Marina Rodriguez in Final Talks to Fight Mackenzie Dern in October ‘UFC Fight Night”

Marina Rodriguez has lined up her next challenger…

The UFC is targeting an important strawweight fight between the 34-year-old Brazilian mixed martial artist and Mackenzie Dern to headline a card in October, according to ESPN.

Marina RodriguezContracts haven’t been signed, but the 115-pound contest is close to being finalized, according to sources.

The fight is expected to headline UFC Fight Night on October 9, at a location to be determined.

Rodriguez and Dern are the Nos. 5- and 6-ranked strawweights, respectively, in UFC.

Rodriguez (14-1-2) is coming off a five-round unanimous decision over Michelle Waterson in May. She has surged up the 115-pound rankings with victories over Waterson and Amanda Ribas. She is 4-1-2 overall in the UFC.

Dern (11-1) has been on a tear since returning to the sport after giving birth to her first child in 2019. She went 3-0 in 2020 with two finishes, including a first-round armbar finish over Nina Nunes in April.

Marina Rodriguez Defeats Michelle Waterson By Unanimous Decision

And the wins keep on coming for Marina Rodriguez.

The 34-year-old Brazilian mixed martial artist defeated Michelle Waterson, using her Muay Thai striking effectively en route to a unanimous decision (48-47, 49-46, 49-46) win in the UFC Fight Night main event on Saturday in Las Vegas.

Marina Rodriguez

It was one of the best career performances for Rodriguez, who didn’t arrive in Las Vegas until Thursday, two days later than every other fighter on the card.

Rodriguez had struggles getting a visa into the United States because of COVID-19 and spent 20 hours in travel over Wednesday and Thursday morning.

But in the end, none of that ended up mattering.

“There were so many challenges, but the big thing was just armoring my mind,” Rodriguez said after the fight through a translator. “The whole team put our shields up. We knew it would be different and we couldn’t be shaken by it.”

The initially scheduled main event Saturday was former bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw taking on top contender Cory Sandhagen. But Dillashaw withdrew last week because of injury. That bout will be rebooked.

Rodriguez and Waterson didn’t agree to this bout — up a division at flyweight because of the timing — until April 27, and the UFC didn’t make it official until this past Tuesday.

The first three rounds featured Rodriguez chewing Waterson up with big right hands, knees out of a Thai clinch and elbows with Waterson against the cage. As hard as Rodriguez tried, though, she could not get the durable Waterson out of there. And Waterson mounted a huge comeback in the fourth round.

Waterson took Rodriguez down in the fourth and landed big elbows from half guard. In the fifth round, Waterson landed a head kick that wobbled Rodriguez and caused bad swelling on the left of her jaw. Waterson followed that up with a side kick to the body that clearly hurt Rodriguez. In that final, eventful round, Rodriguez was able to score a head kick late that did damage to Waterson.

Coming in, ESPN had Rodriguez ranked No. 6 in the world at strawweight and Waterson ranked No. 9. Rodriguez said the key factor about overcoming her prefight travel chaos “was we were able to come in, show the work we did and get the victory even with everything going against us.”

Rodriguez added that she aims to target a top-three opponent — maybe Joanna Jedrzejczyk — for her next fight and said she feels like she is close to a title shot.

The bout took place with COVID-19 protocols in effect at the UFC Apex, the facility across the street from the promotion’s corporate campus.

Rodriguez (14-1-2) has just one loss in seven UFC outings and now has two straight wins.

The Muay Thai specialist was coming off a second-round TKO win over prospect Amanda Ribas in January. Rodriguez, 34, has lost only to former champion Carla Esparza in the UFC, but she has a pair of draws against Cynthia Calvillo and Randa Markos.

Waterson (18-9) is the former Invicta FC atomweight champion and one of the most popular women’s fighters on the UFC roster. Fighting out of New Mexico, Waterson was coming off a split decision win over Angela Hill last September, which snapped a two-fight losing skid. Waterson has won four of six fights overall.

“[Waterson is] so experienced,” Rodriguez said. “That’s the thing I knew going into it. When she was Invicta champion, that was [around the same time as] my first Muay Thai class. I looked up to her, too. I knew she was very tough. To go five rounds with her and win, it’s an amazing feat for my career.”

Marina Rodriguez to Fight Michelle Waterson in Saturday’s UFC Fight Night

Marina Rodriguez is heading to the Octagon

The 34-year-old Brazilian mixed martial artist will face off against Michelle Waterson in the UFC Fight Night headliner on Saturday in Las Vegas.

Marina Rodriguez

The originally scheduled main event between former bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw and top contender Cory Sandhagen was postponed last week due to a Dillashaw injury.

Rodriguez and Waterson are both top strawweights, but the bout will be contested a division up at flyweight due to the short-notice nature of the situation. The bout will still be five rounds, like typical UFC main events.

ESPN has Rodriguez ranked No. 6 in the world at strawweight; Waterson comes in at No. 9.

Rodriguez (13-1-2) has just one loss in six UFC appearances. She is coming off a second-round TKO win over prospect Amanda Ribas in January.

Rodriguez has lost just once in her career, to former UFC women’s strawweight champion Carla Esparza in a split decision last July.

Waterson (18-8) is one of the most well-known women’s fighters in mixed martial arts. Nicknamed “The Karate Hottie,” the New Mexico resident is coming off a split decision win over Angela Hill last September. Waterson has won four of her past six bouts with the only losses coming against Esparza and Joanna Jedrzejczyk, another former UFC champion.

Cynthia Calvillo to Fight Jessica Eye in UFC Fight Night Bout in June

Cynthia Calvillo is heading back to the Octagon next month.

The 32-year-old Latina mixed martial artist and fellow UFC women’s flyweight Jessica Eye have agreed to fight on June 13 at UFC Fight Night, according to ESPN.

Cynthia Calvillo

The bout would headline the event, sources said, though a location wasn’t immediately known.

Eye (15-7, 1 NC) is coming off a unanimous decision victory over Viviane Araujo at UFC 245 in December. It was her first fight since she challenged for the flyweight title and suffered a devastating head-kick knockout to champion Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 238 last June.

Eye, who is currently ESPN‘s No. 8-ranked women’s flyweight, has won four of her past five fights.

Calvillo (8-1-1) returns to the Octagon after fighting to a majority draw with Marina Rodriguez in December. That bout was fought at a catchweight after Calvillo missed the contracted strawweight limit.

Next Saturday’s UFC cardis expected to take place at the company’s Apex facility in Las Vegas. The location is subject to change until Wednesday, when the Nevada State Athletic Commission is scheduled to formally vote on reopening the state to combat sports.

NSAC officials indefinitely suspended all combat sports in mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic.