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Exclusive: Michelle Waterson feels “wrongly judged” following close decision loss to Carla Esparza

Waterson is eager to make a quick turnaround following a close decision blemish.

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At UFC 249 last Saturday night in Jacksonville – two former world champions clashed in a razor-thin back-and-forth three-round affair. Inaugural 115-pound titleholder, Carla Esparza tackled former Invicta FC atomweight champion, Michelle Waterson – with the former getting the nod from two of three judges at Octagon side. 

In an incredibly bizarre trio of scorecards, one judge scored the bout 30-27 for Esparza, while another notched up a 30-27 for Waterson. The loss marked Jackson-Wink MMA mainstay, Waterson’s second straight decision loss, however, for the first time in her thirteen-year career – explained how she felt, “wrongly judged” following the decision.


Speaking with Colin Crandall from the MMA Power Hour, the 34-year-old chalked up the defeat to a set of criteria which some judges seem to prefer to score from on fight night but felt she had done enough to take a decision triumph.

I really felt confident, and you know, I’m pretty good at coming away with a loss and swallowing my pride and accepting a loss when I know that I’ve lost, and kinda doing a lot of introspective thinking and trying to go back to the drawing board and figuring out what I did wrong, but this is the first time I’ve ever felt that way,” Waterson revealed. “I felt – I felt really confident once that third round was over. I thought that I played the smarter fight. I thought that I caught her every time she came in – I could hear my corner, and I could hear her corner calling out in desperation, and every now and then – I could hear the commentators even.

I felt confident knowing – stuffing all her takedowns, except for the first one in the first round, and catching her coming in, and catching her on the way out with my kicks, that it was enough, but I guess that’s why they say, ‘Don’t leave it in the hands of the judges’.

In a hugely-close showing, Esparza managed to secure that premier round takedown, and in terms of total strikes, outlanded Waterson by just four – despite the Colorado native attempting eight fewer strikes. Waterson explained how decisions all fall to a fight-by-fight basis, as well as the set of judges sitting at Octagon side.

That’s the first time I’ve ever really had to deal with feeling wrongly judged, I guess,” Waterson said. “I honestly feel like it’s fight-per-fight – it depends really on the set of judges that you get, the state, I think it depends on that. I was even thinking – you never know what style the judge is looking for, you don’t know if they understand striking, you don’t know if they understand wrestling, or if they’re just looking at ring generalship, or if they’re looking at punches, or if they’re looking at the kicks. What happens if I stuff the takedown, do I get the point? Does she get the point if she takes me down but doesn’t inflict any damage? There’s so many different ins and outs of MMA.

Former Invicta FC 105-pound champion, Waterson – began her Octagon stint back in July of 2015, securing two straight wins over Angela Magaña, and Paige VanZant. In a high-stakes pairing, Waterson was submitted by future strawweight champion, Rose Namajunas, followed by a decision loss to Tecia Torres. The renowned karate practitioner would then go on to manage three consecutive decision triumphs over Courtney Casey, Felice Herrig, and former title challenger, Karolina Kowalkiewicz. 

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