UFC Fight Night: Joanna vs. Waterson Preview
A preview of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night card, set to take place in Tampa, Fla.
Updated: Oct. 11, 2019 • 1:10 PM ET
Joanna Jedrzejczyk is looking to fight her way back to becoming a champion.
In the main event of UFC Fight Night 161 this Saturday at the Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla., former strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk will face No. 7 ranked Michelle Waterson.
The No. 5 ranked Jedrzejczyk will attempt to rebound from a unanimous decision loss to Valentina Shevchenko for the flyweight title in December. Jedrzejczyk is 1-3 in her last four fights, but started her UFC career going 8-0 and defended the title five times. She’s one of the greatest champions in UFC history and is still a threat to go on another title run in the strawweight division.
The 32-year-old Jedrzejczyk has key victories over Tecia Torres, Jessica Andrade, Karolina Kowalkiewicz, Claudia Gadelha (twice), Valerie Letourneau, Jessica Penne and Carla Esparza. She entered MMA as a successful Muay Thai and kickboxing champion and has amassed a wealth of experience.
Her standup game was exposed in her first UFC title loss to Rose Namajunas in November 2017, and she cannot afford to be exposed again if she wants to get the title back. Nevertheless, Waterson’s karate style could pose problems for Jedrzejczyk early in the fight.
Waterson will ride three straight victories (over Cortney Casey, Felice Herrig and Karolina Kowalkiewicz) into the fight and has collected key wins over Paige VanZant, Angela Magana and Jessica Penne. Even though Jedrzejczyk is no longer the champion, the 33-year-old Waterson believes their bout on Saturday is still a championship-caliber fight.
“If you look at what she has done for the strawweight division, in holding the belt for as long as she did and then taking a risk and going up to 125 to fight for the championship in that division,” Waterson recently said via Bloody Elbow. “For me, this is a championship fight. I’m training for it as if I was fighting for the belt.”
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According to American Top Team (where Jedrzejczyk trains) owner Dan Lambert, the UFC has told Jedrzejczyk that she will get a title shot with a victory on Saturday.
“My assumption is the same,” Waterson said. “I beat Joanna and, in my opinion, the rankings shouldn’t be the way they are. Joanna was the longest-reigning champion in the strawweight division. She should still be ranked number two.”
Saturday’s co-main event will be a featherweight fight between Cub Swanson and Kron Gracie.
Swanson, once considered a threat to challenge for the title, has fallen on hard times. He has lost four straight fights and cannot afford to be the stepping stone for an up-and-coming fighter such as Gracie.
Swanson lost what was considered to be a title eliminator to Brain Ortega in 2017 and followed that performance with losses to Frankie Edgar, Renato Moicano and a close split-decision to Shane Burgos. The 35-year-old Swanson has fallen out of the rankings and has a tough task ahead of him against one of the best jiu-jitsu fighters in the featherweight division.
Previously fighting in the WEC, Swanson has been in the UFC since 2011. He has fought a who’s who of fighters, including Jose Aldo, Chad Mendes, Ricardo Lamas and Max Holloway, with key victories over Dustin Poirier, Jeremy Stephens, Charles Oliveira and Doo Ho Choi.
Gracie (5-0) is the son of legendary jiu-jitsu and MMA fighter Rickson Gracie. He made his UFC debut in February against Alex Caceres, winning by first-round submission and earning Performance of the Night honors. He’s as dangerous as anyone in the UFC when the fight goes to the ground, winning all five of his fights by submission.
Gracie poses a real threat to Swanson, a fighter who has been vulnerable to submission in the past.
The rest of the main card on ESPN+
Welterweight bout - Niko Price vs. James Vick
Women’s strawweight bout - Mackenzie Dern vs. Amanda Ribas
Lightweight bout - Matt Frevola vs. Luis Pena
Middleweight bout - Eryk Anders vs. Gerald Meerschaert
Light heavyweight bout - Ryan Spann vs. Devin Clark
Lightweight bout - Mike Davis vs. Thomas Gifford
Welterweight bout - Max Griffin vs. Alex Morono
Flyweight bout - No. 3 Deiveson Figueiredo vs. No. 6 Tim Elliott
Bantamweight bout - Marlon Vera vs. Andrew Ewell
Welterweight bout - Miguel Baeza vs. Hector Aldana
Middleweight bout - Marvin Vettori vs. Andrew Sanchez
Women’s flyweight bout - JJ Aldrich vs. Lauren Mueller