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Guide to UFC on ESPN+ 52: Dern vs. Rodriguez

Getting prepared for UFC action this coming Saturday? Here is everything you need to know about the event with our Guide to UFC on ESPN+ 52.


UFC on ESPN+ 52

Date: October 9, 2021

Location: UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada

Main Card

Start Time: 4:00 p.m. ET, 1:00 p.m. PT

Where to watch: ESPN+

Women’s Strawweights: Mackenzie Dern vs. Marina Rodriguez

Overall Records: Dern 11-1, Rodriguez 15-1-2

UFC Records: Dern 6-1, Rodriguez 4-1-2

Last Fight: Dern def. Nunes–R1 SUB–UFC On ABC 2 (4/10/21), Rodriguez def. Waterson–UDec–UFC On ESPN 24 (5/8/21)

Last Five Fights: Dern 4-1, Rodriguez 3-1-1

Rankings: Dern #4, Rodriguez #6

Betting Odds: Dern -165, Rodriguez +140

Preview: The main event is an intriguing battle in the strawweight division as fourth-ranked Dern takes on sixth-ranked Rodriguez, with potential title eliminator implications in the line. Dern comes into this fight having won four straight to vault right up the divisional rankings. Three of those four wins have seen her do what she does best, and that is submit her opponents, and all three have come inside the first round, including over Nina Nunes in April. She has seven submission wins overall, but she’s also added a new level of striking to her arsenal that has seen her get closer to her potential as of late. This will be Dern’s first main event. Rodriguez is coming into her second straight main event looking to extend her 2-fight win streak. She’s scored wins over Michelle Waterson and Amanda Ribas thus far in 2021, which has put her right back into the title picture. She has just one loss in her career, to current top contender Carla Esparza, but she also has two draws on her record that have kept her from reaching the top-five of the division. Other than those slight blemishes, Rodriguez has been extremely impressive during her career, and her and Dern pose a unique challenge to one another in this one.

This fight will come down to who implements their gameplan the best. We know that Rodriguez is going to want to keep this on the feet and Dern is going to want this on the ground. However, both are adept at what the other does best, so they could easily play into each other. Dern has shown a lot of improved striking and no doubt will be able to hold her own on the feet. Rodriguez has a judo background and is good at defending takedowns. Dern is not a takedown-heavy fighter, as she only has two actual takedowns in her UFC career. What she does really well is bait her opponents into going to the mat with her by being deceptive on the feet. She’s gotten opponents in trouble standing, with constant attacks and pressure, to the point where the opponents are making lapses in judgment and deciding to go to the mat with her. That is a risky proposition for anyone, and something Rodriguez may want to avoid doing even if she can hold her own on the ground.

Dern will likely implement herself on the mat and be dominant, so Rodriguez needs to keep it standing and apply pressure. Dern likes to leg kick and work the jab, but she hasn’t dealt with a high-volume striker like Rodriguez, outside of maybe her loss to Ribas, who Rodriguez finished in January. If Rodriguez can land crisp combinations on the feet and keep Dern from getting her down, the fight goes her way. I just sense Dern is going to be able to get it to the mat and find the submission. This is a close fight to call, and is a toss-up in many ways, but I like Dern to get the win here and inch ever-so-close to a title shot.

PICK: DERN

Welterweights: Randy Brown vs. Jared Gooden

Overall Records: Brown 13-4, Gooden 18-6

UFC Records: Brown 7-4, Gooden 1-2

Last Fight: Brown def. Oliveira–R1 SUB–UFC 261 (4/24/21), Gooden def. Stolze–R1 KO–UFC On ESPN 28 (7/31/21)

Last Five Fights: Brown 3-2, Gooden 3-2

Betting Odds: Brown -250, Gooden +200

Preview: A welterweight bout between two men who like to go for the finish all the time takes place here as Brown and Gooden both look to get a win streak started. Brown is fighting for the second time in 2021, and he looks to notch his second straight win after submitting Alex Oliveira in April. Brown has won three of his last four, and he’s looking to stay active as this is just his third fight over the past 24 months. He’s been shown to be a finisher in his career, as eleven of his 13 wins have come via a finish. Gooden gets right back to action just over two months following his last fight, but he’ll definitely be more prepared for this one than he was his previous bout. He is coming off a 68-second knockout of Niklas Stolze in July in a fight he took just days before the event. It marked his first UFC win, ending his two-fight losing skid, and showed that he is a very dangerous welterweight. Gooden does have a solid 78% finishing rate.

Brown has shown a lot of talent in his UFC career, but he is seemingly starting to put it all together now and coming into his own and his prime. He has become very well-rounded and is an action fighter. The only guy he’s lost to in the past three years is Vicente Luque, who hasn’t been losing to anyone lately. Gooden is stepping up in competition in this one, and maybe it’s because he has some confidence after the quick win over Stolze, but this is a tough match-up for him. Gooden does tend to land more than Brown, but also leaves himself open to getting hit quite often. Both have solid wrestling, but Brown is far superior on the mat. Brown knows he can’t overlook Gooden and knows what Gooden brings to the table, and that’s heavy power and pressure. Brown is the more patient of the two, and I see a methodical approach that he’ll bring being the difference. I don’t know if he’ll finish Gooden, but I like Brown to pick up the win here.

PICK: BROWN

Flyweights: Tim Elliott vs. Matheus Nicolau

Overall Records: Elliott 17-11-1, Nicolau 16-2-1

UFC Records: Elliott 6-9, Nicolau 4-1

Last Fight: Elliott def. Espinosa–UDec–UFC 259 (3/6/21), Nicolau def. Kape–SpDec–UFC On ESPN+ 45 (3/13/21)

Last Five Fights: Elliott 2-3, Nicolau 4-1

Rankings: Elliott #9, Nicolau #11

Betting Odds: Elliott +165, Nicolau -200

Preview: The only other battle between ranked fighters on this show is a flyweight bout that has tons of excitement potential as the always-dangerous Elliott takes on the impressive Nicolau. Elliott is on his first win streak in years, as he’s scored wins in two consecutive fights. He’s coming into this fight having scored a decision over Jordan Espinosa in March, and he’s looking to show that he’s anything but a gatekeeper in the flyweight division and that he can work his way back to another title shot. Nicolau enters the second fight of his second UFC stint looking to extend his three-fight win streak. He returned to the promotion in March, scoring a split decision over Manel Kape in his first UFC fight since July 2018. Nicolau was a victim of the flyweight release spree when they thought they were shutting down the division, as he should’ve never been cut in the first place, and he’s won nine of his last ten fights overall.

This could be a crazy and exciting fight. Both will come forward and go for the attack on the feet, and Nicolau has some solid power. Elliott is a little more crazy and unique and unorthodox on the feet. He leaves himself open to kicks, but he’s going to land with high volume and come at you with a fast pace. Elliott is also the litmus test for most flyweights: he only tends to lose to the elite, and if you beat him, you find yourself in the elite. Nicolau is well-rounded on the feet and mixes everything well, with hard leg kicks and good grappling. He tends to have good takedowns and good takedown defense, but Elliott could take him down. Both men are crafty on the ground, but Elliott is just as unique and funky on the mat as he is on the feet. He’s going to make this a tough fight for Nicolau, but this is one Nicolau can win. I think he will, but it will be interesting watching it happen. I see the difference being Nicolau winning on the feet and wearing Elliott down. I think this will be the most fun fight on the card as well.

PICK: NICOLAU

Women’s Flyweights: Sabina Mazo vs. Mariya Agapova

Overall Records: Mazo 9-2, Agapova 9-2

UFC Records: Mazo 3-2, Agapova 1-1

Last Fight: Davis def. Mazo–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 44 (2/21/21), Dobson def. Agapova–R2 TKO–UFC On ESPN 15 (8/22/20)

Last Five Fights: Mazo 3-2, Agapova 3-2

Betting Odds: Mazo -190, Agapova +155

Preview: A pair of 24-year-old flyweight prospects battle here in a main card slot as Mazo and Agapova both look to get back into the win column and showcase the potential the promotion sees in them. Mazo is moving back down to the flyweight division after fighting as a bantamweight in her last fight. That didn’t go well for her, as she dropped a decision to Alexis Davis in February. That ended a three-fight win streak she was on, so she’ll be looking to start a new one here. Agapova returns to action for the first time in over a year as she looks to bounce back from being on the wrong end of one of the biggest upsets in women’s UFC history. She was last seen in August of last year being finished in the second round by Shana Dobson, which ended her 3-fight win streak. Agapova has had several outside of the cage issues that have been known, but she’s looking to resolve all of that and get back to her winning ways in this one.

Both of these ladies are going to want to mix it up on the feet, and both are high-volume strikers. Mazo lands nearly seven significant strikes per minute, but she does have some defensive flaws. Agapova tends to be more aggressive, throwing from the southpaw position with some fast hands. She lands nearly four significant strikes per minute, and has shown to be more accurate on the feet than Mazo, though she doesn’t throw with as much volume. Agapova should look to throw leg kicks as Mazo has had trouble checking and defending them. Agapova is more of a brawler while Mazo is more technical. Agapova does some good damage in the pocket. If the fight goes to the ground, the two are pretty evenly matched, and Agapova goes for submissions more. She’s also good with the scrambles. Mazo isn’t a strong takedown artist, only having taken down one of her opponents. Mazo is the better striker and more technical, and that should give her the edge in this one, as I expect it to play out on the feet.

PICK: MAZO

Middleweights: Phil Hawes vs. Deron Winn

Overall Records: Hawes 11-2, Winn 7-2

UFC Records: Hawes 3-0, Winn 2-2

Last Fight: Hawes def. Daukaus–UDec–UFC On ESPN 24 (5/8/21), Winn def. Arroyo–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 41 (12/19/20)

Last Five Fights: Hawes 5-0, Winn 3-2

Betting Odds: Hawes -350, Winn +260

Preview: The main card kicks off with a middleweight bout that was pushed back a little bit due to injuries, but Hawes and Winn are set to square off in a battle of two prospects. Hawes has been impressive since joining UFC’s roster, as he’s won his first three appearances since earning a contract on his second shot on the Contender Series. He’s scored seven straight wins overall, and is coming off a decision win over Kyle Daukaus in May. While he has a wrestling base, Hawes has shown himself to be a dangerous finisher, as nine of his eleven professional wins have come by stoppage. Winn is on his second UFC contract, and he’s looking to make a splash and move up the middleweight rankings despite being out-sized by just about everyone in the division. He started his career 6-0, including a win over Eric Spicely in his UFC debut in June 2019, but then dropped two straight fights. He came out of a must-win fight with a decision over Antonio Arroyo in December, and he looks for his fifth career finish in this one.

This could turn into an interesting wrestling battle. Hawes has scored six takedowns over his last two fights, but he has defended all takedowns attempted on him. Winn has had an astounding 17 takedowns in his four UFC bouts, including twelve in his last fight, but he’s been taken down every time an opponent has tried to take him down, though, to be fair, that’s only been twice. However, if Hawes has the same success rate, it’s going to be trouble for Winn. Winn is giving up six inches in height and seven inches in reach, and Hawes is a very physical fighter, so the deck is already stacked against Winn. Hawes is a very accurate striker who also has some solid defense on the feet. He is explosive and has fast hands, and has lots of power.

Winn tends to fight a lot like Daniel Cormier, or at least tries, and that makes sense since the two are close friends and train together. Winn can mix it up to the body if he gets inside the pocket, but he doesn’t have the head movement. Hawes will likely pick him apart inside with some elbows and knees, and Winn won’t be able to fight at a distance. Winn does slow down and Hawes brings the pace. I like Hawes to get a decision in this one.

PICK: HAWES


Preliminary Card

Start Time: 1:30 p.m. ET, 1o:30 a.m. PT

Where to watch: ESPN+

Bantamweights: Chris Gutierrez vs. Felipe Colares

Overall Records: Gutierrez 16-3-2, Colares 10-2

UFC Records: Gutierrez 4-1-1, Colares 2-2

Last Fight: Gutierrez def. Ewell–UDec–UFC 258 (2/13/21), Colares def. Sanders–UDec–UFC On ESPN 23 (5/1/21)

Last Five Fights: Gutierrez 4-0-1, Colares 3-2

Betting Odds: Gutierrez -275, Colares +210

Preview: The featured prelim features one of the more underrated and under-talked about bantamweights as Gutierrez looks to improve on an impressive streak when he welcomes Colares back down to 135 lbs. Gutierrez is unbeaten in his last five fights, and he’s looking for his second straight win after scoring a decision over Andre Ewell in February. The only blemishes he’s had in UFC so far was a loss to Raoni Barcelos in his promotional debut, and a draw with Cody Durden in a fight he had a huge comeback in. He’ll be looking for his second finish inside the Octagon. Colares is looking to score his second straight win when he competes on Saturday, as he’s coming in off a win over Luke Sanders in May. He started off his career with a perfect 8–0 record, with seven finishes, but has had mixed results thus far with UFC, compiling just a 2–2 record in his four bouts with the promotion, and no finishes in his two wins.

Gutierrez is a long-range kicker who has had a great amount of success when he works in the calf kick. He is also sound at landing the jab, is good at scoring points and conserving energy. He’s the better striker of the two, but Colares is tough and durable and likes to pressure. If Colares decides to pressure, he could get Gutierrez in trouble. Gutierrez struggled with the pressure of Durden in the first round, but he made the necessary adjustments to have strong second and third rounds. Colares is going to have to go strictly to his wrestling, but it isn’t that strong. The more likely scenario in this fight is Colares plods forward and Gutierrez picks him apart on the feet for three rounds, but is unable to finish just because Colares is so tough. Gutierrez getting a decision is my pick, but this could be a sneaky good fight.

PICK: GUTIERREZ

Heavyweights: Alexandr Romanov vs. Jared Vanderaa

Overall Records: Romanov 14-0, Vanderaa 12-5

UFC Records: Romanov 3-0, Vanderaa 1-1

Last Fight: Romanov def. Espino–TechSpDec–UFC On ESPN 22 (4/17/21), Vanderaa def. Tafa–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 46 (5/22/21)

Last Five Fights: Romanov 5-0, Vanderaa 3-2

Betting Odds: Romanov -650, Vanderaa +450

Preview: An undefeated heavyweight with lots of potential steps into the Octagon across a solid and seasoned veteran as Romanov looks to remain perfect when he battles Vanderaa. Romanov is coming into this fight with a 14-0 record after surviving a scare with Juan Espino in April after he won a technical decision after being unable to continue following a groin strike. That easily could’ve been a loss or draw on his record, but it also marked the first time he’s gone to a decision in his career. It was also just the second time he went to a third round, so he’ll be looking to get back to his finishing ways here. Vanderaa makes his third walk to the Octagon in this one, and he’s looking to score the upset and notch his second straight win. He’s coming off a decision win over Justin Tafa in an entertaining battle in May. It was only the second time he’s won by decision, as ten of his twelve wins have seen him score a finish.

This is going to be two big heavyweights going at it. Vanderaa showed tremendous improvement between his first and second UFC bouts, as his striking was remarkably improved, and his cardio looked way better. He’s also going to have a five-inch reach advantage and will be the better of the two on the feet. However, his last fight came against a striker in Tafa, and he’s going to experience a whole new challenge in this one, and that’s whether his takedown defense has improved. Romanov is going to look to take him down and take him down at will. Romanov averages nearly five takedowns per fifteen minutes of action, and he is always hunting for them. He can pressure opponents against the fence in looking for them.

Romanov is exceptionally strong on the ground, and he has eight submission wins. He can also ground-and-pound from the top. If Vanderaa can keep this fight on the feet for the entire time, he has a chance to score the upset. However, Vanderaa has never been able to successfully defend a takedown, and that is going to hurt him in this one. I see Romanov getting him to the mat and dominating before finding the submission.

PICK: ROMANOV

Featherweights: Charles Rosa vs. Damon Jackson

Overall Records: Rosa 14-5, Jackson 18-4-1 1 NC

UFC Records: Rosa 5-5, Jackson 1-2-1 1 NC

Last Fight: Rosa def. Jaynes–SpDec–UFC On ESPN+ 48 (6/26/21), Topuria def. Jackson–R1 KO–UFC On ESPN 19 (12/5/20)

Last Five Fights: Rosa 3-2, Jackson 3-2

Betting Odds: Rosa +145, Jackson -175

Preview: Two featherweights who have been in the game for quite some time, and who have plenty of experience inside the Octagon, square off here as Rosa and Jackson both look to rack up another UFC win to their records. Rosa is looking to do something he has yet to do in UFC, and that is score a second straight win. To be fair, he’s also never lost two straight in UFC, as he’s rotated between losses-and-wins during his UFC run. He’s coming off a decision win over Justin Jaynes in June. Rosa is looking for his first finish win since October 2019, and looking to improve on his 79% finishing rate overall. Jackson is in his second stint with UFC, and he looks to get back into the win column after suffering a first-round knockout loss to Ilia Topuria in December. Given how Topuria has looked, that’s not a bad loss in hindsight, but Jackson has scored just one win in his five UFC appearances, so he needs a win here. Outside of UFC, he has compiled an impressive 17–2 record.

Rosa is kind of a weird fighter in the sense that he has a good grappling game, but his takedown game and takedown defense can be very bad a lot of the time. He’s only scored on 35% of his takedowns in UFC, and has only defended 37% of takedowns attempted on him, yet he’s a dangerous black belt with a solid submission game. Jackson also has weird takedown stats, completing only 20% of his attempts and defending only 35% of attempts on him, but he’s also more active when it comes to hunting submissions, and he’s the actual better takedown artist of the two. Jackson also has a very strong top game that, while Rosa is talented on the mat, is going to shut down any moves Rosa attempts to make.

Neither man is going to scare the other on the feet, but Rosa is more durable and Jackson has been knocked out cold three times in his career, including his last fight. Rosa’s boxing is limited, as he hands are slow and his defense isn’t all that great, and he has taken a lot of damage. Jackson has the reach advantage and will look to utilize the jab to keep Rosa at range for the takedowns. Jackson also fights at a high pace and is a pressure fighter. Rosa is trying to break the alternator status, but I don’t see that happening in this one, as I see Jackson being able to win on the ground and get a decision.

PICK: JACKSON

Women’s Strawweights: Lupita Godinez vs. Silvana Gomez Juarez

Overall Records: Godinez 5-1, Juarez 10-2

UFC Records: Godinez 0-1, Juarez 0-0

Last Fight: Penne def. Godinez–SpDec–UFC On ESPN 22 (4/17/21), Juarez def. Perea–R2 TKO–UWC 25 (2/26/21)

Last Five Fights: Godinez 4-1, Juarez 4-1

Betting Odds: Godinez -275, Juarez +220

Preview: A strawweight bout that sees a late change takes place here as Godinez welcomes short-notice replacement Juarez to UFC. Juarez replaces Sam Hughes, who was pulled from the bout after one of her coaches tested positive for COVID-19, and she was deemed a close contact. Godinez is making her second appearance inside the Octagon, and she’ll be looking to rebound from her first career loss, as she dropped a decision to Jessica Penne in her debut in April. That ended the five-fight win streak she had to start her career. Juarez was slated to compete on the next episode of Dana White’s Contender Series, but she jumped at the chance to get a UFC contract in another way, as a replacement, so she should come in well-prepared despite a change in opponent and stakes. She debuts riding a three-fight win streak, and her only career losses have come to UFC veterans Ariane Lipski and Poliana Botelho.

This late change might not bode as well for Godinez, as Juarez is a tougher opponent than Hughes would’ve shown to be. Also, Godinez and Hughes had already fought twice before on the amateur scene, so there was familiarity there. Godinez is talented on the feet, but she tends to make poor decisions and doesn’t execute effectively all the time. She is a boxer with good wrestling, and has crisp boxing and good output on the feet. She’s going to need to use her speed and footwork in this one, and mix in her takedowns if needed. Juarez has been in some high-profile fights with some solid regional promotions. She has beaten a lot of low-level competition. She’s also primarily a boxer and likes to battle inside the pocket. She doesn’t have the takedown game that Godinez has. She’s also older, as she’s 36, and Godinez is going to have the speed edge in there. This one likely goes the distance, and Godinez’ solid accuracy on the feet and good defense on the feet, and just her skill level, should lead her towards a decision win.

PICK: GODINEZ

Lightweights: Steve Garcia vs. Charlie Ontiveros

Overall Records: Garcia 11-4, Ontiveros 11-7

UFC Records: Garcia 0-1, Ontiveros 0-1

Last Fight: Pena def. Garcia–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 27 (2/29/20), Holland def. Ontiveros–R1 TKO–UFC On ESPN+ 39 (10/31/20)

Last Five Fights: Garcia 4-1, Ontiveros 3-2

Betting Odds: Garcia -350, Ontiveros +260

Preview: A pair of middleweights both looking to score their first UFC win in their second UFC appearance kicks off the card as Garcia and Ontiveros look to set the tone of the ten-fight card. Garcia is fighting for the first time in a long time, as he hasn’t fought since before the pandemic began. He was last seen in February 2020, dropping a decision to Luis Pena, in his UFC debut. That ended his four-fight win streak. He has scored eight of his eleven career wins by knockout. Ontiveros is competing for the first time since Halloween night, as he fights in his normal weight class here. He made his UFC debut on short notice against Kevin Holland, fighting as a middleweight, and it didn’t go well for him, as he suffered a neck injury during the fight and verbally submitted in the first round. He had won three of his previous four before that setback, and he has six stoppage wins under his belt for his career.

Ontiveros is going to have a three-inch reach advantage, but his striking is going to be behind Garcia’s in this one. Garcia mixes his strikes, but he can overthrow and leave himself open to counters, but he hits with quality. Garcia also mixes in his kicks well, and he’s also fairly accurate on the feet. Ontiveros is fighting at lightweight for the first time, and he should have the size edge. His style on the feet is more karate style, as he keeps his hands low, but that may be a bad idea against a guy like Garcia, who is a headhunter. Ontiveros also struggles with pressure and has a weak takedown defense game. If Ontiveros gets taken down, he can get himself stuck there as he also struggles to get to his feet. Garcia looks to be better everywhere, and I see him getting the finish.

PICK: GARCIA

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