Rose Namajunas doesn’t typically call anybody out but when fans on social media started suggesting a fight with Michelle Waterson it felt like the right time to let her voice be heard.
Namajunas immediately asked for a fight with Waterson, who was fresh off a first-round submission win over Paige VanZant from this past December.
The UFC ultimately granted her wish and now Namajunas faces Waterson in the co-main event at FOX UFC Fight Night this weekend in Kansas City.
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While Namajunas was extremely respectful in her request to face Waterson, she’s also brutally honest when assessing the former Invicta FC atomweight champion as she takes a decided step up in competition with her first fight against a legitimate top five opponent in the UFC.
“I can’t really think of anybody that she’s fought that is of my caliber,” Namajunas told the Fight Society podcast this week. “At the same time, it’s hard for me to really put myself in the same category as anybody else. I’m just different, I’m very unique, very hard to know what I’m going to do.
“She shows that she belongs in the UFC. Obviously, I already knew that she was that caliber of fighter before getting into the UFC when she was in Invicta. It just so happened she had the belt at the time or she was just fighting at atomweight. I’m happy she’s in the UFC. Her fights are pretty exciting. I guess she hasn’t really fought anybody like me yet so that’s definitely going to be a different story. All her other fights in the UFC she’s been pretty dominant and have been pretty exciting.”
Waterson enters the fight with two wins in the UFC but Namajunas is by far the most successful opponent she’s faced during her brief stint with the promotion.
On paper, Namajunas and Waterson have similar skill sets with each sharing a background in traditional martial arts before adding other elements to make it to this level in the UFC.
Of course, Waterson is known for her nickname “The Karate Hottie” but she’s spent more time on the ground than striking on the feet since joining the UFC roster. Namajunas is also a ground specialist so she’s not so sure Waterson will want to test her on the ground but after a few exchanges on the feet, she may not have any other choice.
“I think she’s going to try and strike with me at first but it’s going to turn into a desperate attempt to get it to the ground,” Namajunas said. “I think so [that’s where everything backfires].
“I think Michelle is dangerous in spots. She’s very savvy and sets up little traps and things like that but I’ve really been tightening up my game. I was already really well rounded but I’m really tightening up the loose ends. There’s no part in this fight where I feel uncomfortable at all.”
Throughout her career, including a stint on “The Ultimate Fighter” season 20, Namajunas has packaged together a lot of exciting moments in only eight career bouts and she definitely feels like Waterson will afford her the opportunity to add another on Saturday night.
“This is a perfect opportunity to get a highlight,” Namajunas said about her fight with Waterson. “That’s the plan.”
That’s not the only plan Namajunas has as she approaches her co-main event slot against Waterson this weekend. With a win, Namajunas hopes she lands the coveted spot as the next No. 1 contender in line to face off with strawwweight queen Joanna Jedrzejczyk later this year.
“The vision that I have is to get a title shot this year,” Namajunas said. “Whether that be one fight in between or that be straight into a title shot, it doesn’t matter.”