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?

Currently sitting at 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? How about a flying armbar submission? 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 in 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+.

UFC 272: Turner v Mullarkey
Marina Rodriguez | Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

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. It’s not just the quality of opposition that Rodriguez has faced, it’s the variety. 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. We know Lemos is dangerous, we just don’t know if she can put together a complete performance against an elite opponent like Rodriguez.

This is only Lemos’ second scheduled five-rounder and her first only went a little over 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.

Look for Lemos to take plenty of risks and a few home run swings, only to find herself falling further and further behind on the scorecards to the technically superior Rodriguez.

Pick: Rodriguez

Neil Magny vs. Daniel Rodriguez

Neil Magny has always been the ultimate spoiler and I think it’s time for him to roll some marbles into Daniel Rodriguez’s title path.

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.

The problem is that Magny thrives in these situations where he’s being overlooked in favor of his opponent’s story. “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. Think about all the tough names that thought they could take a win off Magny but ended up with another L in the column instead: Li, Robbie Lawler, Carlos Condit, Johny Hendricks, Hector Lombard, Kelvin Gastelum, and so on and so on. That’s three former UFC welterweight champions in there, by the way.

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

You know what’s more satisfying than a crowd-pleasing heavyweight knockout? A crowd-confusing heavyweight submission.

Call it fantasy booking, but I’m sensing fun is in the air and not just the kind of fun you get when you put two knockout machines against one another, but the kind you get when said knockout machines also have questionable defense. This has all the makings of a fight that could end in under two minutes, hence the main card placement, and I’m throwing caution to the wind and predict we see something totally unexpected.

Yes, this fight will have its fair share of swangin’ and bangin’, but I foresee Sherman hurting Parisian first and chasing him to the mat for a finish. From there, a wild scramble ensues, and Parisian somehow ends up in an advantageous position where he can start throwing ground strikes. As Sherman breaks down and his defenses open up, Parisian will make the strategic decision to not gas himself out with a barrage of punches hoping for a stoppage, but instead go to his jiu-jitsu and pursue a tap-out instead.

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. When he finds the range, Maness is a serious threat as he mixes up strikes to the head and body beautifully and has some sneaky power. Ulanbekov got caught by Elliott in his most recent fight and if he makes that kind of mistake against Maness, he might not recover this time.

That said, I don’t know if Maness has the takedown defense to repeatedly stuff a Nurmagomedov disciple, so this one probably goes the same way as Maness’ loss to Umar Nurmagomedov: Maness on his back for most of the fight with Ulanbekov raining punches down on 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? It will be fascinating to see what Dawson comes up with to take Madsen down, and vise-a-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.

The other factor to consider for Dawson is how he performs in the third round. 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. I fully expect this to go past two rounds and turn into a war of attrition 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

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