Marina Rodriguez to Fight Amanda Lemos at UFC 280

Marina Rodriguez has lined up her next opponent…

The 35-year-old Brazilian mixed martial artist will face Amanda Lemos at UFC 280 on October 22 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Marina RodriguezRodriguez and Lemos, two of the top women’s strawweight fighters in the world, form part of one of the UFC‘s deepest cards of the year.

The winner of the bout could have the inside track on a title shot. Rodriguez is the No. 4 women’s strawweight in ESPN‘s rankings, while Lemos is No. 9.

In addition, sources told ESPN that Rodriguez and former UFC women’s strawweight champion Jessica Andrade have left manager Tiago Okamura to sign with Ali Abdelaziz of Dominance MMA, who represents the likes of welterweight champion Kamaru Usman and former pound-for-pound king Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Rodriguez (16-1-2 overall, 6-1-2 UFC) has won four straight and is coming off a split decision win over Yan Xiaonan at UFC 272 in March. The Brazilian fighter’s only career loss was a close split decision defeat to current UFC women’s strawweight champion Carla Esparza in 2020.

Lemos (12-2-1), also 35, has won six of her past seven fights, including a second-round submission victory over Michelle Waterson this past weekend at UFC Long Island. The Brazilian fighter’s only loss since 2017 came to Andrade in April. Lemos has finished four of her six wins inside the UFC Octagon.

UFC 280 will be headlined by a fight between former champion Charles Oliveira and Islam Makhachev for the vacant lightweight title. Also on the card, lightweight standouts Beneil Dariush and Mateusz Gamrot will meet in a potential title eliminator.

Carla Esparza Defeats Rose Namajunas to Claim UFC Strawweight Championship

Carla Esparza has added to her career honors…

The 34-year-old Latina mixed martial artist upset reigning champion Rose Namajunas to claim the UFC strawweight championship on Saturday.

Carla EsparzaIn one of the most bizarre title fights in UFC history, Esparza (19-6) upset Namajunas (11-5) via split decision in the co-main event of UFC 274 inside Footprint Center.

Two judges scored the fight for Esparza 49-46 and 48-47. A third had it for Namajunas 48-47.

According to UFC Stats, Namajunas landed just 38 strikes in the five-round fight. Esparza landed 30. It was a fight in which neither woman appeared to have any confidence in her skill set. Neither was willing to take risks. Namajunas defended Esparza’s takedowns but still refused to open up with her striking. Esparza marched forward at times with caution. She was mostly ineffective.

“You never want to be a part of a fight like that,” Esparza said. “I went out there and did my best and tried to come forward. I got the win, that’s what counts.”

One of Namajunas’ coaches, Trevor Wittman, begged her to be more active from the third round on, but her other coach and partner Pat Barry appeared to be happy with the game plan. It was obvious that all three wished to avoid Esparza’s takedowns. That was a key difference when they fought the first time back in 2014, in a fight in which Esparza took Namajunas down and submitted her.

Ultimately, Esparza moved to 2-0 over Namajunas — and it’s unclear whether the sport would even allow a third matchup to happen. This 115-pound contest will be remembered as one of the worst title fights in UFC history. After the first round, each fighter was credited with a total of three strikes landed, and the action never picked up.

Esparza, whose wedding is scheduled in less than a week, improves her win streak to six. Namajunas loses for the first time since 2019. It’s the second time she has seen a title reign end.

Tatiana Suarez Medically Cleared for UFC Return in Near Future

Tatiana Suarez is cleared for combat…

The 30-year-old Mexican American professional mixed martial artist, one of the best women’s MMA fighters in the world, is finally close to returning to the Octagon.

Tatiana SuarezSuarez told ESPN in a video interview published Wednesday that she has been medically cleared by doctors and is targeting a return to the UFC in September, or perhaps even as early as August.

Suarez has been sidelined by a recurring bulging disc in her neck since June 2019.

“I’m super excited to get back out there,” she said. “It’s fun to practice, for sure. But it’s just different competing. Everybody knows that. It’s super exciting to just show what you’re working on.”

Suarez (8-0) said she was cleared for live training in February, but then she broke her hand and suffered a concussion while wrestling in her front yard with her boyfriend. Those were minor setbacks, she said, but she has been back to training now for the past several weeks and plans on starting a training camp “soon.”

When she comes back, Suarez said she plans to try her hand at a new division: flyweight. Suarez had dominated the UFC’s women’s strawweight division before the injury cropped up two years ago. But she said that cutting to 115 pounds left her feeling weak and tired on fight night and not as explosive as she is in training. Suarez said she’d like to see what it feels like to compete at 125 pounds, at least initially upon her return.

“Maybe if I’m not cutting too much weight at all, I’ll be a little more stronger and explosive,” Suarez said.

Suarez has won all five of her UFC fights and was the Ultimate Fighter 23 winner in 2016. The California native came close to competing in the 2012 Summer Olympics in wrestling, but the neck injury and a bout with thyroid cancer marred those plans.

Suarez has wins over former UFC strawweight champion Carla Esparza and current flyweight contender Alexa Grasso.

When asked how she thinks she could match up with women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko, one of the top three women’s fighters on the planet, Suarez said she believes very well.

“I do think I have a good skill set in terms of my wrestling [that] can give her trouble,” Suarez said.