Michelle Waterson and Angela Hill have been handed the main event slot for the September 12 UFC Fight Night event at short notice – who will be celebrating when the final fight of the night is in the books at the UFC APEX?
Waterson and Hill were originally slated to meet in late August, only for the bout to postponed for ‘personal reasons’ on the side of Waterson, but that delay has worked out in the pair’s favour because they are now the headline attraction for the latest UFC Fight Night after the scheduled bout between Thiago Santos and Glover Teixeira was pushed back in the wake of the latter testing positive. Both women tasted defeat last time out, so the pressure is on them to bounce back as they look to climb the strawweight ladder once again.
Waterson has not had her hand raised inside the Octagon for almost 18 months. ‘The Karate Hottie’ was riding high in early 2019 after a decision win over Karolina Kowalkiewicz made it three wins on the bounce for her – her best run of form since signing with the UFC in 2015. Her momentum stalled later that year though as she was bested over five rounds by former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, and her first outing of 2020 ended in more disappointment as the dropped a controversial split decision against Carla Esparza. These losses have left Waterson outside the top five in the division and while a win here may not propel her back among the leading contenders, it would halt her slide.
Hill, meanwhile, knows that a victory here would be the biggest of her career so far and would almost certainly catapult her into the top 10 in the division. The 35-year-old former kickboxing champion has struggled to take the next step since arriving in the UFC back in 2017, but she did start 2020 on a high as she won back-to-back fights in the space of just one month to take her streak to three consecutive wins, and many felt she should have made it four-in-a-row back in May.
Hill went the distance with perennial top-five fighter Claudia Gadelha, but found herself on the wrong end of a split decision after a three-round tussle in one of the UFC’s first behind-closed-doors events. However, many felt she had been robbed by the judges and the statistics agreed. The judges gave her the second round after she landed more significant strikes than Gadelha, but two of them then handed her opponent the third round despite the fact that Hill had been even more productive than she had in the second. The veteran made her feelings clear when the verdict is announced, but she now has an opportunity to put that disappointment behind her by claiming a big win here.
So can Hill claim the biggest win of her career so far or will Waterson stop her slide and get back on track in her quest for a crack at the title? I am going with Hill. Waterson does not respond well to aggressive fighters that pressure her and Hill fits that billing. With a massive chip on her shoulder from that last loss she will come out fast and look to leave no doubts about who the winner is, and although she would love to take the fight out of the hands of the judges, I do not fancy her chances of stopping Waterson with strikes – nobody has managed that for over a decade! Hill will need the judges to come down on her side here and they will do just that.