Whatever Michelle Waterson was doing in the first two rounds of her fight with Angela Hill, she knew it wasn’t working.
Waterson and Hill met in the main event of UFC Vegas 10 on Saturday at UFC APEX in Las Vegas, and after 25 back-and-forth minutes of action it was Waterson who came out on top by split decision. Through the first two rounds, there was plenty of room for doubt when it came to who would win the fight.
In round one, Hill consistently beat Waterson to the punch and while the second round was closer, Waterson’s team figured out that they needed to tweak the game plan if she was going to get ahead on the scorecards. Waterson came out strong in the third, neutralizing much of Hill’s offense with her lone takedown of the fight, and then elevated her striking enough to win over two of the three judges.
“I think for me it was just honestly adjustment within a couple of inches,” Waterson said at the evening’s post-fight press conference. “The difference in being a little bit further back and reserved and kind of trying to fight on the outskirts versus just kind of biting down, sitting in a little bit deeper, and intruding on her space. Just deciding, alright, let’s go forward.”
According to UFC Stats, Hill won the significant strike battle by the narrowest of margins 131-128. She had the edge in this category in rounds one, two, and five, while Waterson was ahead in rounds three and four. Neither fighter won any of the rounds by more than five significant strikes.
Waterson wore the damage on her face early in the fight as she had swelling around her right eye and what looked to be a hematoma developing on the left side of her forehead. Both women bloodied the other’s nose, which Waterson actually credits with giving her a boost.
“It’s a fight,” Waterson said. “It’s a fight, this is what we love to do and I think everybody has that in themselves, it’s like fight or flight.
“I always remember being in sport karate and getting kicked in the face and seeing the blood come down, and seeing blood and not wanting to retreat but actually wanting to move forward. Sometimes you just have to get hit to feel that way. Like, alright, let’s go, this is a fight.”
Immediately after the fight, Waterson admitted that going to the judges in such a close contest “doesn’t leave a good feeling in your stomach.” However, at the post-fight presser she said she felt confident that the takedown in round three turned the tide and that from there she was in Hill’s face pushing the pace.
Waterson entered the UFC Vegas 10 main event on a two-fight losing streak and one key aspect of her mental preparation for the bout was not thinking about the consequences of another setback. The popular strawweight has maintained for sometime that her goal is to be UFC champion and now that she’s back in the win column, those hopes have been refreshed.
“The goal has always been to fight for the belt,” Waterson said. “I’ve been chomping away at this for a really long time and I want to get there. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m like, chipping away and chipping away and I can’t turn around. I’ve just got to keep going forward.”