Rose Namajunas puts herself in line for title shot with win over Michelle Waterson

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."

CBS Sports Insider

Brian Campbell covers MMA, boxing and WWE. The Connecticut native joined CBS Sports in 2017 and has covered combat sports since 2010. He has written and hosted various podcasts and digital shows for ESPN... Full Bio

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