Michelle Waterson was an Invicta champion at atomweight, her natural weight class.
She fights at strawweight these days because it’s the closest class to her weight in the UFC. That means she’s frequently smaller than her opponents.
But you can’t measure heart, and Waterson showed plenty. She shook off a slow start and earned a split decision in a tight fight at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz., getting the right side of two out of three 29-28 cards.
“When I am mentally strong I can get through anything,” Waterson said. “It’s MMA, you have to be able to adapt. That’s what I’ve learned on my MMA journey. You can’t just bring certain tools to the fight, you need to bring your whole tool box.”
Casey had her best round in the first, as she more or less bullied her opponent in the standup. Waterson scored a late takedown, though, which portended the rest of the fight.
Waterson scored one of her three takedowns during the fight early in the second round, where the bout. Arizona native Casey, though worked for several submssions from the bottom. Late in the round, back on the feet, Waterson dropped Casey with a body kick.
Both fighters went for it in the final round, which came down to the final minute. Waterson went for another takedown attempt. This time, Casey sprawled it and ended up on top in the scramble. Casey had Waterson in a deep armbar as time expired.
Waterson improved to 15-6, with wins in four or her past six fights. Casey, who tends to be involved in close fights win or lose, dropped to 7-6 with her third loss in her past four.