UFC Philadelphia Breakdown: Kowalkiewicz v Waterson
Notable Wins: Felice Herrig, Rose Namajunas, Heather Jo Clarke
Team: Shark Top Team
Notable Wins: Felice Herrig, Paige VanZant, Courtney Casey
A strawweight bout between Karolina Kowalkiewicz and Michelle Waterson will be one of the most eagerly anticipated bouts at UFC Philadelphia. For both women, this is a must-win fight to be in consideration for the next shot at the UFC strawweight title. Kowalkiewicz will be looking to bounce after being knocked out for the first time in her professional career by Jessica Andrade at UFC 228. For Waterson, she will be aiming to continue her current winning streak after back to back wins over Courtney Casey and Felice Herrig.
Kowalkiewicz will be aiming to get back into title contention, Kowalkiewicz previously fought for the title at UFC 205 only to lose out via unanimous decision to then-champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Kowalkiewicz only has three losses to her name all coming against worthy opposition, former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Claudia Gadelha and Jessica Andrade. It’s worth noting Gadelha fought for the title on two occasions while Andrade will take on Rose Namajunas for the strawweight title in May at UFC 237. So, with all three losses coming to top elite fights some people argue Kowalkiewicz does not have what it takes to become a world champion. That argument is incorrect as Kowalkiewicz is the last woman to successfully defeat current champion Rose Namajunas back UFC 201 via split decision showing she can mix it with very best.
For Waterson, she will come into this fight full of confidence having won her last two fights with wins over Courtney Casey via split decision and Felice Herrig via unanimous decision. Like Kowalkiewicz loses prior to that have come at the hands of very worthy opponent’s most notable Tecia Torres and Rose Namajunas. A win over the very highly regarded Kowalkiewicz will catapult her into title contention.
I fully expect this fight to stay on the feet. I expect Waterson to try and keep the distance and utilise her side-kicks to thigh and body, similar to what she did in her fight against Namajunas. Waterson will be looking to start this fight at a high pace and land shots while remaining on the outside. Kowalkiewicz gets hit a lot specifically in the first round. Waterson will have the advantage if she can keep the distance due to her footwork and movement. Kowalkiewicz, however, will look to close that distance early on, she will look to engage in the clinch and land knees to the body of Waterson and slow her down. Kowalkiewicz comes from a Muay Thai background so the clinch is where she will have the advantage, she is also known for durability haven taken big shots in the past and keeps pressuring, Waterson will need to use her superior footwork to avoid being constantly pressured by Kowalkiewicz.
This is a fantastic matchup as both fighters are very well matched, can Waterson implement her striking game or will Kowalkiewicz be able to dominate the clinch and grind the win? Whoever wins this weekend could very well be the next title challenger.