You often hear media and fight analysts talk about ring rust, but last night at UFC Fight Night Sacramento, Michelle Waterson dispelled that myth. Having not set foot inside the octagon since July 2015 due to injuries, “The Karate Hottie” put on one of her best performances in her first-round win over Paige VanZant. In fact, she almost made it look easy.
Sinking in a rear-naked choke that put Paige’s lights out at 3:21 of the first round, the victory may very well have turned Waterson’s star light on. With a big win over one of the more main stream names in the sport, Waterson (14-4, 2-0 UFC) proved to the world what MMA insiders already knew, that she is one of the best fighters in the UFC strawweight division.
Having previously reigned as the Invicta FC atomweight champion, Michelle made the jump in weight to 115lbs when she signed with the UFC in April of 2015. With 12 of her 14 victories being finishes, 8 of which came in the first round, she has the pedigree and fighting style to become one of the most watched fighters on the roster.
After 17 months on the sideline and making quick work of Paige, Waterson is looking to get back into the cage quickly and knows exactly who she wants to fight. Well, sort of. During the FOX Sports post-fight show Michelle sat down with Jon Anik, UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, and UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz to talk about what’s next.
“I would like to get back in there soon,” Waterson said. “I’d like to fight maybe a top-five contender. I do want to fight. I don’t know who I want to fight.” So let’s take a quick look at the top 5: #1 Claudia Gadelha, #2 Karolina Kowalkiewicz, #3 Carla Esparza, #4 Rose Namajunas, #5 Jessica Andrade.
Given that Waterson’s star is on the rise after putting on a show in front of millions of viewers on FOX, it would make sense for her next opponent to be someone with notoriety that would land them on a pay-per-view card. The two names that jump out are Rose Namajunas and Carla Esparza. Cormier tried to goad Waterson into calling out Esparza but the Karate Hottie remained classy and wouldn’t take the bait.
But in true fighter spirit, the Jackson-Wink trained contender disclosed what her sights are really set on, “I don’t have any name in mind but my ultimate goal is to be UFC champ”.
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