UFC on ESPN+ 52: Dern vs. Rodriguez Preview

There are few UFC strawweights ranked as high as Mackenzie Dern or Marina Rodriguez. The 115-pound fighters will get a chance to put on a performance that could inch them closer to a title shot on Saturday night, as they will fight in the main event of a “Fight Night” card from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.

The fight headlines a short nine-bout card. Here’s a preview of what to expect.

Click here to skip to a preview of the main card.

Preliminary Card (2:00PM EDT / 11:00AM PDT) (ESPN+ / UFC Fight Pass Canada)

Bout 1: Charlie Ontiveros (11-7) vs. Steve Garcia (11-4) (Lightweight)

Steve Garcia will make his return in the opening bout of Saturday’s card, seeking his first UFC win when facing Charlie Ontiveros.

Garcia’s UFC debut came just before the pandemic affected the promotion heavily. He lost his first UFC fight in February 2020, dropping a unanimous decision to Luis Pena. He entered the promotion on a four-fight winning streak that included a victory on “Dana White’s Contender Series.”

Ontiveros was stopped in his UFC debut last year, losing his short-notice fight against ranked middleweight Kevin Holland.

Bout 2: Lupita Godinez (5-1) vs. Silvana Juarez (10-2) (Strawweight)

Former LFA Strawweight Champion Lupita Godinez will face UFC newcomer Silvana Juarez in the second fight of the evening.

Godinez took her first pro loss in her UFC debut six months back, dropping a split decision to the returning Jessica Penne. She had scored five pro wins before then, including a title victory over Vanessa Demopoulos on an LFA card last year.

Juarez will be replacing Sam Hughes, who had to withdraw from her strawweight booking. She joins the promotion on a three-fight winning streak that she has developed since 2019.

Bout 3: Charles Rosa (14-5) vs. Damon Jackson (18-4-1) (Featherweight)

UFC veteran Charles Rosa will be paired against Damon Jackson during the prelims on Saturday.

Rosa has flipped between winning and losing since joining the UFC roster in 2014. He currently has an even promotional record of five wins and five losses. Coming off a recent split decision win over Justin Jaynes, Rosa has the chance to break that pattern for the first time on Saturday night.

Jackson took his first UFC loss in his last appearance, getting stopped within a round in late 2020 by Ilia Topuria. His UFC win came just three months before then, pulling off an upset submission win over Mirsad Bektic.

Bout 4: Alexandr Romanov (14-0) vs. Jared Vanderaa (12-5) (Heavyweight)

The short prelims will conclude with a heavyweight battle between undefeated Alexandr Romanov and Jared Vanderaa.

Romanov has attained three wins since joining the UFC roster last year. He scored the first scorecard win of his career in April, defeating Juan Espino via technical decision. His 13 previous wins all came via finish, including two submission wins in the UFC.

Vanderaa picked up his first UFC win in May, defeating Justin Tafa on scorecards. He was stopped in his prior appearance by Serghei Spivac.

Main Card (4:00PM EDT / 1:00PM PDT) (ESPN+ / UFC Fight Pass Canada)

Bout 5: Chris Gutierrez (16-3-2) vs. Felipe Colares (10-2) (Bantamweight)

Looking to continue his climb up the UFC bantamweight division, Chris Gutierrez will face Felipe Colares in the opening bout of the main card.

Gutierrez has won four of his last five, with the other outcome being a draw. He last fought in February, defeating Andre Ewell via unanimous decision.

Colares is also coming off a win, having defeated Luke Sanders via decision in May.

Bout 6: Mariya Agapova (9-2) vs. Sabina Mazo (9-2) (Flyweight)

Appearing after a year out of the cage, Mariya Agapova will fight Sabina Mazo on Saturday night.

Agapova had a quick UFC debut win in June 2020, stopping Hannah Cifers within a round via rear naked choke. She was on the losing side of an upset outcome just two months later, getting stopped by Shana Dobson via second-round ground and pound. Now after 14 months out of the cage, Agapova has the chance to bounce back from her sole promotional loss.

Mazo had a strong three-fight winning streak in the UFC broken early this year, losing a decision to Alexis Davis.

Bout 7: Tim Elliott (17-11-1) vs. Matheus Nicolau (16-2-1) (Flyweight)

Matheus Nicolau will face a veteran in Tim Elliott as part of Saturday’s main card.

Nicolau had a successful return to the UFC in March, defeating former RIZIN Bantamweight Champion Manel Kape. The fight was his first appearance in the promotion since 2018, and he was coming back to the roster after two wins on the regional scene in 2019.

Nicolau has a UFC record of four wins and one loss through his two stints with the promotion.

Elliott, a 15-fight UFC vet, will be looking to string together a three-fight winning streak for the first time since being in the promotion. His last two victories have come via scorecards, defeating Ryan Benoit and Jordan Espinosa over the past 14 months.

Bout 8: Randy Brown (13-4) vs. Jared Gooden (18-6) (Welterweight)

After earning a explosive and potentially necessary win in his last fight, Jared Gooden will face Randy Brown in the co-main event of Saturday’s card.

Gooden broke a two-fight losing streak in July, pulling off a stoppage victory in just over a minute against Niklas Stolze. The fight stopped him from going winless in his first three UFC fights – a streak that usually signals the end of someone’s run with the promotion.

Gooden missed weight for the fight on Friday, coming in three pounds over the non-championship limit at welterweight.

He now fights Brown, who has spent more than half of his UFC career in the UFC. He returned to the win column in April, defeating veteran Alex Oliveira in the first round with a rear naked choke.

Bout 9: Marina Rodriguez (14-1-2) vs. Mackenzie Dern (11-1) (Strawweight)

Marina Rodriguez and Mackenzie Dern have the chance to elevate their name as one of the top fighters at 115-pounds with a win in Saturday night’s main event.

Dern and Rodriguez sit at fourth and sixth respectively in UFC’s strawweight rankings. Above them are four names (one who is tied with Dern), and of them, three are former champions.

A win on Saturday will not earn Dern or Rodriguez a title shot, but it will give the winner a very real chance of being in that position in a year’s time potentially.

Dern has been on a roll since returning in May 2020. She has picked up four victories in that time, with three of them being first-round submissions. She last fought in April, needing just under five minutes to finish Nina Nunes with an armbar for the win.

Saturday night’s bout will be Dern’s first appearance in a UFC main event.

Rodriguez has won her last two. Her last loss was last year, as former champ Carla Esparza picked up a split decision over her. She has since had two big wins, stopping the momentum of rising contender Amanda Ribas and going five rounds against Michelle Waterson in May for a decision victory.

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