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Diggin’ Deep on UFC: Waterson vs. Hill - Main card preview

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Get your fill on all the essentials for this weekends UFC VEGAS 10 main card, headlined by a pair of former Invicta champions in Michelle Waterson and Angela Hill.

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Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

I want to state the obvious right away. Is Michelle Waterson vs. Angela Hill a main event contest? No, the UFC knows this too. However, when Glover Teixeira tested positive for COVID-19 a bit over a week before this event, it cancelled his bout with Thiago Santos and forced the UFC’s hand. This is what we got. Given the circumstances, especially given the other options on the card to promote to the main event, I’ll take Waterson and Hill going five rounds without much complaint.

I will admit though… what the hell was the UFC thinking in promoting Ottman Azaitar and Khama Worthy to the co-main event? Not that the co-main event really means much anymore, but that’s the route they chose? Andrea Lee and Roxanne Modafferi are top ten in their division by the UFC’s own official rankings and they can’t show them any love? Well, in about the smallest consolation prize imaginable, I’ll give them the attention they deserve….

Michelle Waterson vs. Angela Hill, Women’s Strawweight

No one will deny the UFC has given Waterson a massive push in hopes of turning her into a star. That shouldn’t be much of a surprise when your representation also happens to own the business you work for. Regardless, whether people believe she deserves the push or not, she has made strides and turned herself into a tough out, even for the divisional elite.

A former atomweight champion for Invicta FC, everyone knew Waterson was going to be the smaller fighter in the cage almost every single time she stepped into the Octagon. That has remained true, but she has added wrinkles to her game to make her size less of an issue than many anticipated. Despite those improvements, her recent losses to Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Carla Esparza proved there are limits to just how far she can go at 115.

Waterson has always been an outside striker. With a wide variety of kicks – front kicks, side kicks, roundhouse kicks – she does an effective job of keeping her opposition from closing the distance on her and racking up points. I say racking up points as she throws them up to touch up her opponent rather than landing for maximum impact. Where she was weakest was in closer quarters, whether that be the clinch or in the pocket. Waterson has shored up enough in those areas that she can be competitive in short stints.

The key there is for short stints and each of those areas is where Hill wants the fight. A Muay Thai practitioner with a high paced style, Hill has spent the last few years working out the kinks to her unique style. Constant movement has become the name of her game, neither her head nor her feet ever really stopping. Her active approach has its drawbacks as she has slowed considerably by the time the third round rolls by on several occasions. Given this is a five round contest, that’s very concerning, even as she has become more efficient with her movement.

Even with the concerns about her ability to remain effective late, Hill tends to rack up the volume in a hurry, looking to rack up points as opposed to going for the kill. Not that she doesn’t have power, but it’s rare that she sits down on her strikes. In the clinch, her knees and elbow can cut up an opponent and she’ll even punctuate some striking combinations with her elbows in the pocket. She has improved her wrestling too, but whether she’ll want to take that route is very questionable. However, it’s also a route she’ll want to second guess in this contest.

Waterson’s best weapon has been her submissions. A cat-quick scrambler with underrated grappling fundamentals, she’s particularly lethal when she has latched herself to her opponent’s back. The biggest issue has been getting the fight there as her size limits how effective her wrestling is. Even with that said, she can maneuver around in the clinch to land a trip or throw. Hill may be wary of Waterson’s ability to hit either of those. Hill’s a good scrambler, but her BJJ skills may be her biggest weakness.

To pick Waterson to win, one must ask if they believe she can get Hill to the mat and keep her down long enough to elicit a tap. If this was three rounds as originally planned, I would have my doubts. Seeing as how it’s five rounds, that seems more likely, especially if Hill comes out looking to rack up the volume in a hurry. It’s a difficult contest to pick – one of those that you could see going 50-50 if they fought 100 times – but I’ll say Waterson can do it. Waterson via submission of RD4

Andrea Lee vs. Roxanne Modafferi, Women’s Flyweight

There isn’t a single person on the planet who doesn’t love Modafferi. Amongst the nicest people to walk the face of the earth – that’s not a hyperbole – Modafferi has been fighting professionally since 2003. It looked like her career was coming to a close. Instead, she made some major changes in her training and experienced a career revitalization, challenging for the inaugural UFC flyweight title. She isn’t quite in contention at this point, but she continues to turn away every opponent hoping to use her as a stepping stone.

Lee is another favorite of the MMA fanbase. A boxer and Muay Thai practitioner before getting into MMA, Lee has developed a sound wrestling game as well as a diverse arsenal of submissions. In fact, she has twice as many wins by submission as she does by KO. Regardless of how she has picked up her wins, wrestling and submissions has only been the plan when she feels her opponent has a clear disadvantage on the mat. That isn’t going to be the case with Modafferi.

Not to say that Modafferi hasn’t made herself a credible striker. Always a threat on the mat, Modafferi’s changes in her training camp put a big emphasis on improving her striking technique, adding some oomph in the process after several years of being labeled as pillow-fisted. Despite, the improvement, Modafferi’s awkward movement – difficult for inexperienced strikers – has worked against her with seasoned combatants… like Lee. Regardless, Modafferi’s advantage on the mat might allow her to see a victory come to fruition. While Modafferi’s crafty brand of grappling tends to get more attention from fight fans, it would be foolish to overlook her GnP, particularly her elbows.

These two fought once before in Lee’s third professional contest. Lee has come a long way since then. Modafferi’s recent losses have come from opponents overwhelming her with volume on the feet while stuffing her takedowns. Lee isn’t a beast of a wrestler, but she stopped enough of Lauren Murphey’s shots that she should be able to keep the fight standing and press forward with her attack on Modafferi for three rounds to take a clear decision. Lee via decision

  • One of the best under-the-radar stories of the UFC over the past year has been that of Khama Worthy. A longtime veteran of the regional scene, Worthy got his opportunity on short notice and made the most of it, KOing a highly touted Devonte Smith. His run continued when he submitted another touted prospect in Luis Pena. Worthy made strides in between those contests, showing improved timing in his striking while maintaining his unique opportunistic nature. One big difference between Worthy’s past UFC opponents and Ottman Azaitar is that Azaitar isn’t a developing fighter; he’s developed, knows what he wants to do, and how to do it. That isn’t to say Azaitar doesn’t have his limitations, but he’s not nearly as aimless in accomplishing his goals as Smith and Pena. Azaitar is a as stout as they come at 155, has serious KO power, and regularly switches stances. As enjoyable as Worthy’s run has been, I have a hard time seeing it continue against someone as self-assured as Azaitar. Azaitar via TKO of RD1
  • When Billy Quarantillo appeared on TUF five years ago, he looked like an alright prospect who might make it to the roster. He didn’t, at least not for four years, requiring an appearance on DWCS to do so. All he’s done since earning his roster spot is turn in a dominant performance that ended with a submission and one of the more entertaining grappling-based contests in recent memory, also seeing Quarantillo leave with his arm raised. A skilled grappler who chains his submissions together in rapid fire while also knowing how to work himself out of poor positions, Quarantillo’s ground game has proven to be vastly underrated. That doesn’t look like that will be the case moving forward. However, his standup isn’t anything special and has been exploited in the past. Kyle Nelson, a hard-hitting Canadian, is hoping to exploit that. Nelson, in addition to being the better boxer, can wrestle a bit and appears to be physically stronger between the two. However, his conditioning has been a major Achilles heel as he comes firing out of the gate and leaves little in the tank over the final half of the contest. Unless Nelson can get Quarantillo out of there early, it seems likely the American will secure himself a late stoppage. Quarantillo via submission of RD3
  • Ed Herman has always been cranky. That’s not an uncommon trait amongst fighters, but Herman takes it to another level. Now that he’s on the doorstep of 40, it’s developed into a rather endearing trait as he looks to turn away all the young whippersnappers. Never a great athlete even in his physical prime, Herman’s lack of speed is brutally obvious at this point. While he’s always been able to negate that with his veteran savvy – he’s always been a smart scrapper, even in his younger days – moving up to 205 has been a positive development for him too. So long as he isn’t facing the elite of the division, he can do just enough of everything and even catch his opponent by surprise with a well-timed counter or a sub. Taking this contest on short notice, Mike Rodriguez better be prepared. To Rodriguez’s credit, his recent win over Marcin Prachnio was a display of improved fight IQ, attacking Prachnio in the clinch utilizing his long frame to score low kicks. However, Prachnio was an easy opponent to prepare for. Even worse, Rodriguez has been known to slow down significantly after the first round. Despite his length, plus athleticism, and improving IQ, I still favor the crabby Herman to withstand an early storm to find a way to pull out the W. Herman via TKO of RD3