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Marina Rodriguez targets title by 2022’s end, aims to finish Yan Xiaonan

Marina Rodriguez made 2021 her year by stringing together three big wins. In 2022, she finds herself on the precipice of her first career title opportunity.

The Brazilian’s 2022 campaign will kick off at UFC 272 on March 5 when taking on fellow striker, Yan Xiaonan. With only one finish under her belt inside the octagon, Rodriguez plans on securing another against her Chinese counterpart.

After that? She’s coming for gold.

“The only thing that’s on my mind is winning the next fight and getting shot for the belt and winning the fight to become the next world champion. That’s my goal. Ending this year as strawweight champion in the UFC,” Rodriguez told My MMA News.

Rodriguez closed out 2021 as the No. 3 ranked UFC strawweight contender off the heels of an impressive win over Mackenzie Dern. With Dern being one of the most feared Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners in the sport, many counted out the talented Muay Thai-based striker.

The 34-year old Florianopolis native described herself and her team as perfectly ready for the styles clash. It’s no secret for any opponent what Dern is best at. But as Rodriguez reminded the doubters, there’s more to MMA than just the ground game.

“That’s part of training, isn’t it?” Rodriguez said of building confidence off surviving Dern’s BJJ. “Each fight, I realize I’m a new fighter. I gain new abilities and I become a better fighter because I have stronger bases. On the outside, whoever was looking at that fight, it might have seemed that sometimes I was in trouble. But I wasn’t, I was winning her game every second there and I knew what I was doing.”

Despite Rodriguez’s clear success defensively against Dern, she even offered up offensive threats of her own.

Dern found herself caught in a problematic anaconda choke while on top mid-way through round two. However, being the talented grappler she is, she managed to escape.

“I thought ‘I’m gonna finish Mackenzie Dern. Is this real?'” Rodriguez said with a smile. “But then, as she’s so good on the ground, she was able to get out of the position and I thought after, ‘Okay, I won’t be able to get the finish in this fight, but next fight I’ll get it.’

“To tell you the truth, there’s a list of ways that I imagine finishing people. I feel like each time I’m getting closer to showing my true self and showing my confidence and I think that we’ll end up seeing these finishes become a reality.”

Rodriguez will have a great opportunity at finding her next finish when colliding with Yan in March. The matchup will be a true striker’s delight and one that excites the Brazilian as she inches closer to a title shot.

The probability of the bout hitting the mat is low, and Rodriguez doesn’t want it to go there anyway.

For Yan, she’s fresh off a tough defeat to the next title challenger and former champion, Carla Esparza – the lone woman to defeat Rodriguez. Yan being in rebound mound provides Rodriguez with the belief that her adversary will come in all the hungrier to stop her momentum.

“She was already someone that was on our radar for a while,” Rodriguez said. “As I won’t get the next title shot, because Carla Esparza is going to get it, deservedly… I was really happy to get this fight because I wasn’t willing to wait to be the next one in line. So Yan Xiaonan was the perfect fit for this moment. I’m able to stay in fighting mode, getting warmed up and preparing myself, and the goal is to get a strong finish so that I can at the end say that I am the next contender for the belt.”

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