Cynthia Calvillo and Michelle Waterson trade strikes

Michelle Waterson-Gomez and Marina Rodriguez first fought in the main event of UFC on ESPN in May of 2021. The first time the two clashed it was at 125lbs, they will now run it back two years later at 115lbs as the #12 and #8 ranked straw weights respectively.

For Waterson-Gomez, it’s a chance at redemption in a weight class most believe she truly belongs in. For Rodriguez, it’s about carrying the confidence over from their first encounter and repeating history. For fans, it’s a highly anticipated rematch from one of the most entertaining women’s MMA main events in memory.

Betting Odds

As one would expect, Rodriguez will come into the rematch as a heavy favorite.

  • Michelle Waterson-Gomez: +225 (BetUS)
  • Marina Rodriguez: -300 (BetUS)

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Fight Breakdown

Although Rodriguez won their first fight, both women scored major moments over the 25 minutes. It was a relatively competitive fight and as we look into the rematch there are plenty both can learn from the first fight and pursue the victory this time around.

The keys to victory for Michelle Waterson-Gomez are getting the takedown and attacking the legs

The most dominant round of their first fight was The Karate Hottie’s, when she was able to secure the fight’s single takedown. Utilizing a good knee staple to pin Rodriguez between the mat and cage, showcased the deficiencies in Rodriguez’s grappling skills. Typically, Rodriguez goes to bridges and wall walking to get back to her feet, and almost definitely has improved since they first met but Waterson-Gomez will still hold a major advantage if she can get to the mat.

How she does this is not easy. Rodriguez does a good job of controlling range and forcing her opponents to shoot from the outside. Waterson-Gomez is already at a height and reach advantage, as well as weight and size. For one to take Rodriguez down, timing is key, allowing her two commit to a shot or baiting out a heavy counter that Waterson-Gomez can intercept and close the distance for a takedown at the same time. The way she did this in their first fight was countering Rodriguez’s superman punch, with a check right hook straight to the undertook and outside trip. Forcing Rodriguez to bite on a counter and clashing into a body lock out in the open is a good way for Waterson-Gomez to initiate the takedown.

In terms of striking, Waterson-Gomez’s most success was in investing in the lead leg. Rodriguez, hunches over her stance so that she can reach forward and cover the most distance with her punches and cover up on the defensive. Waterson-Gomez did a good job of utilizing the lead side kick to damage the knee and the outside low kick on the right to work on the thigh. In particular, the left cross from southpaw to low kick will get Rodriguez to shift backward and take away from her ability to counter, while landing.

For Rodriguez, she needs to keep Waterson-Gomez moving backwards and make use of the clinch. If Rodriguez can control the center of the cage, she can take away Waterson-Gomez’s ability to level change and kick effectively. It also allows her to land from a range where Waterson-Gomez cannot reach her with counter boxing, considering the reach discrepancy.

The biggest success Rodriguez had in their first fight was in the clinch, and forcing Waterson-Gomez to their cage allows Rodriguez to trap her, and clash into the clinch while moving forward. Being the longer and bigger fighter, allows for a particularly effective Thai clinch, making Waterson-Gomez carry her weight and create angles fort strikes. Waterson-Gomez is as game as anyone, but a consistent theme in her fights is regardless of striking numbers and stats, she wears damage on her face, and elbows and knees in the clinch are Rodriguez’s best way of highlighting this visual. Clinching out in the open could potentially open up takedown opportunities where Waterson-Gomez can fight for underhooks or get control of the head but by clinching her against the fence Rodriguez forces Waterson-Gomez to look for a reversal of position before she can seriously attempt a takedown.


A lot of factors point towards Rodriguez as the should be victor. She is the more physically imposing fighter, won the first fight and both women are strikers, the area that Rodriguez is one of the very best in. However, at -300 it is hard to make good value on her, and especially considering it is a rematch, Waterson-Gomez will have more data to work off of making adjustments in her preparation and game plan.

Based on how dominant the grappling exchanges were in the first, albeit very little grappling was done, I would be surprised if it is not at the forefront of this game plan, and if she can recognize the most effective ways to set up takedowns, I do think that Waterson-Gomez can at least edge out enough rounds to win a decision, and especially as a +225 underdog this makes her a potentially very valuable pick.

Pick: Michelle Waterson-Gomez to win (+225 at BetUS)

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