There are no half measures for Michelle Waterson and Angela Hill.
It’s common for UFC fights bumped up to the main event to remain three rounds, but when Waterson and Hill received a promotion a week ago following a positive COVID-19 test that knocked Glover Teixeira out of a main event matchup with Thiago Santos, the two strawweight veterans had no issue tacking another 10 minutes onto their punch cards.
Now they’ll close out UFC Vegas 10 on Saturday, with Waterson headlining a UFC show for the third time in her career and Hill becoming the first Black American woman to do so. The significance of the moment isn’t lost on Hill, who spoke about what this achievement means amid the current social unrest in North America.
Beyond any farther reaching implications, Waterson needs a win to avoid a three-fight skid that keep her dreams of becoming a “mom champ” from ever becoming a reality, and Hill has to prove that she’s more than just a fighter willing to take a booking at the drop of a hat.
In other main card action, all-action lightweights Ottman Azaitar and Khama Worthy collide in the co-main event, flyweights Roxanne Modafferi and Andrea Lee meet in a rematch from December 2014, veteran Ed Herman takes on Mike Rodriguez in a light heavyweight bout, lightweight Bobby Green makes a quick turnaround to fight Alan Patrick, and featherweight Billy Quarantillo aims to go 3-0 in the UFC when he fights Kyle Nelson.
What: UFC Vegas 10
Where: UFC APEX in Las Vegas
When: Saturday, Sept. 12. The six-fight preliminary card begins at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN+, with the six-fight main card starting at 8 p.m. also on ESPN+.
Angela Hill vs. Michelle Waterson
It’s time for “Overkill” to finally snag that signature win.
It’s one thing for Angela Hill to have a reputation as a busy, hard-working fighter, but if she wants to walk the walk of a legitimate contender it has to start with a victory over a name like Michelle Waterson. Hill certainly has the tools to make it happen. She has a deep gas tank and the kind of volume striking that is made to take decisions. That didn’t work out for her in her previous fight with Claudia Gadelha, though not due to any lack of effort on Hill’s part.
Waterson’s striking game has always been more about patience and precision, which could serve her well against an aggressive Hill. Her grappling advantage also can’t be ignored. Hill’s strong takedown defense will be put to the test if Waterson clinches up and drags the fight to the fence. It will only take a few dominant ground sequences from Waterson to wear Hill down and change the whole complexion of the fight.
Hill has shown a ton of improvements in her second run with the UFC and despite her recent split decision loss it feels like she’s peaking as a potential contender in 2020. Look for her to land the harder shots and score more consistently en route to a decision win.
Ottman Azaitar vs. Khama Worthy
This one should be awesome.
In Ottman Azaitar, the UFC has found a prospect whose sole goal when he steps into the cage is to knock someone out. There is almost no position in which Azaitar won’t attempt to land a haymaker. From distance, in close, in the clinch, if you are in range he is going to throw something at you. Hard. So far that strategy has paid off in the form of eight knockouts in 12 wins.
That attitude makes him the best possible opponent for Khama Worthy and also an extremely dangerous one. Worthy isn’t shy about the fact that, like Azaitar, his goal is to finish and entertain, not to win decisions. He’s inviting Azaitar to step into a phone booth with him and drop bombs. He may regret this.
Even though I think Worthy should be cautious, he’s more than capable of landing his own KO blow or catching Azaitar with a submission, and I like his tricky movement a little more than Azaitar’s more conventional approach. That said, Azaitar’s hand speed is scary and can make up the difference there.
This is a coin toss, but I’ll pick Worthy because of his experience advantage.
Roxanne Modafferi vs. Andrea Lee
Though it’s been almost six years since their first fight, expect this rematch between Roxanne Modafferi and Andrea Lee to play out in similar fashion.
Certainly, Lee has made as much strides on the ground as Modafferi has on the feet, but I don’t know if they’ve changed enough for the outcome to be different. Modafferi won’t hesitate to meet Lee blow-for-blow and she’s capable of doing serious damage in a variety of ways now as opposed to back in the day when her standup was comprised of mostly straightforward punching combinations.
Lee is comfortable grappling and her athleticism allows for some impressive escapes and passes on the mat. She won’t want to stay there long with Modafferi though as “The Happy Warrior” is simply more well-versed when it comes to throws, sweeps, and submissions. Modafferi also has more ways to win this fight, which is why I like her chances.
Should this be primarily a standup fight, I still favor Modafferi, though only slightly. She’s really developed an in-cage mean streak over the last few years that belies her nickname and if she beats Lee to the punch then the fight is hers for the taking.
Ed Herman vs. Mike Rodriguez
Ed Herman finally has himself a fight (fingers crossed). It might not be one he’ll want to remember when it’s all said and done.
The 39-year-old Ultimate Fighter 3 veteran has had some good moments at 205 pounds; in fact, he’s currently on his first winning streak in over eight years. However, he’s not a true light heavyweight and Mike Rodriguez is. Herman will give up a lot of size and strength on fight night.
Perhaps Herman goes back to his wrestling roots to grind out a win against Rodriguez, something he hasn’t shown much inclination to do since moving up from middleweight. Rather, he’s used his wrestling to sprawl and brawl. If that’s the case, Rodriguez will welcome a war on the feet. Aside from having questionable defensive skills, Rodriguez is a major threat in the standup and could put Herman down at range or in the clinch.
Look for “Slow” to continue to defy his nickname and pick up another first-round finish.
Bobby Green vs. Alan Patrick
Watch out lightweight division, Bobby Green is hitting his stride again.
Yes, we’ve been her before with “King,” a gifted fighter who has been taking one step forward and two steps back for years now. And yes, he has anything but an easy matchup in the long and rangy Alan Patrick. But when Green is on, he can compete with the best at 155 pounds.
Patrick brings unorthodox striking and a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt into this matchup, though if history is any indication he’s going to keep this one standing. Expect him to come out of the gates hot, firing at Green from distance and only initiating grappling if there’s a clear opening for it.
In my eyes, that’s exactly the kind of approach that plays to Green’s strengths. “Nuguette” just hasn’t shown that he can consistently string together strikes in a meaningful way without getting countered. You can’t afford too many mistakes against a boxer of Green’s caliber.
Green by decision.
Kyle Nelson vs. Billy Quarantillo
After outlasting Spike Carlyle in his most recent outing, Billy Quarantillo gets another fast starter in Kyle Nelson. The 29-year-old Canadian isn’t the wild man that Carlyle is, but he’s a good wrestler with heavy hands who could shock Quarantillo early in the fight.
It’s hard not to like Quarantillo’s chances though. He’s well-rounded with a particular knack for scrambling that will pay dividends against Nelson. Both fighters are textbook modern mixed martial artists who show equal enthusiasm whether they’re standing and trading or battling for ground position.
Quarantillo has the edge in speed and athleticism, so even if Nelson brings the fight to him, he’s capable of turning things around quickly. Nelson’s opening salvo will be extinguished by Quarantillo’s grappling and after a hard-fought round or two, Quarantillo will find a win via submission.
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