Marina Rodriguez and Mackenzie Dern are facing each other in the main event for UFC Fight Night on October 9, at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. While both women are preparing for a five-round war against one another and while they are both after strawweight gold, they also agree on two things. Their prediction for the rematch between strawweight champion Rose Namajunas and former champion Zhang Weili, and that a finish or a five-round war is coming between her and Dern.
Both women picked Namajunas to win, Dern made the prediction and feels she can serve as a backup fighter should one be needed for UFC 268. Rodriguez was not asked in her interview with James Lynch for MMANews.com if that is something she would be interested in or not, but she feels something else will happen if Namajunas does not win.
“I believe Rose [Namajunas] will win again,” Rodriguez said, and added,” If she doesn’t, I believe the divisions will be once again, stuck. If you look at the past four years, it’s been the same four people fighting for the belt. The division has many talented people, and many that deserve to be in the title conversation.”
Rodriguez makes a strong point. Namajunas, Weili, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, and Carla Esparza are four names that have all held the title and seem to be in line for it again unless Rodriguez or Dern can shake things up in the UFC rankings. Esparza was seemingly next in line for the title but for some reason, was snubbed by the UFC when they decided to give Weili her immediate rematch against Namajunas.
Namajunas and Esparza fought for the inaugural title back in 2014 with Esparza emerging as the first strawweight champion. She would lose the title to Jedrzejczyk in her next bout. Jedrzejczyk would defend the title five times before losing to Namajunas in 2017 at UFC 217 in Madison Square Garden. Coincidentally, the place the title is up for grabs again at UFC 268.
Although Rodriguez and Dern have both picked Namajunas to win at UFC 268 in November, she feels Esparza should have been the one getting a rematch against Namajunas, not Weili. “I think it should be Carla,” Rodriguez said, “she did more than enough to earn it. Now was the time to finally have someone new in the title picture and get the division moving again. She will be in a very tough place, what will she do? Wait another full year with no fights to try to get her title shot? It’s very complicated, but it’s part of the game.”
With less than a month away from the UFC 268 title fight, Rodriguez seems content to face Dern in October. When asked how she matches up against Dern, Rodriguez said, “I see this fight ending with a knockout or five hard rounds. I hope the first option happens but I will be ready for both.”
Dern’s prowess in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has followed her into MMA, where she has seven of her 11 wins by submission. Almost half of Rodriguez’s wins come by way of knockout and both women feel if they cannot impose their strengths on one another, fans can expect a five-round battle.
Rodriguez is currently ranked at number six and Dern is ranked four on the UFC strawweight rankings, a win would certainly bump up both women to a title shot, or a shot at one of the former champions in the division. One thing is for sure, Rodriguez seems to have been watching the division closely. If Rodriguez and Dern can shake up what looks like a standard rotation of names at the top, Rodriguez wants it to be her name that is bumped up.
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