The UFC Women’s Straw division has a key stellar event this week, with Brazilians Mackenzie Dern and Marina Rodriguez set to jump as the next contender with a victory at UFC Vegas 39.
Dern is leading the way in popularity, with a brilliant career in jijitsu before making the leap to mixed martial arts, and since working with Jason Parillo, his standing combat has become a real threat. The exhibitions against Virna Jandiroba and Nina Nunes were a test, but in front he will have a dangerous Rodríguez, a specialist in Muay Thai who will seek to shine in the second star of his career.
Brazil’s Rodriguez (14-1-2) is coming off a unanimous decision win over Michelle Waterson in May and is on a two-win streak after stopping Amanda Ribas in January.
The prize for both can be great, in a division that today reigns Rose Namajunas, the pupil of Trevor Whittman who has shown that he can knock out even the toughest in the history of 115 pounds such as the historical Joanna Jedrzejczyk or the Chinese Weili Zhang , whom he dethroned at UFC 261 in front of the first packed arena of the post-pandemic era in Jacksonville. Perhaps the fight for the belt is still one step away, but Carla Esparza could be on the path of the winner.
This is how the lightest category in the UFC goes today.
The Champion: Rose Namajunas
‘Thug Rose’ has been a fan favorite since her stint on The Ultimate Fighter, when she reached the final, but failed to be the division’s first monarch. His style is spectacular, but he has had inconsistencies that have cost him title fights. If he maintains the level shown in UFC 261 he will have a long reign.
The Challenger: Weili Zhang
After what was known as the best fight in the history of the division against Joanna Jedrzejczyk, he went more than a year without fighting and that could affect him. He’s unusually powerful at 115 pounds, and adjustments worked in camp with Henry Cejudo may pay off at UFC 268.
The Contestant: Carla Esparza
The first champion in the division’s history is ready to run again for the belt. She has a five-game winning streak, with the most convincing coming in May this year against China’s Xiaonan Yan. She already beat Rose in 2014 and should even be considered a replacement in case something happens before the show in New York.
The Legend: Joanna Jedrzejczyk
The Polish has given so much to the division, that no one would complain if she receives a new opportunity soon, however, her absence has been too long, since the war with Weili in March 2020. She seems to be waiting for the shortest path to the fight. championship, either 125 or 115 pounds.
The Return: Jessica Andrade
The Brazilian is coming off a solid performance at UFC 266 when she knocked out Cynthia Calvillo. After the victory, he threatened a return at 115, which he already reigned in 2019, but has against him the recent defeats against the champion Rose Namajunas and the challenger Weili Zhang, who took the belt from him.
The Popular: Mackenzie Dern
If she defeats Marina Rodríguez, her millions of followers on social networks will ask for a title opportunity. Although she raised many doubts at the beginning of her career due to her failures on the scale, after becoming a mother her physical change has been remarkable and today she is the greatest threat of submission among all classified. The litmus test is coming.
The Fresh Blood: Marina Rodríguez
Although 34 years old, his rise has been steady since he debuted in 2018. Despite only having one finish at 115 pounds, his style is always aggressive. In case of beating Dern, he can ask for a rematch with Carla Esparza, with whom he had a close fight and meant the only loss of his career by split decision.
Mackenzie Dern and Marina Rodríguez face off on the UFC Vegas 39 star from UFC Apex in Las Vegas.