I will be the first to admit that I was not excited for last night’s main event.
Thiago Santos vs. Glover Teixeira was the original match up planned for five rounds, and it set a high bar. Have you ever seen Santos fight? When the Brazilian gets rocked, he starts throwing flipping kicks for no reason. Teixeira, meanwhile, may be 40 years old, but “Hands of Stone” tends to pulverize opponents and has scored 18 knockout wins.
The winner of that bout will also be next in line for a title shot, so stakes were considerably high.
Neither Angela Hill nor Michelle Waterson have quite the same reputation. Hill is deservedly recognized as an action fighter, but at 35 years old with numerous losses to the top dogs of the Strawweight division, it was hard to really buy into this bout as her “break into the title mix” moment.
Waterson was a similar distance from title contention, but worse still, the would-be “Mom Champ” has been getting outright mocked by fans. That may be because sports fans are quite often dicks, but disrespect was not without a basis. Waterson has developed a bad reputation for throwing rangy kicks and jabs from an absolutely unrealistic range, one where it’s very clear no one is going to land anything.
For example, a couple days before the fight, Reddit user MeSmeshFruit uploaded a video compilation of Waterson beating up air, entitled “Michelle Waterson fighting the Ghosts that haunt the Octagon.” Frankly, it’s a hilarious video with a brilliant title, but it also serves as a valuable point of reference regarding the general lack of enthusiasm for this main event.
Fortunately, “Karate Hottie” and “Overkill” told all of us doubters to shove it, putting on one of the best fights of the year.
Hill has to receive the initial credit, as she absolutely forced Waterson into a dogfight. There would be no kicking air, not with Hill getting into her opponent’s face at every available opportunity. Hill came out firing, landing several hard right hands in the opening round that caused immediate bruising to Waterson’s forehead.
It didn’t end up swelling to Joanna Jedrzejczyk-level, but there was still real damage being done early in a 25-minute bout.
What makes this a great fight, however, was not just Hill’s aggression and determination to put the hurt on her opponent. Had Hill dominated all five rounds similar to the opening five minutes, it would’ve been a great performance, not a great fight. Instead, Waterson adjusted, showing off some great skill of her own.
In the second half of the fight, Waterson’s counter kicks couldn’t miss. A hugely important third-round takedown really shifted momentum and helped exhaust Hill. That’s not to say Hill stopped attacking, but her offense was a bit slower and a bit more predictable. As a result, Waterson was able to sneak kicks in underneath punches and direct to the ribs, a painful tactic that is brutally effective at convincing an opponent to lower her volume.
Hill kept attacking though. She ran into side kicks and even Waterson’s oft-attempted-but-never-until-last-night-actually-landed axe kick. Some of these kicks were seriously punishing, fully loaded blasts to the mid-section. Yet, Hill kept her aggression up, finding solid success with her physicality and knee strikes in the clinch.
Aggression, smart decision-making, shifts in momentum — these are the elements of a fantastic fight.
At the end of five rounds, it was anyone’s guess as to who won the bout, but as a fan, it hardly mattered. I may remain doubtful on the odds of either athlete competing for the title, but the combat sports world as a whole is far less likely to look down its nose at either woman’s next match up.
For complete UFC Vegas 10: “Hill vs. Waterson” results and play-by-play, click HERE!