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UFC Fight Night Main Event Odds, Pick & Prediction for Marina Rodriguez vs. Michelle Waterson (Saturday, May 8)

UFC Fight Night Main Event Odds, Pick & Prediction for Marina Rodriguez vs. Michelle Waterson (Saturday, May 8) article feature image

Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images. Pictured: UFC fighter Marina Rodriguez.

  • Two strawweight contenders -- No. 7 contender Marina Rodriguez and No. 8 Michelle Waterson -- meet in a flyweight showdown.
  • The bout was moved to the main event on short notice following the postponement of Cory Sandhagen and T.J. Dillashaw.
  • See how Sean Zerillo is betting the main event.

Rodriguez vs. Waterson Odds

Rodriguez odds
Waterson odds
4.5 (-230 / +165)
UFC APEX, Las Vegas
Approx. 10:30 p.m. ET
Odds as of Friday and via DraftKings.

The UFC continues its run in the small cage at that APEX in Las Vegas on Saturday, with a flyweight showdown between a pair of strawweight contenders – No. 7 contender Marina Rodriguez and No. 8 Michelle Waterson.

This bout is a late replacement in the main event slot. Instead of a matchup between Cory Sandhagen and T.J. Dillashaw, it will still be a five-round fight, and the two women will only cut to 125 instead of 115, given the short notice.

Both fighters are fresh off of wins against a pair of colleagues (Amanda Ribas and Angela Hill) fighting on the main card. Rodriguez scored a second-round knockout over Ribas in January, while Waterson earned a split decision over HIll in a fight night main event last September.

Below I preview the matchup and odds for Saturday’s fight. For more analysis on the rest of the card, you can check out my projections for the entire slate, along with our MMA crew’s best bets for Saturday night here.

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Tale of the Tape

Rodriguez Waterson
Record 13-1-2 18-8
Avg. Fight Time 12:00 13:58
Height 5’6″ 5’3″
Weight (pounds) 125 lbs. 125 lbs.
Reach (inches) 65″ 62″
Stance Orthodox Orthodox
Date of birth 4/29/87 1/6/86
Sig Strikes Per Min 4.86 3.58
SS Accuracy 50% 49%
SS Absorbed Per Min 3.16 4.00
SS Defense 53% 49%
Take Down Avg 0.36 1.52
TD Acc 33% 34%
TD Def 59% 67%
Submission Avg 0.2 0.9

Rodriguez opened as a -155 favorite (implied 60.8%) for this fight, and her implied odds climbed nearly 10 percentage points to as high as -225 (69.2%) ahead of Friday’s weigh-ins.

Waterson, a natural Atomweight, was already small for Strawweight, and the additional 10 pounds figures to help Rodriguez retain extra strength and stamina before her first main event appearance.

In a three-round fight at 115, you could probably give more credence to Waterson’s chances, but a five-round battle at 125 plays to Rodriguez in a big way, especially in a small cage.

Rodriguez should carry significantly more power and strength than her opponent. While Waterson’s outside jab and kick game could win minutes on the feet, Rodriguez will try to walk through that power and bully Waterson in the clinch with her Muay Thai.

Due to the power differential, Waterson is likely in danger either in the pocket or in the clinch in this matchup. In the smaller 25-foot-octagon, Waterson has less room to maneuver, while Rodriguez doesn’t have to waste as much energy closing the distance.

If Waterson cannot chip away from the outside, then she needs to try to peel Rodriguez (59% takedown defense) to the mat (1.52 takedowns per 15 minutes, 34% accuracy for Waterson) and either hold top position or hunt for a submission.

Waterson’s striking battle with Hill (lost 131-128 on significant strikes, won 162-146 on total strikes) was razor-thin, but she had double the amount of control time (4:03 to 2:10), which might have helped to swing close rounds:

Rodriguez is often content to lay on her back and hunt for submissions rather than trying to explode back to her feet — that leaves her vulnerable to losing both minutes and rounds against solid grapplers. Rodriguez allowed eight takedowns and spent 13 of 30 total minutes being controlled in her most recent losses to Carla Esparza and Cynthia Calvillo, for instance.

Going in blind, I would say that 1) if Waterson cannot secure any takedowns, she’s very likely going to lose this fight; 2) if she can secure takedowns in separate rounds and ride out top time, she could certainly steal a round on the feet with volume, too; and 3) if she can secure takedowns in three or more rounds, Waterson has a strong chance of winning this fight.

However, Waterson will be very undersized for the 125 limit, and the strength and power discrepancy is going to be pretty massive, especially over the course of 25 minutes. Waterson’s wrestling is also lacking — she went 1-for-18 on takedown attempts against Hill over the course of 25 minutes. Hill might be a better defensive grappler than Rodriguez, but Marina’s strength could be a real issue for Waterson at this weight.

Waterson has a path to victory with volume and control, but I don’t give her much finishing upside unless Rodriguez manages to give up her back. Meanwhile, Rodriguez should remain dangerous for the duration of the contest — and I think she’ll be the clear optics winner concerning damage:


Rodriguez rocks Ribas then begans to celebrate but it's not over! #UFC257

— UFC (@ufc) January 24, 2021

Rodriguez vs. Waterson Pick

I projected Marina Rodriguez as a 69% favorite in this fight, and I would have considered a bet on Rodriguez’s moneyline at around -200 (implied 66.7%) or better. Still, I cannot recommend a moneyline play on either side.

Furthermore, I projected this fight to go the distance 66% of the time (implied odds of -196), so I cannot recommend a bet on the total, although the Under 4.5 Rounds (+165) and some adjusted totals like Under 1.5 (+600) caught my attention.

I don’t see value in the winning method market, either. The two most likely outcomes are Rodriguez by decision (listed +120, projected +142) and Waterson by decision (listed +275, projected +302). Still, I think Rodriguez is very live to win inside the distance (listed +240, projected +262), and that’s where I would put my money.

I have Rodriguez winning the fight 69% of the time and winning inside the distance 40% of the time, which is how I get to that projected number of +262 (or 27.6%). But if you bump her ITD chances by 5% to 45%, the projection adjusts to +223, and if you make those chances 50%, you’re looking at odds closer to +189.

That’s what’s so difficult about betting any sport: small percentages make all the difference and turn a value bet into a -EV play based on subtle changes.

Typically, I only bet my projected edges. Still, fights are far more difficult to project than a sport like baseball, for instance, and if I feel like I have a strong read on a fight outcome (and if the projection is within a reasonable range), I’m always willing to take a shot.

I would place a small bet (0.25 units) on Rodriguez to win inside the distance, at +223 (implied 31%) or better since I can make that projection as high as 34.5%. The power discrepancy in this matchup at 125 and this stylistic clash in a small cage is likely undervalued.

The Pick: Marina Rodriguez wins Inside the Distance (+240, 0.25 units)

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