TAMPA, Fla. — The rear naked choke attempt slipped away, and with it so did Michelle Waterson’s chance for an upset — and a title shot.
Poland’s Joanna Jedrzejczyk defeated Albuquerque’s Waterson by lopsided unanimous decision Saturday night in the main event of a UFC Fight Night card.
The fight has been widely viewed as a title-elimination bout, with the winner destined to challenge China’s Weili Zhang for the UFC strawweight (115-pound) title. Jedrzejczyk has said, in fact, that it’s specified as such in her contract.
Waterson (17-7) had not said that, but had said she fully expected to get a long-awaited title shot if she could defeat Jedrzejczyk (16-3), a former UFC strawweight champion.
It was not to be. Jedrzejczyk assumed domination early, scoring repeatedly with kicks from a powerful right leg and punches from both sides. Waterson’s white top soon turned red with blood gushing from the Albuquerque fighter’s nose.
In the third round, though, lightning almost struck. Scoring a takedown, Waterson took Jedrzejczyk’s back and nearly secured a rear naked choke. But Jedrzejczyk managed to peel Waterson’s hands away from her throat, survived the threat and re-established her dominance in round four.
The judges’ scores were 50-45, 50-45 and 49-46.
At least Jedrzejczyk did not leave the Octagon unscathed — displaying a badly swollen right foot, the result of those powerful kicks.
“I don’t think that anybody steps into the octagon with the idea of losing,” Waterson said afterward, fighting back tears. “Just the fact that the crowd was still cheering and behind me, it fills my heart. It lets me know that I’m on the right track. That’s the fight game and that’s life. You can’t win them all.
“.. The feeling of victory is addicting. The highs are super high and I always say the lows are really low. I think the hardest part is letting down all my coaches and fans because of all the time they put into me.”
MEANS RETURNS: Moriarty UFC welterweight Tim Means (28-11-1), idle since March after breaking an ankle in a loss to Niko Price, is scheduled to make his return to the Octagon against Brazil’s Thiago Alves (23-14) Dec. 7 in Washington, D.C.
Means will join fellow welterweight and fellow New Mexican Carlos Condit on the card. Condit (30-13) is matched against Mickey Gall (6-2).
SANCHEZ WINS: In Tucson, Albuquerque bantamweight Joby Sanchez defeated Jose Alday by unanimous decision Friday on a Combate Americas card.
Sanchez, a former UFC fighter, improved his record to 13-5. Alday, of Hermosillo, Mexico, is 13-5-1.