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After win over Mackenzie Dern, right move for Marina Rodriguez is UFC title eliminator against Joanna Jedrzejczyk


One matchup makes the most sense for Marina Rodriguez following her victory in Saturday’s UFC Fight Night main event against Mackenzie Dern: Joanna Jedrzejczyk

The UFC’s women’s strawweight division is one of the most intriguing in the promotion right now. On Saturday night, Rodriguez put herself near the center of that contender discussion. Rodriguez showed once again she’s one of the best women’s 115-pound fighters in the world in a complete victory over Dern. Over the course of the fight, Rodriguez survived some precarious situations on the ground against Dern, the former Brazilian jiu-jitsu pound-for-pound queen, and reminded everyone that her striking is among the best in women’s MMA.

You know who else has some of the best striking in all of mixed martial arts? Jedrzejczyk, the former strawweight champion and current title contender in the division. Jedrzejczyk seems like the most logical next opponent for Rodriguez as both try to earn a title shot. Rodriguez has just one loss in eight UFC appearances, but that one loss came against Carla Esparza. Rose Namajunas will defend her UFC women’s strawweight title against Zhang Weili at UFC 268 on Nov. 6 in New York. Esparza, by all accounts, should be queued up for the winner of that bout.

With those three seemingly busy in the coming months, nothing makes more sense for Rodriguez than Jedrzejczyk. Not only would that be a potential title eliminator, it has the potential to be an absolute masterclass in Muay Thai. Remember how good Zhang vs. Jedrzejczyk was last year? Get ready for another banger if the former Joanna Champion and Rodriguez lock horns.

Sources told me recently that Jedrzejczyk would love to challenge the winner of Zhang vs. Namajunas. She has lost to both women, but the war against Zhang was an all-time classic, and three years have passed since the second of her back-to-back losses to Namajunas. There is a case to be made for Jedrzejczyk as a title challenger again, but it would shore up her résumé in a big way if she were to beat Rodriguez. Sources also said Jedrzejczyk is planning a return to the Octagon in March or April. Currently, she’s still in her native Poland.

Perhaps this performance from Rodriguez causes Jedrzejczyk to go online and buy a flight to Florida so she can get back to her American Top Team gym in Coconut Creek. There’s another woman at 115 pounds staking the claim of being a top striker. Jedrzejczyk might have to come calling to cement her status once again. Still not convinced? Rodriguez’s manager Tiago Okamura used to manage Jedrzejczyk. There are several layers of story here, and Jedrzejczyk vs. Rodriguez would further prove that strawweight is one of the most fun divisions in the UFC.

Welterweight: Randy Brown (14-4, 8-4 UFC) def. Jared Gooden (18-7, 1-3 UFC) by unanimous decision | Watch this fight on ESPN+

More than five years after he was “discovered” on Dana White’s “Lookin’ for a Fight,” Brown seems to really be hitting his stride.

A confident Brown outpointed Gooden via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) despite a dislocated toe. Brown landed a beautiful front kick to the face that rocked Gooden in the first round, but that kick damaged his big toe and Brown had issues throwing right kicks from there.

“Anybody could get it — anybody,” Brown said. “I’ve been here working for a long time. “

Gooden tried to get back into the fight with leg kicks, which were effective but not nearly enough. Brown landed a big uppercut, some punching combinations and a left head kick in the second round to maintain control in the fight. In the third, Brown tried to pour it on with a jumping knee and big boxing combinations, but Gooden held strong. Brown had, however, already done more than enough to win.

Brown, 31, has won two straight and four of his last five fights. The Massachusetts-born fighter who grew up in New York, has only lost to top welterweight contender Vicente Luque since 2018. Gooden, 27, has dropped three of his last four fights. The fighter from Alabama, who trains out of Georgia, missed weight by three pounds Friday, coming in at 174 pounds against the 171-pound non-title welterweight contest.

Men’s flyweight: Matheus Nicolau (17-3-1, 5-1 UFC) def. Tim Elliott (18-12-1, 6-10 UFC) by unanimous decision | Watch this fight on ESPN+

It appears Nicolau is ready to take his place near the top of the flyweight division — a point he almost reached before getting cut by the UFC in 2019.

Nicolau outpointed the always-game Elliott via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) in a battle of streaking 125-pound fighters. The UFC cut Nicolau 2 ½ years ago when the promotion was considering dropping the flyweight division altogether, but he has not lost since then.

Elliott, a fan favorite, outgrappled Nicolau in the first round, but Nicolau rallied with his striking and then wrestling in the third round. Afterward, Nicolau said he’d like to fight anyone above him in the rankings next.

“My goal here is I want to become champion,” Nicolau said in his postfight interview. “I know it’s step-by-step. With very hard and serious work, I’ll get there.”

Nicolau, 28, has won four in a row, including two straight since his return to the UFC earlier this year. The fighter from Brazil has just one loss since 2012. Elliott, a 34-year-old fighting out of Missouri, had a two-fight winning streak snapped, and he has lost five of his last seven.

Women’s flyweight: Mariya Agapova (10-2, 2-1 UFC) def. Sabina Mazo (9-3, 3-3 UFC) by third-round submission (rear-naked choke) | Watch this fight on ESPN+

This win could be the one people go back to as a turning point in Agapova’s career.

Agapova landed a beautiful combination — a straight left followed by a crushing right hook out of the southpaw stance — to drop Mazo. Agapova then pounced on Mazo’s back and quickly locked in a rear-naked choke. Mazo tapped almost immediately, with the finish coming at 53 seconds of the third round.

In both the first and second rounds, Agapova looked as good as she ever has with her boxing. Mazo pressed forward, but Agapova landed multiple combinations with her hands, bloodying Mazo late in the first.

Agapova, 24, bounced back from a stunning upset loss to Shana Dobson in August 2020. From Kazakhstan and fighting out of Florida, Agapova has won four of her last five fights and must be considered a top prospect now in the women’s flyweight division. Mazo, a 24-year-old from Colombia who fights out of California, has dropped two straight following a three-fight winning streak.

Men’s bantamweight: Chris Gutierrez (17-3-2, 5-1-1 UFC) def. Felipe Colares (10-3, 2-3 UFC) by split decision | Watch this fight on ESPN+

Gutierrez escaped after spending most of the third round on his back, got up and started landing big combinations, including a couple of spinning elbows mixed in as he fought until the final bell.

Colares had his moments throughout the fight, but ultimately the judges gave the nod to Gutierrez via split decision (28-29, 30-27, 30-27). Gutierrez was more active and the more dangerous striker throughout, using his leg kicks and boxing combinations to keep the edge.

Gutierrez, 30, is unbeaten in six straight UFC fights. Hailing from Boston and training out of Factory X in Colorado, Gutierrez has lost just once since 2017 and could be looking at a contender fight next at 135 pounds. Colares, a 27-year-old from Brazil, has alternated wins and losses since debuting in the UFC in 2019.

Heavyweight: Alexandr Romanov (15-0, 4-0 UFC) def. Jared Vanderaa (12-6, 1-2 UFC) by second-round TKO (strikes) | Watch this fight on ESPN+

The undefeated Romanov took things to the ground, got into mount and proceeded to maul and bloody Vanderaa. Referee Mark Smith stepped in to stop it at 4:43 of the second round, giving Romanov the win via TKO.

Romanov, 30, has won all four of his UFC fights. That’s the third longest active winning streak in the heavyweight division, behind only interim champion Ciryl Gane (7), champion Francis Ngannou (5) and Marcin Tybura (5). The fighter from Romania has never gone the distance in any of his 15 pro fights, and looks like a potential future contender. Vanderaa, a 29-year-old from Washington, has dropped two of three in the UFC.

“I have come here for fighting,” Romanov said in his postfight interview. “What decision will be from UFC’s side, I’m ready to accept anyone’s challenge.”

Men’s featherweight: Damon Jackson (19-4-1, 1 NC; 2-2-1, 1 NC UFC) def. Charles Rosa (14-6, 4-2-1 UFC) by unanimous decision | Watch this fight on ESPN+

The win was a big one for Jackson, but the story of the fight was one of the bloodiest rounds in UFC history.

Rosa landed a spinning, upward elbow — reminiscent of the one Yair Rodriguez used against Chan Sung Jung — to open the third round. The blow opened up a gnarly cut to the right of Jackson’s right eye.

To Jackson’s credit, he never lost his cool and held on for a unanimous decision (29-28, 29-27, 30-27) win. Most of the third round consisted of Rosa and Jackson grappling in a slippery mess of Jackson’s blood.

Jackson, 33, has won two of three fights in his second UFC run. The Texas resident holds a 10-3 record since his first stint in the UFC, which ended in 2016. Rosa, a 35-year-old from Massachusetts fighting out of Florida, has alternated wins and losses in all of his 11 UFC fights going back to 2014.

Strawweight: Loopy Godinez (6-1, 1-1 UFC) def. Silvana Gomez Juarez (10-3, 0-1 UFC) by first-round submission (armbar) | Watch this fight on ESPN+

Godinez dominated the whole way with her wrestling and grappling. Then, she transitioned from the back into a beautiful armbar, and the submission finish came at 4:14 of the first round.

Godinez, a 28-year-old Mexican fighting out of Vancouver, picked up her first UFC victory after falling to Jessica Penne by split decision in April. Godinez is a former LFA strawweight champion. Gomez Juarez, a 36-year-old from Argentina, was making her UFC debut on short notice.

Godinez lost her original opponent, Sam Hughes, due to COVID-19 protocols. Gomez Juarez, who was scheduled for Dana White’s Contender Series on Tuesday, got called up for this bout. Gomez Juarez had a three-fight winning streak snapped.

Lightweight: Steve Garcia (12-4, 1-1 UFC) def. Charlie Ontiveros (11-8, 0-2 UFC) by second-round TKO (strikes) | Watch this fight on ESPN+

Garcia was dropped twice in the first round, but split Ontiveros open late in the first round and finished on the ground — from mount — with punches one round later. The official result was a TKO at 1:51 of the second round.

Garcia, a 29-year-old from New Mexico, has won five of six, but this was his first UFC victory. Ontiveros, a 30-year-old fighting out of Texas, has lost two in a row to start his UFC run. Ontiveros debuted in the UFC at middleweight last October and, in this fight, competed in a division that’s 30 pounds lighter.





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