Michelle Waterson didn’t walk away from UFC Fight Night 161 with the big win, but she’s easily building her reputation as one of the biggest rising stars in the UFC Women’s Strawweight division. She’s been on my watch list since her March 2019 victory over Karolina Kowalkiewicz at UFC on ESPN 2, even though it was won by unanimous decision and not a KO or submission. One thing is for certain, Michelle can take a Hell of a beating, as evident during her fight with former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk last week.
I’ve only watched UFC for the last year and a half, and by no means am I a professional referee. But, in my opinion, the Michelle Waterson vs Joanna Jedrzejczyk fight should have been a draw (or a no contest). It was a capable, suspenseful brawl that saw both women trading kicks and punches, and crushing each other against the cage. At the 50 second mark in round 1, Waterson delivered a take down that threw Joanna off her game for the rest of the round. In round 2, Waterson delivered a good face kick to her opponent. She dodged a submission hold in round 3, only to collect Joanna in an unsuccessful rear-naked choke; something she also attempted in later rounds.
Although the judges gave Joanna higher marks, Michelle Waterson displayed a ton of talent and potential. She has the ability to control herself, to watch and wait and look for opportunity. She’s trained in WuShu, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and is a black belt in American Freestyle Karate. Her kicks look devastating, should they connect with an opponent, and her stamina is applause-worthy. Add on a commendable level of good sportsmanship, and Michelle is just the type of female fighter that UFC needs. One that’s graceful, competitive and a hero among villains.
She doesn’t have a title opportunity in the near future. But she’ll get there. It’s only a matter of time before she has gold around her waist.