The always entertaining Paige VanZant will make her return to the Octagon later tonight (Sat., Dec. 17, 2016) at UFC on FOX 22 live on FOX from inside Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, Calif., as she takes on former Invicta FC atomweight champion Michelle Waterson in an ultra-important strawweight clash. It will be the second time VanZant is headlining a Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) event and just the second time Waterson will compete inside the Octagon since joining the promotion last year.
With much at stake, fight fans can expect the very best out of both “12 Gauge” and “Karate Hottie.” They are two of the more better looking fighters in mixed martial arts (MMA) today, but undoubtedly match their beauty with world-class skill. As we approach their main event clash later this evening on big FOX, we take a second to dissect what both fighters need to do in order to end 2016 on a good note.
1. Close the distance on the feet…
A lot is being made out of PVZ’s switch kick knockout of Bec Rawlings earlier this year. It was, and still is, one of the best finishes in women’s MMA history and a defining moment in VanZant’s career that sheds light on her evolution as a striker. However, it’s important for VanZant to not get caught up in her own hype and think she can steamroll someone like Waterson on the feet.
Therefore, VanZant must close the distance on the feet to suffice for Waterson’s Karate expertise. Waterson is tremendous in mixing it up from distance and controlling range, so “12 Gauge” needs to get inside, land offense to the body, implement her underrated dirty boxing and pick apart “Karate Hottie” from the inside out.
2. Rely on her ground game…
There is a real good chance that VanZant encounters difficulty in the striking department against someone as versatile as Waterson. If she feels like she’s falling behind on the scorecards, VanZant can always rely on her wrestling.
The Team Alpha Male standout has some of the best MMA wrestlers in her corner everyday in training, so it’s no secret that she can take an opponent down, batter them with ground-and-pound and score points in bunches. She did it against all three of her first UFC opponents and could find similar success tonight against Waterson, assuming VanZant can defend the arm bars of “Karate Hottie.”
1. Create havoc on the feet…
VanZant is coming off her knockout of Rawlings earlier this year and is going to be extremely confident on the feet tonight at UFC on FOX 22. While VanZant’s evolution as a striker is evident heading into 2017, she isn’t on the same level as Waterson just yet.
Therefore, Waterson can use VanZant’s own momentum to her advantage and draw out mistakes in her striking. VanZant will more than likely be open to early exchanges on the feet, which will allow Waterson to launch unorthodox strikes from distance, land kicks to the body and legs, and try to overload VanZant’s reactionary senses. If she can do that, and pull out ahead on the scorecards, she can turn PVZ into a desperate wrestler in the later rounds.
2. Stay active off her back…
Waterson may very well end up on her back at some point tonight. She possesses sound wrestling defense and has displayed an ability to stay on her feet in the past, but she isn’t immune to a takedown, especially against someone like “12 Gauge.”
If Waterson is indeed taken down and held on the canvas, she must remain active off her back. VanZant has beaten opponents inside of the Octagon before by scoring points in bunches from top position. To limit VanZant’s ability to control the action on the ground, “Karate Hottie” needs to land punches from the bottom, threaten with submission attempts (which she has) and do everything in her power to bring the fight back to the feet.
Prediction: VanZant via split decision
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on FOX 22 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. ET, and then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 5 p.m. ET, before the FOX main card start time at 8 p.m. ET.