Rose Namajunas puts herself in line for title shot with win over Michelle Waterson
'Thug' may get a shot at the 115-pound belt after this impressive win
Sometimes it's easy to forget that Rose Namajunas is still just 24.
The strawweight contender'/s evolution was on full display Saturday in a dismantling of Michelle Waterson via second-round submission at UFC Kansas City that could place Namajunas in line for a second title opportunity.
It seems like ages ago that Namajunas (6-3) lost in the inaugural 115-pound title bout to Carla Esparza in 2014. The version of "Thug" that left Waterson bruised and bloodied on Saturday was a nasty and dangerous one.
After the fight, Namajunas sent a message to current strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, who defends her title against Jessica Andrade at UFC 211.
"I feel like I can go all the way to the belt and hold it for a while," Namaijunas said. "Joanna or whomever is going to win that fight, I'm coming so be careful."
Waterson (14-5) entered with a ton of momentum after destroying Paige VanZant in a headlining role in December. "The Karate Hottie" was game against Namajunas and recorded a takedown in the opening minute of the fight. But Namajunas' length and constant forward attack proved overwhelming.
Namajunas landed big strikes from top position on the ground in Round 1 and stuck to Waterson like glue the remainder of the round, slipping in knees to the head on breaks from the clinch and causing swelling above Waterson's left eye with a big right hand.
Things only got worse for Waterson in Round 2. She was floored by a head kick early and absorbed a series of short elbows and strikes on the ground. After Waterson briefly made it back to her feet, Namajunas transitioned to her back and sunk in a choke, which caused both to fall to the ground.
With blood dripping from Waterson's nose, she was forced to tap moments later at 2:47 of the round.
"We broke off from the clinch one time and it kind of set up that right kick," Namajunas said. "I have a really powerful right kick and I just haven't had the chance to show it yet."
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