Carla Esparza vs Marina Rodriguez
Carla Esparza (+150) (17-6-0)
Esparza comes into this fight on a 3-fight winning streak. Her last win came just three months ago in a tight split-decision over Michelle Waterson. Though she got the win, she only threw 48 total strikes and landed 1 out of 10 takedowns. Esparza struggles to blend her striking and takedowns and her wrestling has become less effective in this division. She charges in for obvious takedown attempts or she throws strikes, rather than combining both. With that said, she does have much more experience than her opponent. She’ll look to use that experience to her advantage in a fight that’s likely to come down to the judges.
Marina Rodriguez (-180) (12-0-2)
The 33-year old Rodriguez began training MMA when she was already 26 years old. She’s 2-0-2 in the UFC with wins over Jessica Aguilar and Tecia Torres and draws against Randa Markos and Cynthia Calvillo. She has a background in Muay Thai and she throws excellent knees in the clinch. She was up two rounds on Calvillo in her last fight before getting stuck on her back and giving up a 10-8 3rd round. It was a tough lesson to learn but she’s early in her career and she’ll be eager to show the improvements she’s made against Esparza.
Prediction: Marina Rodriguez via Decision
Rodriguez has a sizable height and reach advantage in this matchup and Esparza will have trouble finding her range. When she does work her way inside, Rodriguez will use her excellent Thai clinch to make her pay with knees. Rodriguez will be the bigger, stronger, and faster fighter. Her striking is just a work in progress but her volume is excellent. She’s thrown an average of 148 significant strikes in each of her first four UFC fights, compared to Esparza who hasn’t thrown that many strikes ever. Take Marina Rodriguez by unanimous decision.