On Saturday, July 16, the UFC put together a stacked card in the middle of the day. The promotion returns to the east coast asUFC no ABC: Ortega vs. rodrigueztakes place at the UBS Arena in Elmont, N.Y. on Long Island. The top three featherweight contenders will look to take a giant step toward a title shot with a win when two-time title challenger Brian Ortega faces Yair Rodriguez.
The last time fans saw Ortega, he was in a Fight of the Night title battle when he lost in a thriller to Alexander Volkanovski. Despite the blows to his feet, Ortega came close to subduing the champion on several occasions and will have to rely on his shot to beat Rodríguez.
Rodriguez is also coming off a fight night loss against former featherweight champion Max Holloway. Regardless of the outcome, this fight should be fireworks once the opening bell rings.
The main event takes place in the women's strawweight division, when perennial contender Michelle Waterson takes on Amanda Lemos. Waterson has had a rough run of late, but she still sits 10th in the official UFC rankings. Her opponent, Lemos, is one place below her at number eleven and will look to break into the top ten with a win.
Also on the main card is the rescheduled women's flyweight bout between former bantamweight champion Miesha Tate and Lauren Murphy. This fight was originally scheduled for May before being moved to the UFC 276 card, where it too was scrapped after Murphy tested positive for COVID-19.
The event will be broadcast in its entirety onESPN+starting at 11 a.m. ET. In addition, the preliminary card will be broadcast live onESPNat 2 p.m. m. ET, followed by the ABC main card at 2 p.m. m. ET Combat Press writers Andrew Sumian and Matt Petela preview the action in this week's Toe-to-Toe issue.
Both fighters in this weekend's main event are coming off losses; What featherweight fighter gets back on track with a win?
Sumiano:The main event matchup between Yair Rodriguez and Brian Ortega is a perfect example of a matchup executed well. Both fighters are in the top five ranked under 145 pounds, but have struggled to defeat the division's elite Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway. A win for Ortega would likely put him in position to play on the undercard against Josh Emmett, as the loss to the champion is still fresh. A Rodríguez win is sure to result in a title shot for the Mexico native and present a new challenge for the unstoppable champion.
Brian Ortega is too tough for his own good. The two-time featherweight title challenger has been in two of the most epic featherweight title fights in UFC history and has suffered considerable damage in both fights. Ortega's grappling is prolific, while his striking continues to improve with each performance in the Octagon. Even so, the Californian's ability to win usually comes from field work and he has seven submission victories.
Rodríguez has been on the cusp of greatness several times throughout his career. Once a talented contender who displayed flashy punches, Rodriguez has firmly established himself as a top-tier fighter capable of taking on the best featherweights in the world. His biggest problem has been staying constantly active, and he's only competed in the UFC four times since November 2018. A win over Ortega sets up the always-entertaining Rodriguez as the next contender for Volkanovski's reign.
If this fight continues on the feet and Rodriguez can use his kicks and reach, he will win a clear unanimous decision over Ortega. Ortega has improved a lot with his feet, but he is still far behind Rodríguez as a striker. Ortega's path to victory will likely come through constant submission or turf control. We have seen Rodríguez dominated on the ground by Frankie Edgar in the past, but we can only assume that he has improved in the grip department since 2017. When all is said and done, Rodríguez will raise his hand by winning a clear 49:46 decision and he will probably have the next chance to be the champion.
Get into:As with most weeks, my colleague and I agree on many points except what the final result of this week's main event will be. There's no question that Brian Ortega is too tough for his own good. Even in a sport filled with the toughest athletes on the planet, he stands out for his tenacity. We also agree that the longer this fight goes on, the more lopsided the fight will be in favor of Yair Rodriguez. I just don't think Rodriguez can avoid getting locked into a Brian Ortega submission for 25 minutes.
Alexander Volkanovski proved he is a cut above every other featherweight on the planet in his dominating win over Max Holloway. In some moments of the confrontation with Ortega, even the champion seemed to be in danger and about to be subdued by "T-City". Those submission threats did not occur early in the fight, where both men were fresh and close to 100 percent. They arrived after Ortega had already sustained a barrage of damage.
This weekend will be a lot like Ortega's title fight, where he failed, except this weekend, Rodriguez won't be able to evade submission attempts like Volkanovski did. Expect Rodriguez to break Ortega in the first 10 minutes or so, landing long combinations as Ortega takes on "El Pantera" sparingly in the early rounds. When it looks like Ortega is down on the scoreboard to the point of having to submit, he grabs Rodríguez's neck and doesn't let go until he forces the touch. Having lost to the champion, this fight won't give Ortega another title shot, but it will leave him one more win away from a second chance to unseat Volkanovski.
Michelle Waterson has been struggling recently, losing three of her last four fights; How is the "karate babe" in the fight against Amanda Lemos?
Get into:This is a very winnable fight for Michelle Waterson. Of the two women in this weekend's co-main event, she has much more strength on the calendar. And, while she faltered against some of the elite fighters, she also beat notable fighters like Angela Hill and Karolina Kowalkiewicz. Amanda Lemos also has a win over Hill, but, outside of that feud, the only time she faced high competition was in her last fight against Jessica Andrade, when she was submitted in the first round in a triangle arm choke.
While both women have shown that they are very talented fighters, the difference in this fight will be Waterson's experience. She has fought three times in a main event, while Lemos only has one previous main event to her credit. In all of Waterson's scheduled five-round fights, she went all the way. As noted above, Lemos didn't make it past the first round when she fought in a five-round main event. This fight will be tested up close with both technical attackers constantly going down throughout. Once the bell rings for round four, the veteran Waterson will have more gas in his tank and will start to pull away. Although Waterson's title aspirations are over, she remains a worthy competitor for any fighter looking to rise to the top of the division.
Sumiano:I agree with my colleague that Waterson certainly has the experience advantage in this fight. However, Amanda Lemos will emerge victorious from this fight. Waterson is far from the fighter she was five years ago, when she was a top contender. She has seemed less and less able to compete with the best in the division for several years now. Lemos' strength and physical advantages will make the difference here, and she will pick up a much-needed win over a big name in Waterson.
Emily Ducote: do we need to know her name?
Sumiano:Ducote is an experienced women's strawweight and most recently won her first defense of the Invicta FC strawweight title before signing with the UFC. She trains at American Top Team OKC, holds a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu and is coming off three straight victories in her UFC debut. She is certainly an interesting newcomer to keep an eye on, and a win over Jessica Penne will demand attention to her name if she performs impressively.
Get into:Yes, Emily Ducote is the real deal. She struggled when she fought high caliber wrestlers inside the Bellator cage, but that was largely due to her inexperience and lack of maturity as a wrestler. She is reaching her physical peak now at 28 and has really rounded out her skill set. Ducote has now found a home in the strawweight division and will be a name to watch for years to come.
What is at stake in the career of a UFC fighter in this event?
Get into:Dalcha Lungiambula. After breaking into the UFC with a TKO victory over Dequan Townsend, the former EFC champion stumbled a bit. He has lost three of his last four fights, including two in a row. His opponent, Punahele Soriano, also comes into the fight with two consecutive losses, so the two fight against the ropes. They will stay and trade until one man is knocked out and unfortunately for Lungiambula he will be homeless within the UFC.
Sumiano:The underdog of Dwight Grant and Dustin Stoltzfus is a guaranteed roster cut. Both men have been disappointing throughout their UFC careers, and the underdog has no reason to stay.
What fight is the sleeping combination on this card?
Sumiano:It's absolutely baffling why Michelle Waterson and Amanda Lemos are in the co-main event, when this card has so many intriguing fights. Aside from the main event, the most compelling matchup is Jack Shore vs. Ricky Simon at bantamweight. Both are top 15 bantamweights with top 10 finishes. Shore is an unbeaten contender looking better with each Octagon appearance, while Simon is riding a growing four-fight win streak. This fight deserves the main event spotlight and has to be one of the best, if not the best, fight of the night.
Get into:Bill Algeo vs. Herbert Burns. These two featherweights will bring the heat. Algeo combines the determination of a Philly fighter with the swagger of a superstar, and Burns enters the fight badly needing to regain momentum after losing weight and submitting in his last fight. The two will put on a show and stand out in an afternoon filled with captivating combat.
Who takes home the “Performance of the Night” award?
Get into:Shane Burgos. It seems like every time he steps into the cage, Burgos is in a total barn. He's missed several times, but this weekend he'll end up on the proper ending of a highlight reel. His fight with Charles Jourdain will be exciting while it lasts, but before the judges' scorecards are needed, Burgos will land a punch late in the fight and earn an extra $50,000 for his efforts.
Sumiano:I love that my colleague has chosen Shane Burgos, because I will choose the exact opposite in Charles Jourdain. Many agree that this is one of the best fights on the card and it will be fun from start to finish. However, Jourdain has been on the rise of late and will have the best performance of his career when he defeats Burgos in the second round. Jourdain is just 26 years old and will quickly establish himself as one of the top prospects in the UFC's featherweight division.
Combine this card with…
Sumiano:The perfect start to the weekend. This card starts at 8am. m. Pacific time, but it's loaded from top to bottom with fan-friendly brawls. The main card is fired at 11 am. m. PT and will be a great way to start the weekend, weather permitting. A brunch accompanied by Bailey's and coffee can be the beginning of a wonderful Saturday morning.
Get into:This is a Bloody Mary billboard. Filled with must-see tracks from the opening to the main event, there will be no shortage of bloodshed. Be sure to add some Tabasco sauce to this batch of Bloody Marys, because these fights are sure to be spicy.
(it's not happening)
|To struggle||sumian's choice||Petela's Choice|
|Main card (ABC/ESPN+, 2 p.m. ET)|
|FW: Brian Ortega vs. Yair Rodriguez||Rodríguez||ortega|
|Female handjob: Michelle Waterson vs. amanda lemos||lemos||Waterson|
|WW: Li Jingliang contra Muslim Salikhov||Salikhov||Jingliang|
|FlyW: Matt Schnell vs. Sumudaerji||Sumudaerji||Sumudaerji|
|FW: Shane Burgos vs. Charles Jourdain||Jordan||Burgos|
|FlyW Femenino: Lauren Murphy vs. miesha-tate||murphy||tate|
|Preliminary Card (ESPN/ESPN+, 11am ET)|
|MW: Punahele Soriano vs. Dalcha Lungiambula||soriano||soriano|
|BW: Ricky Simon contra Jack Shore||Costa||Costa|
|FW: Bill Algeo contra Herbert Burns||Burns||Algeo|
|LHW: Dustin Jacoby vs. Da Un Jung||jacoby||jacoby|
|MW: Dwight Grant contra Dustin Stoltzfus||Stoltzfus||Stoltzfus|
|Paja femenina: Jessica Penne vs. Emily Ducote||ducote||ducote|