In the sports world, it is a very rare occurrence to reach the pinnacle of the sport an athlete participates in. Out of the hundreds and the thousands who train each day, compete year round and dedicate a life to the sports career only a select few ever reach that point. For some it is being the top ranked athlete and for others it is capturing the most prestigious title; the peak moment of a career can be forever defined by one of the two occurrences.
While those types of accolades are rare to come by, opinion based acknowledgements shared by the unanimous panel of fans, media and your sports colleagues can also define being at the pinnacle of the sport or of a career. Being heralded as the number one ranked fighter in MMA and winning the most prestigious title in your weight division is the tip of the iceberg, being considered possibly the best fighter ever at your weight class is what truly sets a fighter apart.
Reign MMA’s Jessica Penne (10-1) is that fighter and she will defend her Invicta Atomweight Title this Saturday on April 5th. Standing in her way of cementing the hype and solidifying herself high atop the rest of the 105-division is Albuquerque’s Michelle Waterson (13-1).
Live inside the Ameristar Casino in Kansas City, Missouri the all-woman based MMA promotion Invicta FC will host their fifth show and it will feature several prominent WMMA match ups. The night is highlighted by the Atomweight Championship fight between Waterson and Penne and arguably is the most prominent Woman’s MMA fight to feature a local in New Mexico’s MMA history.
Many consider Penne to be the best Woman fighter to ever compete at 105-pounds and her resume does little to dispute that idea. Her lone loss came in a judge’s decision loss competed at a heavier weight class and since making her atomweight debut, Penne has won three straight and in each fight has stopped her opponents with punches or a choke. It is hard to argue the fact that Penne is on a hot streak and looks nearly unbeatable at this weight class.
Waterson has a storied history in the fight game; racking up a record of 8-3 and being one of the most recognizable faces of the woman’s divisions, the “Karate Hottie” opted to pursue marriage and motherhood while she took a 21-month hiatus from active competition. She returned in early 2012 and has since made statements in her last two bouts earning her a spot alongside Penne to fight for the division’s most prestigious title.
The opportunity for Waterson will be our states first chance to watch a local woman athlete fight for a major WMMA title. While our state is home to the world renowned Jackson-Winklejohn gym which hosts elite WMMA fighters like Julie Kedzie, Sarah Kaufman and rising prospect Jodie Esquibel, this fight will be monumental in so many aspects. Waterson has a chance to really shine and it would be extremely fitting as she has been competing in combat sports for well over six years.
In terms of the match up, the two couldn’t fit more perfectly together in regards to a potential “Fight of the Night”.
Penne has a long, lengthy body and her height makes her a tall atomweight while in contrast Waterson is shorter and doesn’t often enjoy reach advantages. Penne has the striking ability to really fight from a distance and that could prove to be effective on the shorter Waterson. Waterson can negate the length as she is efficient in a kick which often closes the distance when used accordingly. Waterson has a front kick in her arsenal that tends to land clean on opponents and extends well past the space a jab would normally land. The striking of both women couldn’t be more different as Penne uses more punches and is extremely technical in her delivery and Waterson is unorthodox and uses a plethora of kicking attacks.
Penne is a very athletic and explosive fighter on the ground where she has unleaded brutal ground strikes to batter and bloody past opponents. However, it was her skills from her back that was showcased in her title fight with top ranked Naho Sugiyama when she won the first ever Invicta Atomweight title with a triangle choke midway through the second round. In fact, that submission was the sixth submission win in Penne’s career.
Similar in finishing the fight ratios, Waterson has also defeated six opponents by way of submission. Waterson is extremely durable, able to escape while in danger or look to be aggressive when an opening is presented. She showed her exceptional defense while in a Lacey Schuckman choke attempt and the smaller Waterson may need that technical defensive ability against the more imposing Penne.
Both women come from great camps; they both are extremely talented and undoubtedly will come in hungry for this very important fight. The implications behind the bout include the argument that this could be the most prominent fight for the 105-pound division as it is headlining a major event and receiving a tremendous amount of coverage. The Ronda Rousey led 135-pound division is established and this fight very well may make the atomweight division the next most discussed weight class in Woman’s MMA.
Will Penne continue her reign of dominance? Can Waterson cap off her come back by winning a title? We will see two very different fighters this Friday night and only one of them will be atop the pinnacle of their division.
SWfight.com sends our best wishes with Waterson and teammates Sarah Kaufman and Jodie Esquibel on their journey to Kansas City and we will be eagerly waiting what is anticipated to be a very competitive title fight. As always stay tuned for fight coverage and results, we also encourage those who are able to purchase the Invicta FC online stream which can be located at invictafc.com.