Michelle Waterson continued to climb the women's strawweight rankings on Saturday by defeating No. 6 ranked former title challenger Karolina Kowalkiewicz at UFC on ESPN 2. "The Karate Hottie" put in perhaps her best career performance and outclassed the "Polish Princess."
Waterson controlled the fight from start to finish. She used a variety of kicks to keep Kowalkiewicz on the outside in the opening round. She landed leg kicks, her jab and right hands while Kowalkiewicz struggled to find her range.
Kowalkiewicz made adjustments and began to land shots heading into the second frame. She came out in the round more aggressively and landed two right hands early in the round. She engaged Waterson in the clinch and found herself tossed to the canvas. In the closing moments of the round, Waterson applied an armbar that looked to be secure. Kowalkiewicz rolled and escaped in the final seconds.
Heading into the fight, Kowalkiewicz had the best takedown defense in the division. She'd find herself on her back a second time in the third frame. Waterson let back to her feet and continued to outwork the Polish fighter. After three rounds, all three judges scored the fight for Waterson by unanimous decision. All three scorecards read 30-27.
"First, I wanted to say thank you to Karolina. I don't know her but I feel like a sister. That's the vibe I get from her. Having to get myself in the spot mentally to defeat her was a huge challenge. I feel like I'm on the next level," said Waterson after the win.
After dedicated the victory to "all those out there fighting for their families," Waterson praised Kowalkiewicz and called for a title shot.
"Her grappling is underrated. I really did want to take it to the ground. I wanted to get a finish but she's such a game player and exactly what I needed to ask for the gold next," she said. "I want to go get that gold, whoever it is. Mom champion."