Michelle Waterson believes her UFC 249 fight against former champion Carla Esparza has title implications on the line.
Waterson will make her return to the Octagon after a decision loss to Joanna Jedrzejczyk back at UFC Tampa last October. She says she learned a lot about herself in that fight and says it proves she belongs at the top.
Now, on the stacked UFC 249 prelims, Waterson is looking to get back into the win column and is ecstatic it will happen on this card.
“I have to say, I’ve been on a lot of cards. I headlined against Paige VanZant, headlined against Joanna Jedrzejczyk, and was on the undercard of Khabib and Conor which was insane,” Waterson said to BJPENN.com. “You always think it can’t be top but here it is, we are in a pandemic but the UFC is continuing on and push forward and I get to be part of that. When I think about it, I think about how this will be talked about in history. I’m excited to fight Carla as we’ve been scheduled to fight since April.”
Why Waterson and her team were so interested in making this Esparza fight happen is simple. They believe it is a good stylistic matchup for her, and a win over a former champion gets her into the title picture.
“We always want to fight and I want to fight someone that gets me closer to the title. I need to beat her to get closer to that title fight,” she explained. “It puts me in talks to fight for the belt. I’m not sure how Tatiana is doing with her injury and I believe Nina is pregnant. There are not too many other girls at the top of the rankings. I am just one win away after this.”
Entering this fight, Waterson is the underdog but she isn’t paying any attention to that. She knows she has the skillset to match Esparza’s wrestling-heavy gameplan. So, “The Karate Hottie” expects she’ll stuff the former champs takedowns which will frustrate her and then pick up a knockout or submission victory.
“That’s the thing. Her bread and butter is her wrestling but I have really good statistics with my wrestling and jiu-jitsu. If it hits the ground I’m 100 percent comfortable there,” she said. “The majority of my wins are by submission. So, people who fight me have to think twice about going to the ground.
“Carla has worked a lot on her kickboxing and I think she’ll stand and bang with me for a while,” Waterson continued. “What’s going to happen is she’s going to get frustrated and try and take me down which will get stuffed. She’ll shoot at desperation and fall into a submission or get knocked out.”
Do you think Michelle Waterson will be able to finish Carla Esparza at UFC 249?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.com on 5/5/2020.