Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) women’s Strawweight veterans Michelle Waterson and Felice Herrig will duel this Saturday (Oct. 6, 2018) at UFC 229 inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Waterson’s level of success inside the Octagon — a 3-2 record with strong enough wins to keep her in the Top 10 — has been rather impressive. The long-time Atomweight faces a clear size disadvantage nearly every time she competes, but that hasn’t stopped “Karate Hottie” from implementing her game on most opponents and making the losses very competitive. Meanwhile, Herrig’s initial start to her UFC career did not go particularly well, but she has since turned it around. With improved conditioning and confidence, Herrig was able to climb into the Top 10 as well on the strength of a four-fight win streak, although a split-decision loss to former contender Karolina Kowalkiewicz has served as a definite bump in the road.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each athlete:
Key Wins: Cortney Casey (UFC on FOX 29), Paige VanZant (UFC on FOX 22), Jessica Penne (Invicta FC 5), Angela Magana (TUF 22 Finale)
Key Losses: Rose Namajunas (UFC on FOX 24), Tecia Torres (UFC 218), Herica Tiburcio (Invicta FC 10)
Keys to Victory: Despite being undersized, Waterson has found very consistent success with her takedowns, particularly from the clinch. At this point, that’s probably the majority of her game, although “Karate Hottie” does still kick and move well from range.
Once again, Waterson does face a size disadvantage and will be forced to rely on craft to outscore “Lil Bulldog.” Luckily, while Herrig is well-rounded and can fight at a solid pace for three rounds, there’s also no single area where Herrig is likely to really dominate or control. It’s likely to be a close fight on the feet, and that means Waterson’s surprisingly strong takedown game could be the real difference maker.
Many, many female fighters in UFC attempt head-and-arm throws. Very few are actually good at them. Waterson is among those exceptions, setting up the throw well and fully getting her hips in rather than just yanking on her opponent’s neck. Herrig has been tossed in that manner before, and it would not at all surprise me if Waterson was able to win a close round — and thus a close fight —- with such a toss.
Key Wins: Cortney Casey (UFC 218), Alexa Grasso (UFC Fight Night 104), Justin Kish (UFC Fight Night 112)
Key Losses: Karolina Kowalkiewicz (UFC 223), Paige VanZant (UFC on FOX 15), Tecia Torres (Invicta FC 7)
Keys to Victory: A former professional kickboxer, Herrig has grown to be reasonably skilled in all areas. Much of the time, Herrig is able to draw her opponents into slow, technical battles that favor her experience.
If Waterson’s main key to success is to land the takedown, it should go without saying that Herrig’s goal should be to avoid that attempt. Beyond that, however, Herrig’s goal should be to maintain a more consistent output, whether that’s attacking on the feet or working for her own takedown. Waterson tends to work in spurts, and Herrig can build a lead on the judges’ scorecards if working in between Waterson’s offense. In addition, Waterson does not fair well against bigger opponents when on her back. Herrig’s combination of physical strength and grappling experience should prove enough to score a takedown or two, and once on top, it’s likely that Waterson will struggle to escape back up.
Bottom Line: It’s a match up of veterans who are unlikely to contend.
Waterson and Herrig are in very similar positions. Ranked No. 8 and No. 9, respectively, the two women both come from kickboxing backgrounds, have nearly identical records, and are both in their early 30s. They are skilled and tough enough to compete with the elite, but so far neither have been able to score the key victory necessary to make the jump from fringe contender.
With that in mind, what are the consequences here? Certainly neither fighter stands to gain or lose more than a single spot in the rankings. Realistically, they’re both in the exact same spot regardless of result, with the only difference being that the victor has a better chance of facing off with a higher-ranked opponent next.
At UFC 229, Michelle Waterson and Felice Herrig will open the main card. Which woman will have her hand raised?