In a fight that drew about 5 million viewers, Michelle “The Karate Hottie” Waterson dominated Paige VanZant, choking her unconscious with a rear naked choke a little over 3 minutes into a fight that was supposed to go for 5 x 5 minute rounds. Waterson’s win shifts her up from rank 11 to rank 7, effectively taking VanZant’s spot in the rankings.
Waterson was the former Invicta FC Atomweight Champion at 105 lbs, but her move to UFC took her up a weight class to 115 lbs strawweight. Despite being smaller than most in the division, she looks much healthier and stronger at the higher weight and even reported putting on 5 lbs of muscle in this past year, as can be seen at the weigh-in for the fight.
When asked to call someone out, Waterson declined, saying she’s just interested in fighting for the belt so is interested in anyone top five that would get her there.
She eventually told TMZ Sports that she felt a fight with former Invicta FC Strawweight Champion Carla Esparza or Rose Namajunas, also an Invicta alumnus, would be desirable.
Her fight gym, Jackson-Wink MMA, posted a multiple choice survey on who fans would like to see Waterson fight next. I immediately selected Rose Namajunas, who defeated VanZant last year in a similar 5 x 5 minute headline event, with Namajunas submitting VanZant at literally the very last second of a grueling and bloody 25 minute war.
Happily for me, Namajunas jumped in and called Waterson out. The strong star power of both combat athletes and their high rankings makes this a very likely match up worthy of a main event.
Being a veteran of 10 years, many are predicting that Waterson may be the new rising MMA star to break into the mainstream. For Asian American women and women in general, this is race and gender stereotype-shattering good news.