UFC on ESPN 24: Weigh-ins and final preview

Mar 30, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Karolina Kowalkiewicz (red gloves) fights Michelle Waterson (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Wells Fargo Arena. Waterson won the fight. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

After a lost main event, injuries and retirements canceled a couple of bouts, and another Diego Sanchez oddball moment changed Donald Cerrone’s co-main event plans, the UFC on ESPN 24 booking journey is done. The May 8 event will feature 10-fights and is headlined by top-10 strawweights Michelle Waterson and Marina Rodriguez. The card will also feature the return of Cerrone as he battles short-notice replacement Alex Morono and a welterweight clash between top-10 talents Neil Magny and Geoff Neal. The show kicks off on ESPN+ at 5 pm ET, then switches over to ESPN at 8 pm ET for main card action. However, before any fights could be made official, each of the 24 combatants had to make their contracted weights inside the UFC Apex earlier today.

Medical blocks, weight misses and purse cuts

In what is a UFC weigh-in tradition, two fighters tipped the scales too heavy at today’s weigh-in. First, main card fighter Diego Ferriera missed the weight for his lightweight bout with Gregor Gillespie by four and a half pounds. Luckily for him, the fight will go on as scheduled and he will fork over 30% of his fight purse to Gillespie. Flyweight Ryan Benoit also missed his contracted weight by three pounds. Unfortunately for him, his bout with Zarrukh Adashev will not go ahead on the preliminary portion of the card. Lastly, heavyweight Philipe Lins did not miss weight, however, he was deemed medically unfit to compete tomorrow night, and his bout with Ben Rothwell has been officially canceled. The originally planned 12-bout card will commence as a 10-fight event.

UFC on ESPN 24: Official scale stats

Main card (8 pm ET, ESPN)

Marina Rodriguez (125.5) vs. Michelle Waterson (125)

    Donald Cerrone (170) vs. Alex Morono (170.5)

    Neil Magny (170.5) vs. Geoff Neal (171)

    Maurice Greene (237) vs. Marcos Rogerio de Lima (264.5)

    Diego Ferreira (160.5)* vs. Gregor Gillespie (156)

Angela Hill (116) vs. Amanda Ribas (115.5)

Preliminary card (5 pm ET, ESPN+)

    Philipe Lins (N/A) vs. Ben Rothwell (264.5)

    Kyle Daukaus (186) vs. Phil Hawes (186)

    Ludovit Klein (146) vs. Mike Trizano (146)

    Zarrukh Adashev (125.5) vs. Ryan Benoit (129)*

    Tafon Nchukwi (186) vs. Jun Yong Park (186)

    Christian Aguilera (170.5) vs. Carlston Harris (170.5)

*(Missed weight)

Can Rodriguez prove contender status?

In January, Marina Rodriguez earned one of the biggest victories of her career in derailing the win streak of surging fellow Brazilian Amanda Ribas. The second-round technical knockout was her first stoppage victory inside the Octagon since earning her UFC contract in August 2018. During her six-fight run in the promotion, she has shown the potential of a future title contender but also hasn’t developed any momentum with a loss and two majority draws on her six-bout Octagon resume. However, her victory over Ribas got her back in the win column following a pivotal split-decision loss to number-four strawweight Carla Esparza last July.

A win on Saturday night over Michelle Waterson would be two straight over ranked opponents, and her first against someone in the top-10. It would go a long way in switching the Rodriguez career narrative to that of a fighter closing in on contender status. For Waterson, a victory is necessary to keep her spot in the top-10, maintain her position as a main eventer player and keep her in line for more big fights in the future.

Bookings worth your time

  • Neil Magny vs. Geoff Neal – Magny versus Neal is a fan-friendly bout with a lot of potential for exciting action in the striking department. It also has a level of urgency for both, as each fighter will enter the Octagon following win streak ending losses in their previous fights. The pair currently hold the ninth (Magny) and tenth (Neal) spots in the welterweight rankings, and if they want to get back into contention for bouts with competitors ahead of them, a win tomorrow night is pivotal. The winner gets back in the top five conversation. The loser is handed a second straight defeat and is starts falling down the rankings fast.
  • Donald Cerrone vs. Alex Morono – It wasn’t until earlier this week that fans and media knew who Donald Cerrone would be fighting on this card. After Diego Sanchez had another meltdown moment in his continued mental decline and was promptly released by the organization, welterweight journeyman Alex Morono was tabbed as “Cowboy’s” replacement opponent. On paper, this should be a chance for the 38-year-old to show that he still has some gas left in his fighting tank. However, after 51 fights, and going 0-4-1 in his last five, this fight is really about Cerrone proving he can still compete at this level. It also offers “The Great White” a short-notice payday and a chance to get a legend printed in the win column of his resume. It’s an interesting fight because of the sheer unpredictability of it.
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