Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) women’s Strawweight contenders Tecia Torres and Michelle Waterson will duel this Saturday (Dec. 2, 2017) at UFC 218 inside Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan.
Torres has been remarkably consistent and success six fights deep into her UFC career. “Tiny Tornado” has tasted defeat just once in that time, a split-decision loss to the current Strawweight queen, Rose Namajunas. Meanwhile, Waterson has also risen through the ranks quickly, but she’s nevertheless a bit unproven at 115 pounds. The former Invicta FC Atomweight champion enters this bout following a violent loss to “Thug Rose,” putting some extra pressure on “Karate Hottie” to perform well here.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each woman:
Key Wins: Rose Namajunas (Invicta FC 6), Paige VanZant (Invicta FC 4), Felice Herrig (Invicta FC 7), Juliana Lima (TUF 25 Finale)
Key Losses: Rose Namajunas (UFC on FOX 19)
Keys to Victory: A karate and Taekwondo black belt, Torres is a high-volume striker and strong athlete. While she’s not the most powerful puncher, Torres has also found success with quick double-leg takedowns against the fence that she hides behind her punches. Last time out, Torres scored the first finish of her career by spinning to the back and catching a rear-naked choke.
For both women, this is one of the rare match ups where they will not be significantly smaller than their opponents. However, Torres will be the more physical and better conditioned athlete, and those are the attributes that may well lead her to victory.
On the feet, the women have similar backgrounds, but Torres is the far more effective and consistent striker. Torres largely just flicks out kicks and looks to counter, whereas Torres packs an effective boxing game to go along with her kicks. Torres has to capitalize on that and flurry on Waterson when the situation arises, which will help her score big points. It’s also worth-noting that Torres fights at a far higher pace than her foe. If she maintains an outside kickboxing match, there’s a fair chance she’ll win simply because Waterson cannot match her output.
Key Wins: Paige VanZant (UFC on FOX 22), Jessica Penne (Invicta FC 5), Angela Magana (TUF 22 Finale), Yasuko Tamada (Invicta FC 8)
Key Losses: Rose Namajunas (UFC on FOX 24), Herica Tiburcio (Invicta FC 10)
Keys to Victory: Waterson is rangy kicker with some decently fast hands, but she really does most of her work on the mat. Waterson is a surprisingly strong wrestler for a small fighter, and her submission skills on the mat account for nine of her victories. It’s going to be tough to takedown Waterson, but realistically that’s the path to victory for Waterson.
On the feet, Waterson isn’t completely outgunned, but she also cannot match Torres’ pace or knock her out. If she is unable to score a takedown or two, she’s very likely to end up on the wrong side of a decision.
To land the shot, Waterson has to find a moment to clinch, where she can look to land throws and trips. Torres is slippery, but she tends to flurry forward in a straight line. If Waterson is able to pivot around, Torres has run herself into the fence before, and that could be the opportunity Waterson needs to move this fight to the mat.
Bottom Line: This is an important bout for the Strawweight division.
Torres has won five of her six bouts inside the Octagon, taking out some quality competition in the process. There simply are not that many women in her division with that many wins, resulting in her No. 5 position. She’s facing off against a fellow Top 10-ranked athlete, which means a win does well to push her up the ranks.
It also helps that her and the champion have currently split their pair of fights.
For different reasons, the stakes are high for Waterson as well. She’s currently placed at No. 6, a position that comes almost entirely because of her victory over Paige VanZant. However, the luster of that victory is starting to decline, as “PVZ” has not fought since and abandoned the weight class. To remain relevant, Waterson has to upset Torres in this bout.
For either woman, defeat is a big step back. Little would change in terms of the rankings, but any momentum toward the top would dissipate immediately. With a new champion — one less dominating then the woman she dethroned — now is not the time for a setback.
At UFC 218, Tecia Torres and Michelle Waterson will open the main card. Which woman will have her hand raised?