She’d fought just once the previous year, losing a close split decision to former champion-turned-surging contender Carla Esparza. Before that, the Brazilian battled Cynthia Calvillo to a draw in a bout where Calvillo missed weight by a considerable margin. It was the second draw in four UFC fights for Rodriguez, and after arriving in the promotion with a 10-0 mark, going 2-1-2 over her first five appearances inside the Octagon made her a major question mark in the 115-pound weight class.
But what a difference a year can make.
In January, Rodriguez began her 2021 campaign by getting back into the win column in spectacular fashion, pausing the ascension of her compatriot Amanda Ribas with a second-round stoppage finish.
The two-part finishing sequence illustrates what makes the 34-year-old Muay Thai stylist a live wire in the division, as she drove home a right hand early in the frame that caught Ribas flush and took her off her feet. Rodriguez swarmed, unloading a barrage of punches and hammerfists that brought the referee in for a closer look, which caused Rodriguez to walk away in celebratory fashion, only the fight had not been stopped.
Rather than be thrown off by the confusion, Rodriguez just got right back after Ribas, breaking free of a clinch attempt by landing a heavy elbow before clocking the heavily favored emerging talent with a pair of clean right hands that finally brought the fight to a close.
The scream Rodriguez let out told you how much this one meant to her, not only as a means of getting things moving in the right direction but having finally secured her first stoppage victory inside the Octagon.
Following her win over Ribas on Fight Island, Rodriguez wasn’t expecting to compete again until the summer, but when a rash of injuries and cancellations prompted the UFC to reach out with a main event offer against Michelle Waterson, up a division at flyweight, it was too good to pass up.