TUF 21 Finale preview: Michelle Waterson vs. Angela Magana

Michelle WatersonAlthough UFC 189 takes the center stage (or cage) Saturday night, there is a second UFC event going down on Sunday as this weekend kicks of the UFC’s crazy July schedule of five events over a 14 day period.  Let’s take a look at Sunday's TUF 21 Finale strawweight matchup between Michelle Waterson (12-4) and Angela Magana (11-7).

Making her long-awaited Octagon debut, Waterson comes into the Octagon moving up a weight class and after her first loss in over five years.  She lost the Invicta atomweight (105 pounds) title to Herica Tiburcio by third-round submission in December of last year.

Magana’s last fight was also in December of last year, where she lost her UFC debut to fellow TUF 20 contestant Tecia Torres, by unanimous decision.  Magana is currently on a three-fight losing streak, two of which were unanimous decision losses.

Training out of Jackson-Wink MMA, Waterson has expanded her game far beyond her karate roots, and she even holds a submission win by flying armbar, a submission that is still largely a rarity in professional mixed martial arts competition.  Waterson is exceptionally flexible and puts this to use with submission attempts from various positions and a diverse array of striking techniques.

In her eleven wins, Magana has six of her wins by submission, two by T/KO and three by decision.  Of her seven losses, four are by submission and three are by decision and again, three of those seven losses came in her last three fights and her last win was in August 2011.  Even though a loss to Waterson likely wouldn’t see Magana cut due to the lack of depth in the women’s strawweight division, she still needs a win to get back on track.

Given that this is Waterson’s first fight in the UFC, there’s always a chance she could be affected by the “Octagon jitters” that overwhelm many fighters in their first fight on the big stage.  However, Waterson is no stranger to competition, and there’s little doubt that Greg Jackson has been preparing her for this moment.

The betting lines give Waterson a massive edge in the fight as she is the favorite at -505 while Magana is a significant underdog at +335.  Despite the odds, I wouldn’t expect a quick finish from Waterson.  She certainly has the arsenal to end the fight early, but Magana is resilient.  Look for Waterson to have a definitive striking edge throughout the fight, and by the time the second round begins, Waterson’s jab will start to wear on Magana.  As the fight progresses, Magana will still make some submission attempts, but those will not prove successful and Waterson will keep the dominant position throughout the fight on her way to a unanimous decision win for her UFC debut.