MMAOB staff writer Adam Martin takes a deeper look at the main event of UFC on ESPN+ 19, a five-round women’s strawweight bout between Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Michelle Waterson. The event takes place Saturday, October 12 at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk (-325)
Jedrzejczyk (15-3) is the former UFC women’s strawweight champion. The 32-year-old Pole has a tremendous UFC record of 9-3, with victories over the likes of Jessica Andrade, Karolina Kowalkiewicz, Tecia Torres, Claudia Gadelha and Carla Esparza. Her losses in the UFC came against Rose Namajunas and Valentina Shevchenko. Between 2014 and 2017 Jedrzejczyk was by far the most dominant women’s strawweight in the world and for a while there looked unbeatable. Her combination of volume striking, knockout power, and stellar takedown defense helped lead her to seven straight wins to open up her UFC career. The losses to Namajunas hurt and she lost her belt, and then a move to 125lbs didn’t work out as she lost to Shevchenko, too. But she is still one of the top-ranked fighters in the division and trains at an excellent camp at American Top Team. There are rumors Jedrzejczyk has struggled to make the weight for this fight, but as long as she makes the weight she will have the chance to beat Waterson and earn another title shot. Her goal is to be the champ again, and a win at UFC Tampa would likely get her a fight against new champ Weili Zhang.
Michelle Waterson (+265)
Waterson (17-6) is the former Invicta FC women’s atomweight champion. The 33-year-old American is one of the top-ranked strawweights on the UFC roster, having compiled a 5-2 record overall inside the Octagon. She is currently riding a three-fight win streak with victories over Karolina Kowalkiewicz, Felice Herrig and Cortney Casey. She also holds wins over Paige VanZant and Jessica Penne, with losses to the likes of Rose Namajunas and Tecia Torres. Waterson is a very well-rounded fighter who is skilled both on the feet and on the ground. Like her nickname suggests, Waterson grew up doing karate and so it’s no surprise that she has a very dangerous striking attack on the feet. She is a very technical striker, but lacks true knockout power. Where she really shines is on the ground. Waterson has a very underrated grappling game that has seen her win nine fights by submission. She is a surprisingly strong wrestler and has solid submission skills as well. One of her issues is cardio, as she tends to fade the later the fight goes. That issue seems to have been corrected in recent fights, but fighting for five rounds in this bout could change that. Waterson is likely one more win away from a UFC women’s strawweight title shot, and a win over the former champ here in Jedrzejczyk could very well lead her to get one.
Fight Breakdown: This should be a fairly competitive striking-based bout between two of the top women’s strawweights on the UFC roster. That being said, I like Jedrzejczyk quite a bit here. I just believe she is overall the more effective MMA striker and I believe that should lead her to victory here. On the feet I see Jedrzejczyk landing more volume and I believe she will be able to stuff any of Waterson’s takedown attempts and keep the fight standing. She should be able to use her range to outland Waterson from the outside and outpoint her to win rounds. Jedrzejczyk is also the bigger fighter and should land her strikes with more power. Although Waterson may steal a round or two, I believe Jedrzejczyk will get her hand raised by decision at the end of the five scheduled rounds.
Prediction: Joanne Jedrzejczyk wins via decision