UFC Vegas 64 predictions


It has to be asked: What does Marina Rodriguez have to do to make an unequivocal leap to the front of the strawweight contenders’ line?

Current No. 5 in the MMA Fighting Global Rankings, Rodriguez finds herself having to get past another high-level opponent in ninth-ranked Amanda Lemos in the main event of UFC Vegas 64. Rodriguez already owns wins over Yan Xiaonan (6), Mackenzie Dern (7), Tecia Torres (10), and Michelle Waterson-Gomez (12), so it seems absurd that she has to prove anything to anyone at this point, but that’s how it is when the four names atop 115 pounds (current champ Carla Esparza and former champions Jessica Andrade, Rose Namajunas, and Zhang Weili) have a death grip on the top spots.

Will a dominant decision win help Rodriguez’s case? Does she need to put Lemos away with a tornado head kick? What about an armbar submission flying in the air? Why does it feel like Rodriguez is stuck on contender treadmill?

And what if Lemos wins? Does that permanently relegate Rodriguez to also-ran status? Does Lemos’ impressive reel of highlight finishes put her well ahead of Rodriguez for a title shot then?

Like last week’s unfortunate Arnold Allen vs. Calvin Kattar headliner that left us with just as many questions as before (if not more), one gets the sense that neither Rodriguez nor Lemos will be closer to any answers by Saturday night’s end.

In other main card action, Neil Magny goes for the UFC welterweight wins record when he fights Daniel Rodriguez, veteran heavyweights Chase Sherman and Josh Parisian square off, up-and-coming flyweights Tagir Ulanbekov and Nate Maness look to get back in the win column, and Grant Dawson steps in on short notice as he attempts to hand Olympian Mark Madsen his first loss.

What: UFC Vegas 64

Where : UFC APEX Las Vegas

When: Saturday, Nov. 5. The seven-fight preliminary card begins at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN+, followed by a five-fight main card at 7 p.m. on ESPN+.

Marina Rodriguez vs. Amanda Lemos

I’m not making any outlandish predictions about Marina Rodriguez’s title chances, but she should beat Amanda Lemos.

Look at those above names again. Rodriguez’s experience with opposition has been varied. She adapts well and makes opponents play her game, that being fighting from range and mixing it up with Muay Thai. It’s difficult to take Rodriguez outside of her comfort zone.

Lemos certainly has the finishing power to take the fight to Rodriguez, but my expectations for her as far as becoming a top-tier strawweight have been tempered by her recent performances. She squeaked out a controversial win against Angela Hill, was trucked by Jessica Andrade (no shame in that, it’s Jessica freakin’ Andrade), and then pulled out a nice submission against Michelle Waterson-Gomez after an unimpressive opening round. Although we know Lemos’s danger, it is not clear if she will be able to put on a solid performance against an elite opponent such as Rodriguez.

This is Lemos’s second five-rounder scheduled and she only took a little more than three minutes. Rodriguez has gone 25 minutes twice and looked great doing so. I don’t believe that Lemos will put her away, which means she’ll have to win over the judges, which isn’t exactly her specialty.

Lemos is known for taking risks, and even hitting home runs. However, she finds herself losing ground on Rodriguez’s scorecards.

Pick: Rodriguez

Neil Magny vs. Daniel Rodriguez

Neil Magny was always the greatest spoiler, and it is time that he gets some marbles in Daniel Rodriguez’s title track.

Following a contentious win over Li Jingliang at UFC 279, Rodriguez is wisely making a quick turnaround not just to move on from those controversial scorecards but to maintain some semblance of career momentum. Rodriguez was out for a year before the Li fight and he turns 36 in December, so the time is now for him to push for a championship opportunity while he’s still viewed as a fresh name.

Magny excels when he is being ignored in favour of the story of his opponent. “The Haitian Sensation” has his fair share of losses, but that’s what happens when you present yourself as a fighter willing to sign on for any matchup and consistently follow through on that promise. You can think of all those tough fighters who thought they were capable of beating Magny, but got another L instead. These are three ex-UFC welterweight champions.

In a straight striking battle, Rodriguez can hang with anyone at 170 pounds, but I’m expecting Magny to indulge in some mixing of the martial arts here. He’ll weather the early offense of Rodriguez, then turn things around midway through the fight and take over with ground-and-pound before earning a decision or finishing in Round 3.

Pick: Magny

Chase Sherman vs. Josh Parisian – fight canceled

What’s better than a heavyweight knockout that is crowd pleasing? A crowd-confusing heavyweight submission.

It’s fantasy booking. But I sense fun. Not just the type of fun that you have when two knockout machines are matched up against each other, but also the kind that you get when those knockout machines offer questionable defense. The main card is placed because this fight could be over in less than two minutes. I am predicting something completely unexpected.

*Yes, the fight will be full of bangin’ and swangin’, but Sherman should hurt Parisian and chase him down to the mat. The fight turns into a scramble, with Parisian eventually finding himself in a position that allows him to throw ground strikes. Parisian decides to stop trying to force Sherman to give up and instead focus on his jiu jitsu to pursue a tapout.

And so it shall be done.

Pick: Parisian

Tagir Ulanbekov vs. Nate Maness

Nate Maness has good size at 125 pounds after previously competing as high as lightweight earlier in his career, but he’s going to have a difficult time stopping the takedowns of Tagir Ulanbekov. The Khabib Nurmagomedov team member complements the elite wrestling you’d expect with some sharp boxing and he’s been hyped as a potential title contender for good reason.

Ulanbekov got a reality check in his recent fight with Tim Elliott as the savvy veteran used some, shall we say, ethically questionable techniques to gain an edge and hand Ulanbekov his first UFC loss. You can bet that Ulanbekov learned from that experience, which means we could see an even more aggressive and nastier version of the Russian standout.

Maness has to keep this one standing to have a chance. Maness can be a real threat when he is in range. He mixes strikes to the body and head well and also has some very sneaky power. Elliott caught Ulanbekov in the last fight. If he does that again against Maness, it is possible that he will not be able to recover.

I don’t know whether Maness can use the takedown to repeatedly stuff Nurmagomedov disciples, so I doubt it. This fight will probably go the same as Maness losing to Umar Nurmagomedov. Maness was on Ulanbekov’s back most of the fight, with Ulanbekov hurling punches at him.

Pick: Ulanbekov

Grant Dawson vs. Mark Madsen

Given the strength advantage Grant Dawson already has against almost anyone in the lightweight division, its somewhat understandable that Mark Madsen and his team went for a 30 percent penalty after Dawson missed weight on Friday. Then again, Dawson also took this fight on less than three weeks’ notice to help keep Madsen on the card, so it feels a little raw. But that’s neither here nor there.

Dawson is a feared grappler, but how effective will he be against an opponent who has an Olympic silver medal for Greco-Roman wrestling in his trophy case? We will see what Dawson has in store to bring Madsen down and vice versa. Dawson may have to rely on his striking to set up takedowns, which hasn’t been a specialty of his up to this point in his career.

Dawson’s performance in round three is another factor. He’s shown a knack for finishing late, but paradoxically he also visibly slows in the final five minutes, and that will be an issue for him against Madsen, who has a great gas tank for a fighter who recently turned 38. This fight will go beyond two rounds, and it could turn into an attrition war by the end.

Give me the underdog Madsen to outlast Dawson.

Pick: Madsen


Shayilan Nuerdanbieke def. Darrick Minner

Miranda Maverick def. Shanna Young

Mario Bautista def. Benito Lopez

Polyana Viana def. Jinh Yu Frey

Johnny Munoz def. Liudvik Sholinian

Jake Hadley Def. Carlos Candelario

Tamires Vidal def. Ramona Pascual