Joanna Jedrzejczyk punched her return ticket to a strawweight title shot by dominating Michelle Waterson in the UFC on ESPN+ 19 main event on Saturday in Tampa, Fla.
Jedrzejczyk started with a smart game plan that only ramped up to new levels as the fight wore on. She used her height and reach to stay out of Waterson's power range, while simultaneously chewing up her lead leg with a combination of kicks.
Waterson fought strong in the opening rounds, pulling Jedrzejczyk into numerous clinches. She did well in the early clinches, landing numerous elbows, while Jedrzejczyk used her knees to stay busier even when they were on the fence.
While Jedrzejczyk was running away with the fight simply by the massive disparity in the number of kicks and punches landed, Waterson finally scored a takedown in the third round and immediately took Jedrzejczyk's back. Waterson quickly sunk a rear-naked choke, her most significant threat of the fight, but Jedrzejczyk patiently worked her way out of the hold and lit Waterson up with punches and kicks as the round came to an end.
Rounds four and five saw Waterson slow considerably, but she also dug deep, continuing to plow forward and shoot for takedowns.
As time ran down, Jedrzejczyk continued to ramp up her onslaught of leg kicks and maintained control of most of the clinch exchanges, driving numerous knees to the body, earning a unanimous nod from the judges.
It was a masterful performance by Jedrzejczyk, putting her next in line for a shot at UFC strawweight champion Weili Zhang, whom she immediately took aim at.
"Hell yeah, who is the real queen? Bow down, bow down. I am the real queen. Dana, call you in a minute."
Newly minted father Cub Swanson put on a vintage performance, defeating Kron Gracie in the UFC Tampa co-main event.
The fight opened with Gracie immediately taking the center of the Octagon and stalking Swanson, but it didn't take long for the veteran to establish control.
Swanson quickly established his jab, keeping his distance and using fluid head and foot movement to elude most of Gracie's early power punches and debunking any takedown attempts. As the round wore on, Swanson darted in and out, lighting up Gracie with a variety of strikes, using his jab to set up body punches and kicks, several of which nearly doubled Gracie over.
By the end of the round, Gracie was chasing Swanson, trying to find a home for his punches, while eating numerous counters for his efforts.
Gracie continued to walk Swanson down in the second round, but kept eating punches as Swanson darted in an out, landing hard body shots and mixing in uppercuts and kicks to the ribs.
Midway through the second frame, Swanson began to stand in close and trade blow for blow for longer periods. He got his shots in, but at the same time allowed Gracie room to land some heavy punches of his own.
Gracie possibly made a mistake by attempting to jump guard instead of working his strikes more when they were in the clinch, as Swanson easily escaped his guard attempts.
While both men slowed near the end of round two, Swanson still appeared much fresher, likely because of the numerous body shots he used to sap the fuel from Gracie's gas tank.
The third frame was much the same as round two. Both men threw everything they had into the final five minutes, Swanson simply had more gas in the tank as the minutes ticked away.
Gracie took everything Swanson threw at him and returned fire as best he could, but had no zip on his punches. Swanson didn't have the power of earlier in the fight either, but had enough fuel left to outwork Gracie to the rate of about five to one.
When the judges scorecards were read, Swanson swept the fight, earning 30-27 nods from all three judges, handing Gracie the first defeat of his professional MMA career. While it was Gracie's first defeat, the victory was one of Swanson's most important, as it ended a career worst four-fight skid.
Niko Price took out James Vick in a brief fight that provided the fireworks that most expected. After taking Vick to the canvas and a quick reversal, Price ended the fight with an upkick. Vick landed a couple big punches following the reversal, but as he stood in Price's guard, he at an up-kick that put him out cold and ended the fight at 1:44 of the first round.
Amanda Ribas fought the perfect fight to hand new mom Mackenzie Dern the first loss of her career. Dern tried at many turns to take Ribas to the canvas, but was rarely successful. Ribas did a good job defending the takedown, out-striking Dern on the feet en route to winning all three rounds on the judges scorecards.
In a pivotal flyweight bout on the UFC on ESPN+ 19 prelims, Deveison Figueiroa made quick work of former title contender Tim Elliott, submitting him with a guillotine choke little more than three minutes into the fight.
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UFC on ESPN+ 19: Joanna vs. Waterson quick results
Main Card (8 p.m. ET on ESPN+)
Prelims (5 p.m. ET on ESPN+)