Competing for the first time in more than 17 months, former Invicta FC champion Michelle “The Karate Hottie” Waterson was impressive in victory tonight at UFC on FOX 22 in Sacramento, California. Waterson choked out popular rising star “12 Gauge” Paige VanZant in the strawweight main event.
Waterson dominated the action on the mat after taking VanZant down in the opening round, and she pocketed an additional $50,000 in the form of a Performance Bonus for her impressive victory. In tonight’s Fight of the Night, Leslie “The Peacemaker” Smith defeated Irene Aldana at bantamweight.
Waterson (14-4-0) began tonight’s headliner in the southpaw stance, which allowed her to throw quick side kicks to VanZant’s (7-3-0) midsection. Waterson fought through VanZant’s punches and clinched against the cage, then threw her opponent to the mat with an impressive headlock takedown. Within seconds, Waterson secured back control and she worked for a series of rear-naked chokes. VanZant defended well, and she repeatedly broke Waterson’s grip, but Waterson tightened the choke once more and VanZant was rendered unconscious at the 3:21 mark.
Post-fight, an always humble Waterson was asked about future fight matchups and she expressed an interest in a potential showdown with former UFC champion Carla “Cookie Monster” Esparza. Tonight’s victory, which came after a lengthy injury hiatus, was Waterson’s eighth in her past nine fights.
Winner: Michelle Waterson by Technical Submission (Rear-Naked Choke) at 3:21 of round one. She improves to 14-4-0.
Earlier on the card, Smith (9-7-1) outstruck the debuting Aldana (7-3-0) en route to a convincing Unanimous Decision victory in an action-packed and entertaining battle.
The fight began with an exchange of jabs, and Aldana used her speed and reach advantage to land quick combinations, but Smith walked her down with overhand punches. Aldana was unfazed by a head kick and she circled on the outside until Smith rushed forward with a huge right hook. Aldana collapsed to the mat and Smith teed off with hammerfists, but Aldana survived the onslaught and she got back to her feet. More hard punches were exchanged against the cage and Smith kept Aldana backing up in the second half of the round as she mixed in spinning back elbows. Aldana scored with punches, but Smith stunned her with kick-punch combos, and the entertaining round ended with Smith attacking with punches as Aldana tried to answer with her back against the cage.
Smith opened round two with a variety of kicks and Aldana replied with a three-punch flurry. Smith kept the pressure on with punches that forced Aldana to backpedal and she held an advantage in the striking exchanges until the final 90 seconds when Aldana stunned her with a big combination. Aldana’s face continued to swell up from the force of Smith’s punches, but she landed left hooks and combinations in the exchanges. Smith finished the round strong with punches and two kicks to the body.
Both fighters were aggressive with punches early in the final round and Smith landed more kicks. A lengthy flurry and a body kick scored for Smith, who continued to target Aldana’s midsection. Hard jabs were exchanged and Aldana connected with a series of lead left hooks. Smith battered her with more kicks and punches to the body until Aldana tripped Smith to the mat in the final 30 seconds, but Smith stood back up and chased her down until the bell.
Scores were 30-27 and 29-28 twice for Smith, who bounced back from a disappointing loss to Invicta FC champion Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino in a 140-pound catchweight contest in May.
Winner: Leslie Smith by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28) after three rounds. She improves to 9-7-1.
(Photo Credit: UFC)