Marina Rodriguez confident she’ll end Carla Esparza’s winning streak at UFC on ESPN 14

Marina Rodriguez has faced some of the UFC strawweight division’s best grapplers, so it’s an area of her game she’s constantly been working on.

Rodriguez (12-0-2 MMA, 2-0-2 UFC) meets Carla Esparza on Saturday at UFC on ESPN 14, which takes place at Flash Forum in Abu Dhabi and airs on ESPN. The undefeated Brazilian has been served no softballs since joining the UFC in September 2018, having fought the likes of Randa Markos, Tecia Torres and Cynthia Calvillo.

Rodriguez, who was originally scheduled to face Claudia Gadelha in May before COVID-19 canceled the event, instead will take on former champion Esparza (16-6 MMA, 7-4 UFC), who is tied for the most takedowns landed in divisional history, something that’s helped her put together a three-fight winning streak.

Rodriguez already was preparing for Gadelha’s strong wrestling, so she’s confident in her readiness for this stylistic matchup despite the opponent change.

“Carla Esparza is very experienced,” Rodriguez told MMA Junkie. “I’m sure I wasn’t even training when she had her first professional bout. It’s very tough. She’s a former UFC champion. I believe that she will look to grapple me, as did all my UFC opponents to date. If she, however, chooses to strike with me, the fans will be the real winners. It would be electrifying. But we know that’s not her game. She’ll look to take me down. And we’re training for that since my first fight in the UFC.

“I had originally been getting ready for Claudia Gadelha. That fight didn’t happen. So, we adjusted things for whoever my next opponent might be. Carla Esparza is a great match for our original strategy. I’m confident she’ll go to takedowns. I expect to meet her with heavy, accurate hands. I’ve been in training camp, always improving since February. I’m confident we’ll see positive results. My game is sharp for this kind of opponent. We’re putting an end to her winning streak.”

Although Rodriguez is yet to lose in her professional MMA career, two of her UFC fights have ended in majority draws. She expects a win over the streaking Esparza to push her one step closer to contention, but she won’t be calling anyone out.

“Our next step will only be taken after the next fight is done,” Rodriguez said. “All focus is on Esparza only. With a win, I expect to climb up the rankings. But I don’t feel it’s my place to call out my next opponents. The UFC had given me great opportunities. I trust their choices. I’ll do whatever the boss thinks is best. I’ll keep training, staying ready to be called up again. Calling people out is for people who want to win in the media. I’d rather have concrete results in the octagon. 

“My potential is clear based on that. That’s why great opportunities are being granted against very experienced opponents. It’s what we want. We always want to be tested against ranked fighters. It showcases the work we put in. It also confirms that I’m on their level. I’m closing in on the top five. Eventually I’d like to fight for the belt. I expect I will be ready to put on an excellent performance.”

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