Michelle Waterson is happy to be in the UFC. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
First Michelle Waterson felt the butterflies in her stomach. Then she felt Angela Magana cranking on her arm.
In the end, neither was enough to keep “The Karate Hottie” from winning her Ultimate Fighting Championship debut. Displaying the trademark flexibility that once aided her in capturing the Invicta FC atomweight crown, Waterson survived Magana’s best effort and then proceeded to dominate every aspect of their strawweight fight en route to winning via third-round submission at "The Ultimate Fighter 21" finale finale at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday night.
“In the first round I had a bad case of the Octagon jitters,” she said. “They started to go away in the second and by the third, I finally found my rhythm. I think I needed her to try to submit me to wake me up and make me realize I was in a fight. After that I was good.”
Once Magana let go of Waterson’s arm, the New Mexico-based fighter was better than good – she was dominant. The Jackson-Wink MMA product racked up a lopsided 102-to-19 advantage in total strikes, passed guard repeatedly and finally forced her opponent to quit with a rear-naked choke 2:38 into the final stanza.
“I spent a lot of time studying her and watching her to get her movements and habits down so there would be no surprises in there,” Waterson said. “The armbar she had me in wasn’t that close. My elbow wasn’t on her hip so it didn’t hurt; it was just a bit uncomfortable.”
Meanwhile, Magana revealed that her performance was hampered by a pre-fight injury.
“I shouldn’t have fought with a broken rib,” said Magana, who is now 0-2 in the UFC. “I didn’t want to be one of those fighters who pulls out and doesn’t put on a show for the fans.”
Magana nearly pulled off the improbable victory anyway, but Waterson is no stranger to escaping precarious positions. At Invicta FC 5, Waterson let her elbow pop in order to escape a Jessica Penne armbar before rallying to submit her foe – and claim 105-pound gold -- with an armbar of her own in the fourth stanza. Now, with Penne and Waterson both under the UFC banner, the stage could be set for a rematch of one of 2013’s most thrilling fights. For now, Waterson doesn’t plan on calling anyone out.
“As far as my next opponent goes, I’m going to take some time to bask in this victory,” she said. “I’m very glad I was able to perform in my debut, and I’m looking forward to whatever the UFC has next for me.”