The last fight Michelle Waterson had was at Invicta FC 5 in April of 2013, when she won the Atomweight Championship belt from Jessica Penne. Nearly a year and a half later, she was finally able to defend her belt against Yasuko Tamada from Japan.
What was vividly clear to everyone right away at the weigh-ins and the moment Waterson stepped into the cage was that within the time she had been out of that cage, she had forged herself into a sword. Gone was the scrappy yet determined challenger who had pulled the belt right out from under her opponent with a surprising turnaround and totally unexpected submission win.
As she took on Tamada’s challenge, Waterson did what fans of combat sports refer to as “fighting like a champ”. She stood tall and proud, like a noble knight, and carefully picked apart her opponent with surgical strikes. She took no unnecessary risks and kept the whole fight standing, to her advantage. Each knee to the head and body, fist to the face, round house kick to the temple or ribs, and, yes, even a spinning back kick to ice off that flawless victory cake, was done with such poise and precision, it was quite a performance to watch. And yet, it was also hard to watch, because clearly Tamada was simply overwhelmed by Waterson’s presence and power. You can see at one point in the highlight video below that Tamada tried to hold Waterson against the cage, but the American fighter simple pushed Tamada around as if she were a feather caught up in a storm.
At the end, when the referee just had to stop the fight, Tamada’s coach, the legendary Japanese female MMA fighter Mega Megumi, looked really pained as she hugged a badly bruised up Tamada. Gotta hand it to Tamada for having a serious iron chin. Waterson went at her like a train bearing down on a hapless deer, and Tamada just kept on coming back and stayed standing even up until the last second. It was clear that if the ref hadn’t called it, Tamada would have gone the distance, Rocky style.