Michelle Waterson didn’t go down without a fight, but it was the former strawweight champion’s night to shine in the Sunshine State.
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Joanna Jedrzejczyk defeated Waterson by unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 49-46) in the main event of UFC Tampa, reminding the 115-pound division that she is still a force to be reckoned with.
“I said before that it was going to be my party, and I danced pretty hard. I feel like I could do five more rounds,” Jedrzejczyk told Michael Bisping after her win.
If the fight itself was any indication, Jedrzejczyk wasn’t exaggerating much.
It didn’t come as a surprise that both women looked for their kicks early in the fight, but Waterson’s attempt at a takedown after roughly 45 seconds of feeling out did. Jedrzejczyk was able to stuff it and keep the fight in the clinch before breaking and returning to range.
Waterson showed an interest in the clinch early on. She was able to hold her own and keep Jedrzejczyk locked up, but as the smaller fighter, doing any sort of damage proved difficult. Jedrzejczyk got the better of the clinch exchanges in round one, specifically with sharp right elbows.
Round two saw Jedrzejczyk feature her kicks again. She used both legs, focusing her attack on the lead leg of Waterson while also occasionally throwing to the body.
Waterson struggled to find her range against the lankier Jedrzejczyk. She made attempts off of the counter, but her best chances at offense came when she bull-rushed forward and brought pressure into Jedrzejczyk’s face. Even then, it didn’t provide much in terms of damage to her opponent.
By the end of the round, Waterson showed that Jedrzejczyk’s offense was adding up. Her nose was bloodied, and her white rash guard wound up turning to a tie-dyed pink pattern as she sat on her stool.
— UFC (@ufc) October 13, 2019
Jedrzejczyk wasn’t without her bumps and bruises though, which she revealed after the fight.
“I fought with a broken foot since the end of the second round, beginning of the third,” Jedrzejczyk said.
The third round continued the dance Jedrzejczyk began in the second. Her kicks were a difference-maker, and she appeared to be more and more comfortable in unleashing combinations when Waterson presented herself within range.
The two then tied up nearly halfway into the round, and Jedrzejczyk held the head of Waterson, looking for a possible D’arce choke. Jedrzejczyk — who has just one submission win by rear-naked choke in her second pro fight — couldn’t seal the deal.
The fighters returned to the feet, and a brief moment of comfort turned into a massive moment of danger for Jedrzejczyk.
A takedown and scramble ended with Waterson fighting for hooks for a rear-naked choke. Knowing this was her chance to turn the tide, she dumped her energy into the submission attempt, but Jedrzejczyk fought the hands and escaped the choke.
— UFC (@ufc) October 13, 2019
The women slugged it out briefly as the third came to a close.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) October 13, 2019
Jedrzejczyk got back to her kicks in the fourth round of the UFC Tampa main event, keeping Waterson away from any openings like the previous one. Waterson’s range struggles reappeared as she tried front kicks and oblique kicks that caught nothing but air.
It was Jedrzejczyk who initiated a takedown as the final minute of the fourth wound down. The fighters quickly returned to the clinch, where Jedrzejczyk unleashed knees to the body of Waterson before the round ended.
The women touched gloves in the center of the Octagon as the final round began.
Though it was her first time ever fighting into a fifth round, and she had already accumulated a great deal of damage, Waterson maintained the same pace that was set in round one. Unfortunately for her, Jedrzejczyk, who has gone 25 minutes on five previous occasions, did the same.
The fifth wasn’t without a glimmer of hope for Waterson, though. She again managed to get on the back of the former strawweight queen, but, once again, she couldn’t finish the deal with a desperation rear-naked choke.
The waning moments ticked away as Jedrzejczyk hung onto Waterson’s back, ensuring her victory by way of the judges.
After getting her hand raised and making it official, Jedrzejczyk had one thing on her mind — a shot at Weili Zhang’s strap.
“Who is the real queen? Bow down. Bow down,” Jedrzejczyk said. “I’m the real queen. Dana [White], I’ll call you in a minute.”
For Waterson, the loss broke her three-fight winning streak. The seventh-ranked fighter has no plans to go away though.
“I was honored to share the Octagon with Joanna,” Waterson said in the Octagon. “It’s never my intention to take damage. My intention was to win. I’m gonna go back to the drawing boards.
“I know what I did wrong. I was reaching for the shots instead of setting them up, and then we were getting stuck on the cage, and I was getting caught, instead of getting off the cage I was being stubborn and trying to fight through it. So, you know, lesson learned and I’ll come back stronger.”
Shane Connelly is a journalism student at Penn State with a passion for sharing the stories of MMA fighters.