After back-to-back defeats, Michelle Waterson needed a victory.
Saturday, fighting with passion and purpose, she got it.
In Las Vegas, Nevada, Waterson defeated Angela Hill by split decision in the five-round strawweight (115-pound) main event of a UFC Fight Night card at UFC Apex.
Two judges scored the fight for Waterson, submitting scorecards of 49-46 and 48-47. One judge scored it for Hill, a Maryland native who trains in San Diego, at 48-47.
Waterson (18-8) was coming off a loss by unanimous decision to former strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk in October 2019 and by split decision to Carla Esparza in May. The victory over Hill (12-9) could get Waterson back into the strawweight title picture.
“I was confident (about the decision),” Waterson said, “… (but) you never want to leave it up to the judges.
“I want to get to the belt as fast as possible.”
It was another hard-luck loss for Hill, who lost by controversial split decision to Claudia Gadelha in May.
“I thought I did enough (to win),” Hill did, “but it’s another one of those moments. I keep having these moments, and there’s something I have to figure out in the gym and bring it into the cage for the next fight to stop that from happening.”
The exciting fight earned “Fight of the Night” honors, prompting a $50,000 bonus for both Waterson and Hill.
The pivotal round was the fifth. Waterson won that round on the card of judge Derek Cleary. Had Cleary scored the round for Hill, as did judge Chris Lee, the split decision would have gone to Hill.
Rounds one, three and four were seen the same way by all three judges.
Hill’s superior striking won the first round on all three scorecards. In the third, Waterson scored the fight’s only clean takedown and kept Hill on the ground for more than three minutes until the horn sounded.
Waterson appeared the more aggressive fighter in the fourth.
“After the third, after the takedown, I feel like the tide had changed,” Waterson said. “I feel like I was the aggressor, I was the one in her face, pushing the pace and landing the harder shots.”
Two the judges, Cleary and Lee, scored the second round for Hill. Two — Cleary and Sal D’Amato — scored the fifth for Waterson.
While D’Amato’s score of 49-46 for Waterson was roundly criticized, few observers had a strong objection to the outcome.
CROOM: Former Albuquerque resident Kevin Croom earned a Performance of the Night bonus with his victory by first-round submission (standing guillotine choke) over Roosevelt Roberts.
Croom (22-12) took the fight on short notice and was making his UFC debut. He needed only 31 seconds to secure the guillotine.
While living in Albuquerque, Croom trained principally with Chris Luttrell before moving back to his native Missouri.
BELLATOR: In Uncasville, Connecticut, Patrick “Patchy” Mix, Waterson’s teammate at Albuquerque’s Jackson-Wink MMA, suffered the first defeat of his career — a costly one — in the main event of a Bellator card at Mohegan Sun Arena.
Juan Archuleta (25-2) defeated Mix (13-1) by unanimous decision, claiming the Bellator bantamweight (135-pound) title. The judges’ scorecards read 49-46, 48-47 and 48-47.
Mix entered the fight having won 24 fights, pro and amateur, without a defeat.
In a prelim fight, Jackson-Wink heavyweight Davion Franklin defeated Ras Hylton by technical decision.
Hylton (6-5) was ruled unable to continue after Franklin landed an illegal blow to the back of the head. Because the punch was ruled unintentional, Franklin (2-0), who was ahead on points at the time, was awarded the victory.