If you’re still trying to wrap your head around what exactly happened at UFC 210 last weekend, you needn’t dwell on it any longer. The UFC is offering up another live fight card that at least on paper, looks better than the offering it gave to us last weekend. The latest edition of the UFC on Fox features the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world, UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, as well as exciting fighters like Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, Robert Whittaker and Tim Elliott.
The card also features a highly anticipated co-main event to possibly determine the next no. 1 contender to UFC strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Rose Namajunas is looking to rebound from a close split decision loss to former title contender Karolina Kowalkiewicz, while Michelle Waterson is looking to build on her dominant victory over UFC darling Paige VanZant earlier this year. Who might emerge as a title contender when this fight is over?
Strengths: Namajunas is one of the best submission fighters in all of women’s MMA, if maybe not all of MMA. Namajunas has five wins in her career, with four coming by way of submission. Her second career win came with an incredible flying arm bar that she pulled off in all of 12 seconds. Trying to describe it doesn’t really do it justice – just try to find it on YouTube.
Namajunas can come at you from so many different ways. If she gets you on the mat, you’re in trouble. Also, as evidenced by her nickname, “Thug,” she is one of the toughest fighters at 115 pounds. She has absolutely no qualms of getting down and dirty, and when it came to her fight against VanZant in 2015, she’s perfectly fine getting bloody as well.
Weaknesses: But as good as Namajunas is with submissions, she still seems to struggle when comes to the striking game. She has no knockout or TKO victories in her career, and though she defeated noted striker Tecia Torres by unanimous decision, Namajunas was outstruck by a high-level puncher in Kowalkiewicz last year. Namajunas was also pummeled by Carla Esparza at The Ultimate Fighter Finale in 2014, which led to Esparza being crowned the first UFC strawweight champion.
Strengths: Waterson is a pioneer for women’s mixed martial arts, by virtue of starting her career in 2007, when women’s MMA was basically unheard of. She’s also one of the more well-rounded female fighters around – her nickname “The Karate Hottie” is more than just a commentary on her looks. All but two of her 14 career wins have come via a finish, with nine of those coming by submission. Waterson won her first two UFC bouts by first-round submission and is battle-tested by having faced some of the toughest female fighters around, including Jessica Penne, Lacey Schuckman and Yasuko Tamada.
Weaknesses: Waterson went more than a year between her two UFC fights due to injury. She couldn’t finish an average fighter in Angela Magana until the third round in her UFC debut, and she may have benefited from VanZant’s still overall-lack of notable experience when Waterson finished her in the first round earlier this year. Namajunas is comfortable is almost any aspect of the fight; will Waterson be able to keep up?
It’s tough to find too many weaknesses in the game of someone like Waterson, who’s only lost twice in eight years. But given her long layoff during her UFC career and Namajunas’ toughness and resiliency, it would be best for Waterson not to take her opponent lightly.
Even with a card that boasts the pound-for-pound best in “Mighty Mouse” Johnson, the fight between Namajunas and Waterson is one you don’t want to miss. These are two tough women who both desperately want a title shot and will be determined to put on an impressive showing. Namajunas is scrappy and can pull a submission out of nowhere. But I think Waterson’s victory over VanZant served as her coming-out party in the UFC, and she seems destined to be the UFC’s next face of women’s MMA. A victory will put Waterson over the top and place her next in line for a shot at the title.
Winner: Waterson by unanimous decision
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