Fans of Michelle Waterson rejoice! "The Karate Hottie" is not getting the title shot she has been campaigning for, but she got the next best thing: former Strawweight queen Joanna Jedrzejczyk. This fight undoubtedly sets up the winner for a much-deserved title shot.
Waterson recently took to the Ariel Helwani MMA Show to air her displeasure with the UFC rankings, which likely resulted with her being passed over for a shot at Jéssica Andrade's shiny new Strawweight belt. Waterson has recently turned in three straight wins, all of which showed maturity and a well-rounded attack that has allowed her to be placed among the elite in the Strawweight division. The question remains: is that enough?
Enter: Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Jedrzejczyk has had some tough fights as of late. She has lost three of her last four with all three of those being title bouts. A win for Jedrzejczyk is exactly what she needs to propel herself back into the title picture. Let us not forget that Jedrzejczyk defended her title against current champ Jessica Andrade, and won by unanimous decision. If you take a look back at that fight, you will see that Andrade controlled the fight early, but Joanna was able to win the last three rounds and ultimately defend her throne.
So the question is, who takes the win here? Let's go over some keys to victory for each fighter.
- Get inside: Jedrzejczyk is at her best when she is pressuring her opponent by putting forth a high output of strikes. Waterson throws a healthy amount of turning sidekicks and teeps combined with constant lateral movement. If Jedrzejczyk wants to get her game going, she is going to have to shut down the distance management mechanisms Waterson is going to employ. Well, Mr. Bones, how is she going to do that?
- Leg kicks: For Joanna to accomplish what she needs to do and get past the movement/kicks of Waterson, she needs to slow her down. The best way to do that is with leg kicks. Joanna has a stiff jab, which is one of her most formidable weapons. But as we saw in the second fight against Rose Namajunas, Rose was able to counter her jab in the first and second rounds. Jedrzejczyk made a key adjustment in the third to throw her lead leg kick in lieu of her jab which ultimately slowed the movement of Namajunas and allowed Joanna to get her combinations going. She needs to employ a similar tactic if she wants to get her game going against Waterson.
- Takedown defense: This part of Jedrzejczyk's game is very strong, but she does need to be aware of the takedown threat. If Waterson is having trouble on her feet, she will most likely try to employ her ground game, which is focused around good ground and pound and strong top pressure. Jedrzejczyk has to be cognizant of this while moving forward or she will end up on her back.
- Movement: Michelle has to keep Jedrzejczyk away from her at all costs. In order to do this, she has to use lateral movement and her turning sidekicks/teeps. If she is able to keep Jedrzejczyk at bay, she wins the fight. With this comes the frustration aspect of not being able to catch an elusive fighter. If Waterson can get Jedrzejczyk frustrated and chasing, she could start to counter on the increased aggression that is often paired with a frustrated fighter.
- Patience: Patience is a virtue, and in this fight.. an absolute necessity. Waterson has to frustrate Joanna, patient with her movement, and make sure Jedrzejczyk does not get inside. This will take five rounds of constant movement (as mentioned before) and focus. If she can be patient, counters will open up and she will be able to outpoint Jedrzejczyk.
- Grappling: Waterson needs to make sure she has some designated takedown or clinch entries if Jedrzejczyk is to get inside on her, which will add to the frustration of Jedrzejczyk. If Waterson is able to either take Jedrzejczyk down or clinch and break off to a safe distance, it will be a long night for Jedrzejczyk. If Jedrzejczyk cannot enter without being taken down and she can't get around the distance management of Waterson, that is a unanimous decision win for Waterson.
This scrap will go down October 12th live on ESPN+ at the Amalie Area in Tampa Bay. Who do you think takes this one home? Let me know in the comment section below.
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