On April 15th, the UFC is heading to Missouri for UFC on FOX 24. The co-main event of this stacked card features a highly anticipated strawweight battle between “The Karate Hottie” Michelle Waterson and “Thug” Rose Namajunas.
Michelle Waterson (14-4) is currently riding a two-fight win streak. In her UFC, and strawweight, debut she dispatched Angela Magana via third round submission, but was forced to take extended time off after the fight due to a string of injuries. “The Karate Hottie” made a dominant return to action in December of 2016 to headline UFC on FOX 22 against fellow rising star Paige VanZant. Waterson finished VanZant in a nearly flawless fashion with a rear naked choke in the very first round.
Rose Namajunas had her three-fight win streak snapped by former strawweight title challenger Karolina Kowalkiewicz back in July of 2016. “Thug” also holds a rear naked choke victory over Paige VanZant, as well as impressive victories over top contender Tecia Torres and former Invicta FC strawweight champion Angela Hill. Namajunas has faced two setbacks throughout her UFC career, but she has remained a staple in the top five.
Both fighters are fan favorites, and both carry a finishing rate north of 80%. On paper, this match-up is incredibly close. How will this fight play out? What does each fighter need to do to get to capture the victory an enter the title picture?
Keys to Victory
- Punish the Body: In Rose’s last fight, Karolina Kowalkiewicz was able to slow “Thug” down with repeated body shots. Waterson is known for possessing nasty kicks, and she should control range by shooting out stiff sidekicks to the stomach, similar to the ones she utilized against VanZant.
- Stick and Move: Waterson should look to frustrate Rose by countering her strikes from the outside. As she counters, Michelle can use her speed to rip off combinations in the pocket, and retreat. Look for Michelle to fire off kicks and tight punches from a variety of angles.
- Set the Pace: Expect Namajunas to come out aggressive. Waterson should use her well-rounded fight game to slow Rose down and set her own rhythm. Michelle should mix her growing wrestling base with her striking.
- Keep the Pressure: The Karate Hottie is especially dangerous when she controls the distance and fights at her pace. Rose possess the slight reach and size advantage, so she should look to set a fast pace against Waterson, close the distance, and nullify some of Waterson’s best offensive tools by keeping Waterson’s back against the fence.
- Positional Awareness: As seen her past fights, Michelle has an active guard and is able to secure submissions and chokes from all angles. Namajunas will need to remain calm and be aware of her positioning in scrambles to avoid having to fight off submissions, and than can look to set up her own.
- Listen to Her Corner: Arguably the biggest critique that MMA fans have had on Rose has been her mental strength. Namajunas is young and still relatively new to the sport. It is absolutely crucial that she remains calm, and listens to her corner, as they will recognize things in the fight that she may not.
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“There’s always an opportunity in the now. If I’m there, I will seize it.” -Michelle Waterson
“I welcome challenges. I like challenges. It gives me a reason to keep going.” -Rose Namajunas