By Gene Lesser
The UFC Apex plays host to UFC Fight Night: Rodriguez vs. Waterson, which goes down this Saturday night in Las Vegas, Nevada. The original, highly-anticipated headliner of Cory Sandhagen vs. T.J. Dillashaw was unfortunately scrapped after Dillashaw withdrew due to an injury, and now we enter Marina Rodriguez and Michelle Waterson into the main event, who both step up on very short notice to headline this card.
Both Rodriguez and Waterson are looking to leave the octagon on a two-fight win streak and each inch closer towards the top of the women's strawweight division. But before we take a look at some key betting opportunities on this card, as always, let's take a look back at UFC Fight Night: Reyes vs. Prochazka and review our best bets. You’ll find my full list of fight picks for both the main card and the preliminary card at the bottom of this article as well. Lines provided by DraftKings. Stats provided by UFCStats.com.
Last Week's Recap - UFC Fight Night: Reyes vs. Prochazka Betting Record:
All Fight Picks: 7-3-1
Official Plays: 2-0
We had a pretty solid night last weekend as we went 2-0 on our official best bet plays. Giga Chikadze (-165) got the night started with a beautiful liver kick that folded Cub Swanson (+135). A top-15 opponent is next up for Chikadze, who continues his rise up the men's featherweight division. Jiri Prochazka (-137) came through with arguably the knockout of the year when he landed a vicious spinning back elbow that planted the unconscious Dominik Reyes onto his face. Prochazka has been nothing but spectacular in the UFC with back to back KO victories to start his career. A knockout like that might just fast track him to a title fight or, at the very least, a number one contender’s bout in the UFC men's Light heavyweight division.
Marina Rodriguez (-215) vs. Michelle Waterson (+175)
This main event bout is lining up to be your classic striker versus grappler matchup. Marina Rodriguez will look to keep this fight standing, too. She’s a diverse, volume striker on the feet with legit power for the division. She has a Muay Thai background and is vicious with her knees and elbows in the clinch. She averages 4.86 significant strikes per minute landed while only absorbing 3.16 strikes per minute. Her opponent, Michelle Waterson, lands 3.58 significant strikes per minute but absorbs 4 strikes per minute and wears the damage from striking exchanges, which often times impacts the judges' decision. Waterson is a diverse striker on the feet in her own right, utilizing her karate fight style with a lot of side kicks and three-punch blitzing combinations. If Waterson wants to win this fight, she will need to avoid damage on the feet and get her opponent to the ground where Rodriguez has had issues throughout her career.
Rodriguez uses her length pretty well, and she also has solid career UFC takedown defense at 59%. But if she is taken down, however, and ends up on her back, then she’s also shown a hard time of getting back up. The key for Rodriguez is to stay on her feet in this matchup, where she should win the majority of the striking exchanges here. In the grappling department Waterson loves to use a head in-arm judo-type throw to slam her opponents to the ground. Waterson only has a 34% takedown accuracy, but where she shines is in her control. Once her opponent is on the mat, she can ride out rounds in top position, which often leads to her winning the round. This fight is an interesting stylistic matchup and a sneaky pick for Fight of the Night. Both of these women are tough, durable, and have no problem mixing it up.
Waterson is coming off of a Fight of the Night war in her previous bout against Angela Hill, and I expect this fight to be exciting from start to finish, no more, no less. As for an outright winner/pick in this one, I have to go with Marina Rodriguez as well. She will win the majority of the exchanges on the feet and I believe that she can stop enough takedowns across five rounds to get the win. I would not be surprised to see Rodriguez get the finish with her ferocity on the feet either. However, given Rodriguez’s propensity to be controlled off of her back, time and time again, I cannot bet Rodriguez here at this line. I’m going to just sit back and enjoy what should be a very entertaining fight while headlining this UFC Fight Night card.
Diego Ferreira (+165) vs. Gregor Gillespie (-210)
This is beautiful matchmaking by the UFC as two promising lightweight fighters, Diego Ferreira and Gregor Gillespie, square off in a big lightweight bout. Both fighters were climbing up the lightweight division rankings before suffering setbacks in their last bouts as well. Gillespie is arguably the most credentialed and best wrestler in all of the UFC. He is a relentless wrestler who looks to overwhelm his opponents with takedown attempts and an endless gas tank. He’s strong in top control and is always looking to advance his position while landing ground and pounds. Gillespie averages an insane 7.02 takedowns per 15 minutes (three rounds) and has a 47% takedown accuracy. He will also look to utilize his wrestling in this matchup, especially after watching Ferreira’s last bout. Gillespie has improved his striking game and is more than game to stand in the pocket and trade. He has decent power and solid combinations too, but his striking is still developing while only averaging 3.58 strikes and absorbing 2.14 strikes per minute.
Ferreira lost a split decision to Beneil Dariush because he couldn’t stop his opponent's five timely takedowns. A legit Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Ferreira is a black belt and will need to utilize his submission game in this matchup to achieve victory. Gillespie should be able to get Ferreira to the ground, but can he avoid his relentless submission game? Ferreira averages a solid 0.9 submission attempts per 15 minutes and does not accept being on the ground, often looking to get back up to his feet whenever the moment arises. He is active in looking to lock up submissions when he is taken to the ground, which is rare given both his black belt acumen and his 68% takedown defense. On the feet though, I believe Ferreira is the better striker. He is the cleaner striker who puts on a relentless forward pressure pace on his opponents, and he also has good power which can hurt Gillespie, averaging 4.85 strikes per minute and absorbs 3.26 strikes.
Will Gillespie’s takedowns be nullified by Ferreira’s submission game? Will Gillespie look keep the fight standing a bit more because of the submission threat or does he feel his superior wrestling is the x-factor in this fight? Ferreira is the better all-around fighter here either way - he has the submission game to help nullify the takedowns and his striking and pace on the feet is superior to Gillespie’s. This surprising line may be an overreaction to Ferreira’s recentl loss to Dariush, too, and all of the value is on the more seasoned and skilled fighter here. The pick is one unit on Diego Ferreira to win outright (+165)
Kyle Daukaus (-125) vs. Phil Hawes (+105)
This middleweight matchup features two of the division's up and coming prospects facing off against each other as Kyle Daukaus takes on Phil Hawes. Daukaus is a pressure fighter who will look to stay in the face of Hawes and keep him on his back foot. Hawes had trouble in his last bout against Nassourdine Imavov while fighting off of his back foot, which also lead to him taking significant damage and almost being finished. Watch for Daukaus to do the same here. Daukaus’ striking is pretty solid. He throws tight combinations with a nice straight punch and left hook. He’s also got a 59% striking accuracy while landing 3.69 strikes and absorbing 2.16 strikes per minute. Defensively he’ll need to avoid Hawes’ big power on the feet. Hawes is an explosive fighter who does not throw a lot of volume, as evident by his 2.84 strikes landed per minute. However, when he does land, it can do serious damage. He throws big powerful hooks and overhand punches. His striking accuracy is 52%, but he also absorbs 4.18 strikes per minute. He’ll need to be more defensively sound on the feet in this matchup with Daukaus’ crisp and tighter striking, and given the matchup I believe that both of these fighters will look to grapple early and often in this matchup.
Daukaus is known for pressuring his opponents on the feet in order to clinch up with them and get them to the ground, where he can lock up a submission to earn a win. He averages 2.33 takedowns per 15 minutes at a 41% accuracy rate, and this has lead to him winning eight of his 10 total fights via submission. He averages a hefty 1.7 submission attempts per 15 minutes while his opponent, Phil Hawes, is also strong in the clinch himself. Hawes, a former D1 wrestler, who also has explosive entries on his takedowns, averages 3.13 takedowns per 15 minutes at a 35% accuracy rate. He will need to use that explosiveness to get Daukaus down in this matchup, who also comes into this bout with a takedown defense of 94%.
I believe that Phil Hawes is a bit underrated here. A lot of people point to the fact that only one of his twelve pro fights have gone to a decision, which may indicate he's got cardio issues. He addressed those concerns, however, in his last fight, which went the distance. He continues to get better after facing a bunch of tough and veteran fighters in short UFC career, and he’s definitely been tested too, where Daukaus hasn't. I believe that Hawes’ strength and power will be the difference in this fight, and he'll be able to control the majority of the clinching exchanges and get Daukaus to the mat where he can score points. The wrong guy is favored here, so the pick is one unit on Phil Hawes to win outright (+110)
“Prop of the Night” - Maurice Green By Submission (+500)
Last week, for our Pizza Bet of the Night, we settled on a “live dog” in Dustin Jacoby (+120), who took on Ion Cutelaba (-148). Unfortunately their bout ended in a split decision draw, pushing our bet. This week, we take a look at a long(er) shot prop that has a legit shot of winning on this UFC Fight Night card on Satuday.
Maurice Green has nine wins in his pro career, including five via submission choke. Marcos Rogerio De Lima has seven losses in his pro career, five of which are by submission choke. Simply put, Green is a slick and opportunistic submission artist and Lima is susceptible to submissions, thus making this play a perferct opportunity for our Saturday pizza bet. Prop of the night: Maurice Green to win by submission +500
All Picks For UFC Fight Night: Rodriguez vs. Waterson
Main Card (8PM EST on ESPN/ESPN+)
Marina Rodriguez (-215) vs. Michelle Waterson (+175)
Donald Cerrone (-177) vs. Alex Morono (+145)
Neil Magny (+160) v.s Geoff Neal (-200)
Maurice Green (+150) vs. Marcos Rogerio De Lima (-190)
Diego Ferreira (+165) vs. Gregor Gillespie (-210)
Amanda Ribas (-190) vs. Angela Hill (+150)
Preliminary Card (5PM EST on ESPN+)
Phillip Hawes (+110) vs. Kyle Daukaus (-137)
Ludovit Klein (-250) vs. Michael Trizano (+195)
Junyong Park (+106) vs. Tafon Nchukwi (-132)
Christian Aguilera (+135) vs. Carlston Harris (-167)