Michelle Waterson and Cortney Casey battled for a full three rounds at UFC Glendale on Saturday in a fantastic women’s strawweight bout that saw gutsy efforts from both fighters.
Opening up the main card at UFC Glendale (UFC on FOX 29), a determined Cortney Casey was looking to get the better of former Invicta FC atomweight champ Michelle Waterson in a strawweight clash. Waterson had been pushed hard by the UFC since joining the division, but headed to Glendale off back-to-back losses to Tecia Torres and Rose Namajunas.
Casey, meanwhile, was coming off a loss to Felice Herrig at UFC 218 in December, a split decision that perhaps could have gone her way.
The end result of Waterson vs. Casey was a hell of a show. Waterson fired off her kicks and circled on the outside early in the first round. Flashing kicks from either side, she looked to keep Casey guessing. ‘Cast Iron,’ meanwhile, held her ground, moving forward, looking to catch the former Invicta FC champion. Casey initiated a clinch, but Waterson quickly escaped. Casey then connected with a leg kick of her own. A moment later, a left hand off a lead right tagged Waterson. Another huge right hand then wobbled Waterson, nearly spinning her around. Later on, another right clipped her. Waterson soon fell back on her grappling to avoid being completely pummeled, getting the fight to the ground. Casey threatened with a triangle, but ‘The Karate Hottie’ was hip to it. Casey then adjusted and switched to an arm-bar, and it seemed like no matter where the fight went, Waterson was in danger. Waterson began to posture up and score some ground and pound, finishing the round strong, but Casey had the edge through the bulk of the round.
Round two saw Casey go right back to work. She was able to easily out-muscle the smaller Waterson, but Waterson proved game, landing some standing elbows in the clinch. Waterson had slowed a step, but she still slipped in and out, landing single strikes then retreating. Waterson ate another heavy right, then went back to her wrestling, taking Casey down and working from within Casey’s guard. Casey was able to grab an arm, threatening an arm-bar, but Waterson managed to defend the submission. Another arm-bar attempt followed, with Michelle Waterson stepping over her opponent to fend it off. That allowed Casey, however, to get back to her feet. Waterson then clipped Casey with a lightning fast kick to the face just prior to round’s end.
Waterson landed another kick to the face to open round three, and it felt like anyone’s fight to win entering the third. Clinching along the fence, Casey worked in knees while Waterson connected with an elbow. Back out in the open, Casey again threatened with her power, while Waterson tied her up, soon scoring a trip for another takedown. Casey grabbed an arm again, however, while Waterson worked to keep her arms locked. Casey then transitioned to a leg lock, only for Waterson to punch her way free. Back on the feet, Waterson connected with a big right hand, but Casey kept walking forward. Waterson went for a single, but Casey defended, latching on to her opponent; as Waterson tried to power through, Casey sprawled. Waterson then gave up the back! Casey had a chance for a rear-naked choke, but Waterson turned in. Casey went for a last second arm-bar, and had it tight only for the bell to sound!
In a close, thrilling fight, Waterson’s gutsy effort earned her the nod on two scorecards.
Michelle Waterson def. Cortney Casey by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)