Michelle Waterson wants to stay relevant behind the usual suspects in the Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s strawweight division. In her way stands another mainstay at 115 pounds.
Waterson will meet American Top Team’s Tecia Torres in a three-round strawweight feature at UFC 218 “Holloway vs. Aldo 2” this Saturday at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. While their confrontation does not figure to carry title implications, the stakes are undeniably high for both fighters. Waterson saw her modest two-fight winning streak snapped at UFC on Fox 24 in April, when she submitted to a rear-naked choke from Rose Namajunas -- the woman who would go on to upset Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the undisputed women’s strawweight championship seven months later. Operating out of the Jackson-Wink MMA camp in Albuquerque, New Mexico, “The Karate Hottie” has compiled a 2-1 record since joining the UFC roster in 2015.
As Waterson barrels toward her pivotal showdown with the once-beaten Torres, here are five things you might not know about her:
1. She prefers to go out on her shield.
Four of Waterson’s five professional defeats have resulted in finishes, a June 2007 decision loss to Alicia Gumm the lone outlier.
2. While she holds the rank of black belt in American freestyle karate, she has proven to be a predatory grappler in mixed martial arts.
Waterson has delivered nine wins by submission: five by armbar and four by rear-naked choke. They account for 64 percent of her career total. Paige VanZant, Angela Magana and Jessica Penne were among the victims.
3. Reality shows have been a fruitful outlet.
An Aurora, Colorado native, Waterson has appeared on “Fight Girls,” “Bully Beatdown” and “American Ninja Warrior.” She is currently competing on MTV’s “The Challenge: Champs vs. Stars.” The eight-episode series premiered on Nov. 21 and pits 10 “Challenge” alumni against 10 athletes and entertainers in various competitions. Contestants are vying for a share of a $150,000 cash prize to donate to their charity of choice. In addition to Waterson, the cast includes two Olympic medalists -- gymnast Shawn Johnson and volleyball player Kim Glass -- and former NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens.
4. She came to the UFC with a championship pedigree.
Waterson is one of four women who have held the Invicta Fighting Championships atomweight title. Penne, Herica Tiburcio and Ayaka Hamasaki are the others. Waterson was champion for 609 days, from April 5 2013 to Dec. 5, 2014.
5. Consistency has been a trademark.
Waterson has never suffered back-to-back losses in her 19-fight career. She hopes to continue the trend against Torres, a woman against who she will enter the cage as a considerable underdog.