Rodriguez vs. Waterson goes down on Saturday night
The UFC is back on ESPN this weekend for UFC on ESPN 24. The main event was supposed to be Cory Sandhagen vs. a returning T.J. Dillashaw; however, the MMA Gods have stolen that from us. The new main event is No. 6 ranked strawweight Marina Rodriguez vs. No. 9 Michelle Waterson. Before you roll your eyes, Waterson stepped up to main event a fight card last September, and it was a great fight. If you look past the main event, there are some under-the-radar storylines.
The Return of Gregor
The last time Gregor Gillespie was in action was on November 2, 2019, where Kevin Lee brutally knocked him out. He hasn’t competed since. Gillespie was supposed to return two months ago in March, but his fight was canceled the day of because his opponent’s camp had a positive COVID test. Fast forward, and he is back again with a new opponent and a ranked one at that. MMA is plagued by recency bias and the ol’ ‘what have you done for me lately’ phrase, and because of that, Gillespie has been forgotten. Well, if you have forgotten him, go back and watch his resume. “The Gift” is a problem. Before he was knocked out, he was undefeated, and since his UFC debut, he finished all of his fights.
Phil Hawes vs. Kyle Daukaus
Hawes vs. Daukaus is the most slept-on fight of the night, and it has the potential to steal the night. Hawes has finally emerged as the prospect that everyone thought he was way back when he was Jon Jones’ prodigy and when he lost on The Ultimate Fighter. After getting brutally knocked out on season one of Dana White’s Contender Series, and with everyone doubting him, he regrouped and has not lost since – looking fantastic while doing so. While Daukaus hasn’t had the same shine as his heavyweight brother Chris, he still has looked excellent in his two UFC fights. In his first fight, he stepped up on short notice to fight Brendan Allen and gave him all he could handle in his first professional loss. Daukaus would rebound with a dominant win over Dustin Stoltzfus. A win for either fighter will get them a top 15 matchup for their next fight. Also, fun fact, according to James Lynch, Hawes is already booked against Deron Winn in July.
Another Potential African Stud
Tafon Nchukwi makes his second walk to the octagon on Saturday against Jun Yong Park. Nchukwi is another African-born fighter, hailing from Cameroon, and he is a savage. The crazy thing is that he only has five professional fights and only had three when he made his appearance on season four of Dana White’s Contender Series, where he viciously knocked out Al Matavao in the main event. Going into his UFC debut last December against Jaime Pickett, he had four fights with four knockouts. Nchukwi would win a unanimous decision showing that he can go 15 minutes if need be. When the UFC goes to Africa in 2022, they can add Nchukwi’s name to this fight card, for sure.
Carlston Harris debut
Carlston “Moçambique” Harris makes his UFC debut this weekend against Christian Aguilera. Harris is a veteran of the XFC, Shooto Brasil, UAE Warriors, and a former Brave welterweight champion. He holds a win over UFC rising star Michel Pereira and Wellington Turman. Harris is riding a three-fight win streak with three finishes. Harris has tons of flashy finishes in his 15 wins. His opponent is going to willing to meet him in the middle of the octagon and throw hands. Be on the lookout for Harris and this fight.
Neal vs. Neil
Both Neil Magny and Geoff Neal are coming off a loss. And they are both coming off a main event loss. No. 9 ranked Magny fought Michael Chiesa on the second UFC card of the year back in January on ‘Fight Island.’ He would lose a very dominant unanimous decision. In his first main, No. 10 ranked Neal returned from a horrible health scare and fought Wonderboy Thompson, like his opponent, lost a very dominant decision. With the welterweight division starting to heat up and fighters actually fighting, both Magny and Neal will be looking to bounce back in a big way and make a statement.
Don’t Blink, Ľudovít Klein Is Fighting
Klein made his anticipated UFC debut on short notice at UFC 253 last September on ‘Fight Island.’ He would end up knocking out Shane Young in the first round, becoming the first fighter from Slovakia to earn a UFC win. There was an asterisk with the win because Klein missed weight. “Mr. Highlight” returns against Ulitmate Fighter season 27 winner Mike Trizano. Klein holds an 87% finish rate in his 17 wins and is must watch TV. He is on an eight-fight win streak with seven finishes, four in the first round. Don’t blink in this fight; it is going to be good.
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MMA and Entertainment Journalist. Graduated from CSUN with a B.A in Journalism. I love MMA and have been watching consistently since 2004.