In a fight that was tough to score, Carla Esparza escaped UFC 249 with a victory against Michelle Waterson with both fighters receiving a 30-27 scorecard.
The only ladies to grace the UFC 249 card in Jacksonville, Florida on Saturday were Carla Esparza and Michelle Waterson. The strawweight duo were a pair of fighters in limbo: Esparza a former champ well out of the title picture, Waterson, a potential star who always seemed to come up just short.
Esparza, however, was riding a two-fight win streak into the event. Waterson, meanwhile, was looking to bounce back from a key loss to former UFC champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
Carla Esparza and Michelle Waterson had quite a bit of space between them to start the fight. Neither strawweight was able to close the distance effectively, but Waterson was able to land a counter right hand as Esparza came forward. A left cross connected for Waterson as Esparza countered with a right. Waterson fired away with a combination but only connected with a leg kick at the end. A strong right hand landed for Esparza, and Waterson fired back with a leg kick and a head kick. Esparza closed the round strong with a double-leg takedown, but didn’t do much with it for the final 30 seconds.
Waterson kept range with jabs from a distance, but Esparza was able to land a punch both times she charged in during the first minute of the second round. The exchanges were infrequent, but Waterson slapped Esparza’s leg with a hard kick. Esparza charged in for a takedown but Waterson defended well, hitting Esparza with a knee to the body. Waterson was keeping distance from Esparza, avoiding her opponent’s rushes and defending another takedown attempt with a knee. Esparza landed another combination, but Waterson defended a takedown as the round came to an end.
Esparza shot for a takedown early, but Waterson delivered the same knee to the body that has stopped the takedown for the past few attempts. A combination landed for Esparza and Waterson responded with a jab. Leg kicks landed on both sides, with Waterson staying more active with the lower body. Esparza’s rushes were more effective in terms of landing strikes, but was still unable to get a takedown. A head kick landed for Waterson and she avoided another takedown. Esparza came up empty on another takedown attempt, then bull-rushed in with a lengthy string of punches. Waterson bit down on her mouthpiece and fired back with shots of her own, then they separated. Another takedown attempt came in from Esparza that Waterson avoided. Esparza came charging in again to close out the fight, ending a close contest.
Carla Esparza def. Michelle Waterson by Split Decision (30-27, 29-28, 27-30)