Felice Herrig had what seemed a solid game plan in her UFC 229 strawweight fight against Michelle Waterson: Use pressure, grappling, and a strength advantage against her smaller, former atomweight foe.
The flaw with this theory is that it doesn’t account for Waterson’s pound-for-pound tenacity. The former Invicta atomweight champion put on a clinic in defeating Herrig in the main card opener at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday night. The judges’ scores were 30-26, 29-28, and 30-27 in favor of “The Karate Hottie.”
“I listened to talk about who should be in contention and it disappoints me I’m not in that talk,” the JacksonWink competitor said. “So I wanted to go out there and show that I’m a well-rounded fighter and I deserve to be in there.”
The first round was close, as Herrig used forward pressure and her most effective clinch work of the fight, but Waterson had her moments as well, as she landed a variety of kicks over the course of the first five minutes.
In the second, Herrig again attempted to impose her will, but this time, Waterson managed to parry a takedown attempt and turn it into a nice throw of her own. Waterson stayed active and landed from the top, and while she didn’t come close to finishing the fight, it was enough to win the round.
The final stanza was interesting, as Herrig scored an early takedown, but immediately found herself in trouble, as Waterson landed elbow after elbow from the bottom, and even briefly tried an omoplata. Things didn’t get any better for Herrig after the fight got back to the feet, as Waterson repeatedly landed kicks and kept Herrig from getting her offense untracked.
“I’m just excited I’m able to use the things I learn in practice under these bright lights,” Waterson said.
Waterson improved to 16-6 with her second consecutive victory. Herrig, lost her second straight bout and is now 14-8.