No. 9 ranked UFC strawweight Michelle Waterson makes her return to the octagon on Saturday in a flyweight bout that will serve as the main event of UFC Vegas 26 against no. 6 ranked strawweight contender Marina Rodriguez.
Waterson’s last fight was in Sept. 2020, where she took home a split decision victory against no. 12 ranked Angela Hill in the main event of UFC Vegas 10.
Rodriguez is coming off a very impressive second round TKO victory over a highly touted prospect, the no. 11 ranked Amanda Ribas at UFC 257.
The main event of UFC Vegas 26 was originally supposed to feature a bantamweight title eliminator between TJ Dillashaw and Cory Sandhagen. However because of Dillashaw being forced to pull out due to a laceration, the bout between Waterson and Rodriguez got bumped up from a three round bout to a five round main event.
But for “The Karate Hottie”, the opportunity was too sweet to pass up.
“I’ve been fighting for close to 15 years now and I know that I only got a couple good years left in me, and the more that I realized that, the more that I want to take advantage of every opportunity when it presents itself,” Watseron said at UFC Vegas 26 media day. “It’s kind of like, you don’t realize what you have until it’s gone. I think COVID showed all of us a lot of that.
“I love this. I love to fight. I love to go out there. I love to perform. I love the fans. I love the media, and sometimes you can just become so tangled up in all the monotony of fighting. Of the training and the pressure, and the negativity of the outside noise and you forget about all the things that made you fall in love with it to begin with.”
Waterson said she believes a victory over Rodriguez will prove to everyone that she is still a premier contender.
“I really like this fight stylistically. Like I said, I have been in there with the best of the best strikers with Joanna [Jedrzejczyk] and Rose [Namajunas],” Waterson said. “I know where I stand in the division. So I think this is a great matchup for me to show the world that I belong at the top.”
Despite the fact that this is a flyweight bout as a result of the fight coming together on such short notice, it would not be far-fetched to believe this fight will have implications on the strawweight division.