of UFC gold being draped over a shoulder.
Brazil’s representative in the fight is Marina Rodriguez (13-1-2), a relatively late bloomer to mixed martial arts competitions, but an expert in muay thai and knockout artist. Her record indicates that she’s a tough out, but even it doesn’t do the fighter justice. The two draws were razor thin calls against Randa Markos and Cynthia Calvillo while the loss was a controversial split decision coming against Carla Esparza. A few breaks and Rodriguez would be one of the biggest rising names in the sport. For a strawweight Marina is a giant. Newly crowned champion Thug Rose Namajunas is 5’5 and seems to tower over her opponents, but Rodriguez has another two inches on the champ. The long reach and good takedown defense and jiu jitsu skills help keep wrestlers at bay while she lets her fists tee off from range, making her very difficult to get inside of. She will be pitted against a top name if she wins this fight and she won’t be a massive underdog if it happens.
On the other side of the ring we have a former Invicta Atomweight champion and one of the few proficient freestyle karate practitioners in the promotion, Michelle “The Karate Hottie” Waterson (18-8). Michelle is a name known well among MMA fans thanks to her success in multiple promotions and infectious attitude, but she’s struggled to get to the precipice since flipping to the UFC. I often talk about fighters who are very good but cannot overcome the fighters who are great and Waterson seems to be one of those. The biggest fights of her career, Namajunas, Tecia Torres, Joanna, and Esparza were all losses and she lost her Invicta belt before coming to the UFC. Be it her style or simply her talent, she struggles on the biggest stage, revealing why she’s the underdog. She has power and very good wrestling, owning a brown belt in BJJ and nine career submissions, but she’s gone over four years without earning a stoppage. It will be a surprise if that streak ends this weekend.
This fight isn’t a tough one to find a side, but it is tough to find realistic profitability. While this fight is an eliminator of sorts and neither fighter has a sterling record in their last fights, Rodriguez deserves to be the large favorite. Her length is a big issue for everyone in this division and few women have the striking she possesses. While Waterson is unpredictable and holds an advantage on the ground, the edge is slight and Rodriguez is no rookie on the mat in addition to being very tough to take down. Another thing to consider when placing the bet is that Waterson can fight at 105 pounds and puts on some extra weight when she fights strawweight while Rodriguez has fought regularly at 120 or 121 pound catchweights. That’s a huge difference at strawweight and might be enough to see a stoppage in this fight. I don’t love the thought of going on a specific outcome or finish style, but giving ourselves 22 minutes and 20 seconds for this fight to stop at a big number makes a lot of sense and even more money.
Value Bet: Under 4.5 Rounds (+200)
-Zack Lambert (@bigbird8224)
Donald Cerrone (-175) vs. Alex Morono (+145)
In Saturday’s co-main event, UFC legend Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone (36-15) takes on late replacement Alex Morono (18-7).
For Cowboy, this is a major crossroads fight for him. With talks of a possibly being cut by the UFC and four consecutive losses and a NC, he desperately needs a win in this fight. Known for his “anytime, anywhere” attitude, Cowboy has been a fan favorite in the UFC for years. With a diverse striking game as well as underrated wrestler, he is still a tough out capable of competing with top level fighters. The best weapon Cowboy possesses is likely his counter finishing head kick. He has finished numerous fighters with it and you always have to have your guard high and be on alert. I expect Cowboy to let this fight play out and go wherever it takes him, whether that’s on the ground or standing, Cowboy should hold the advantage in both.
Not only is Alex Morono stepping in on late notice for this fight, but it will also be his first fight in over a year. Primarily a standup fighter, Morono is likely wanting to keep this one on the feet. He likes to use a lot of head movement and pressure to set up his shots, while working behind his jab. He’ll likely try and instigate a good bit of clench work and do some of his damage from there. The best path to victory for Morono is to stay off the cage and hit and slip. Cowboy has had a bit of a suspect chin over the past two years, so if he is able to land his shots clean he may be able to finish the fight.
Ultimately, Cowboy has been through it all as a fighter. I think he knows people are doubting him as a fighter, and I thought he looked good in his past two outings. I’m backing Cowboy to win this fight with a smaller bet on Cowboy by decision.
Best Bet: Donald Cerrone moneyline (-175)
Value Bet: Donald Cerrone by decision (+140)
-William Burke (@w_burke22)
Neil Magny (+150) vs. Geoff Neal (-185)
A top 10 matchup in the welterweight division pits Neil Magny (24-8) against Geoff Neal (13-3) in Saturday’s featured bout.
Magny is fresh off a disheartening loss to Michael Chiesa in the main event of the UFC’s midweek event on Fight Island back in January. Chiesa dismantled Magny, controlling him on the ground and wiping him out on the scorecards. Magny’s wrestling abilities, or lack thereof, were the catalyst of his downfall as he was unable to produce any sort of offense against the wet blanket that is Chiesa.
Prior to that January loss, Magny was the winner of three straight, earning a spot in the top 10 with victories over Robbie Lawler, Anthony Rocco Martin and Jingliang Li. At his best, Magny is a long range striker who uses his 6-foot-3 frame to keep distance from his opponents and piece them up. On top of that, Magny is well-versed in clinch tactics and possesses solid wrestling skills. You might think it novice of me to say that considering how badly he was beaten on the mat against Chiesa, but Chiesa is arguably the best wrestler in the 170-pound division, so I’m taking that performance with a grain of salt.
Magny will likely look to use his wrestling against the extremely powerful Neal. A head hunter in every sense of the term, Neal is as explosive as they come. With over half of his pro wins coming via knockout, Neal’s striking is dynamic and his hands are incredibly dangerous.
Neal is returning from a discouraging defeat as well, having suffered a unanimous decision loss to Stephen “Wonderboy Thompson in his last outing. Wonderboy used his signature karate style and unconventional striking method to absolutely pick Neal apart. It was so bad that Neal even got visibly frustrated by Wonderboy’s elusiveness late in the fight and began throwing ill-advised combinations in hopes of catching Wonderboy with a kill shot. He didn’t.
Much like Magny’s let down against Chiesa, I’m tagging Neal’s performance against Wonderboy as somewhat of an outlier. Wonderboy is unquestionably one of the best pure strikers in the history of the UFC and it’s unfair to judge Neal’s skill set against a guy like that.
Before that fight, though, Neal ran a rough shot through the division. He won his first five UFC bouts against a host of notable opponents, including Mike Perry, Niko Price and Belal Muhammad.
I think the majority of this fight will be contested on the feet, in which case I’m going to side with the favorite. While Magny is the owner of some decent offensive wrestling, Neal’s takedown defense is underrated and I think Magny will struggle to get him to the ground. If Belal Muhammad couldn’t out-wrestle Neal, I doubt Magny will find much success either.
Like he always does, Magny will have a clear height and reach advantage, but Neal can negate that with his ability to effectively close distance. If Neal can work his jab to get on the inside of Magny’s guard, I wouldn’t be shocked if we see Magny go to sleep.
Aside from the loss to Wonderboy, who is a total anomaly in the striking realm, we haven’t seen anyone survive the forward pressure and heavy hands of Geoff Neal. I don’t see Magny being any different.
Best Bet: Geoff Neal moneyline (-185)
Value Bet: Geoff Neal inside distance (+160)
– Nick Stavas (@nickstavas)
Diego Ferreira (+155) vs. Gregor Gillespie (-190)
Two ranked fighters trying to climb the ladder in the lightweight division square off in this main card bout, as Diego Ferreira (17-3) takes on Gregor Gillespie (13-1).
It has barely been three months since we last saw Ferreira in the Octagon. He rematched Beneil Dariush in February in a closely-contested war that saw Dariush earn a split-decision victory. In my opinion, Dariush pretty clearly won the fight, so the split decision is a bit misleading. However, Ferreira was certainly competitive and put forth a respectable performance. Ferreira has been trapped at the bottom of the lightweight rankings for nearly two years now; a combination of fight cancellations and matchmaking woes keeping him from stamping his name in the top 10.
Ferreira is a black belt in Brazillian jiu-jitsu and uses it to his full advantage, with seven of his 17 pro victories coming via submission. While he’s most dangerous on the mat, Ferreira is a capable striker, often throwing a barrage of leg kicks and body strikes in hopes of setting up a takedown.
Even though jiu-jitsu isn’t bread and butter, Gillespie is quite similar to Ferreira in terms of fighting style. One of the most accomplished wrestlers on the UFC roster, Gillespie is the epitome of a wrestle-boxer. He was a 4x NCAA Division I All-American at Edinboro University and his folk-style wrestling skills have seamlessly translated to the Octagon. His takedowns are fast and powerful and he is particularly shrewd in scramble situations. Add in his powerful hands and underrated boxing prowess and you have a really solid mixed martial artist.
To me, this fight is a coin-flip. I can see why Gillespie is the favorite considering the fact that Ferreira is coming off a loss. However, it must be noted that Gillespie will be returning from a sizable layoff, having not stepped foot in the Octagon since November 2019.
Because I see it as a total toss up, I’m going to stay away from the moneyline and turn toward the round total. Ever since Gillespie first arrived in the UFC he has been a walking highlight reel, with just one of his seven fights in the promotion going the distance and three of those failing to live past the first round.
While Ferreira doesn’t necessarily possess the stopping power of Gillespie, he still has the means to finish fights with his relentless pressure on the ground and elite submission offense. On top of that, Ferreira’s striking defense has given him problems in the past and he often struggles with good boxers.
Another thing to consider when analyzing this fight is the swift turnaround on Ferreira’s side. Dariush inflicted a substantial amount of damage on Ferreira in February and three months is far from ample recovery time. Gillespie may realize that and try to take advantage of Ferreira’s potentially weak chin.
Overall, this is a really good matchup on paper and it should be an entertaining scrap no matter the outcome. Both of these men will be wanting to notch a convincing victory in hopes of making that coveted leap to the top 10. Whoever wins and however it ends, I don’t see the judges getting involved here.
Best Bet: Fight doesn’t go to decision (+130)
– Nick Stavas (@nickstavas)
Ben Rothwell (-115) vs. Philipe Lins (-105)
It’s a heavyweight thriller to round out the prelims on Saturday and it features one of my favorite fighters in Ben Rothwell taking Philipe Lins. Lins has only fought twice in the UFC and he’s 0-2 out of the gate so the pressure will definitely be on with him facing off against the veteran. The Brazilian hasn’t fought since June 2020 in a losing effort to Tanner Boser (KO/TKO R1, 2:41) and he dropped his debut against Andrei Arlovski (U-DEC) back on May 13, 2020. … Lins learned very quickly why they call Tanner Boser the “Bulldozer.” Boser stayed mobile for the 2+ minutes and avoided being pinned up against the cage, which would’ve allowed Philpe to put his BJJ blackbelt to use. But after dancing around and each fighter landing and missing shots, Boser connected with a massive right and knocked Lins out cold. He’ll be looking to bounce back as you can’t imagine he’s going to get many more opportunities to prove himself.
Ben Rothwell won my heart the same night that Lins debuted in the UFC last May. With Uncle Dana pushing for the UFC to return, it was the only sport back and the only way that I was going to feed my sports betting degeneracy. So I hit the books and took a crash course on how to bet the octagon and I ended up cashing a +160 ticket on Rothwell’s bout to go the distance when he picked up the split decision victory against Ovince Saint Preux. And to my credit, I capped that one pretty well.
Big Ben has fought once since that night and it was another decision outcome, but it went in Marcin Tybura’s favor back (unanimous) in October. It was a fun fight with both guys throwing blows from a standing position for the first 12 minutes. Ultimately, it looked like Ben wore out after throwing 130+ strikes in the first round. In classic Rothwell fashion, he left himself exposed and Tybura was way more efficient with his punches and landed a lot of strikes to the concrete chin of Ben. It’s unreal watching Ben since he often fights out of a square stance and just eats monster shots… but I might too if I had a chin that solid. The fight log proves his ability to take blows as he hasn’t lost a contest by KO/TKO since 2009 against Cain Velasquez.
What worries me about Rothwell in this fight is the lack of defense and protecting him from big shots. I’m not worried about him getting knocked out but those strikes add up on the scorecard. Usually in a veteran vs. up-and-comer fight, you’d see the vet rely on being savvy and using his experience. But Rothwell is a wild card on his feet and with a fighter who’s disciplined like Lins, it could spell trouble if this one goes to decision (and there is a good chance it does). I know it’s his style, but Ben can’t go in there throwing like a million strikes and gas himself like he did against Tybura. Philipe Lins seems to have the stamina to hang around for three rounds (proven by his fight with Arlovski), he has heavy hands and great discipline, and his back is against the wall.
I’m going to take Lins on the moneyline (-105) for a unit. We’ll probably be in for mostly a boxing match here. I haven’t seen a level change from either of these guys over the three fights I went back and watched.
Best Bet: Philipe Lins moneyline (-105)
– Trent Pruitt (@trentbets)