December 16, 2016

UFC on Fox 22: VanZant vs. Waterson Has High Value In and Out of the Octagon

By Raphael Garcia

UFC on Fox 22 is a major moment for Michelle Waterson and Paige VanZant. The two women headline the card in Sacramento and are contesting for what many expect to be the next shot at the strawweight title. To go along with that, both of these women are in a great spot to drastically increase their star power with strong performances on Saturday.

While VanZant is the name that mainstream fans will know today, Waterson was in a pretty similar position a few years ago. Long before Invicta FC became the promotion known for women’s mixed martial arts, Waterson was making waves as an athlete known not only for her ability to wreck an opponent, but for her beauty outside of the cage. Many questioned her true abilities, dismissing her as just another pretty face, but since Waterson broke through with Invicta, her cachet within the sport has slowly increased.

Coming off of a stint on Dancing with the Stars and a highlight reel win over Bec Rawlings, VanZant is in a position to become the top contender and a face that many people will rally around. If she dispatches Waterson, expect her to get the next shot against Joanna Jedrzejczyk at some point in 2017. This is the moment that VanZant has been groomed for since debuting in the Octagon back in 2014. Even though she had the hiccup against Rose Namajunas at UFC Fight Night 80, VanZant has never slipped far off the radar in the division. This bout is yet another opportunity for VanZant to break through.

Yet those unfamiliar with Waterson will not recognize that she’s a true threat to derail VanZant’s hype train. The former atomweight champion has been quiet since joining the UFC last year. Injuries have plagued her and kept her out of important fights. Even though she was upset for her 105-pound title in 2014, Waterson reminded everyone how great of a competitor she is with her performance against Angela Magana at The Ultimate Fighter 21 Finale. Betting lines show this fight as nearly even heading into the event on Saturday, and those numbers could get even closer as the main event starts. 

The women’s divisions are wide open with opportunities for a new star to embed herself in the minds of MMA fans around the world. “Joanna Champion” is sitting on high, awaiting her next challenger. That person should emerge from this Saturday’s main event, as Michelle Waterson and Paige VanZant compete at the perfect time for this division and for their careers.

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