For the first time since 2016, the UFC returns to Tampa, Florida, this Saturday for a UFC Fight Night 161 headlined by a matchup featuring top-10 women’s strawweight contenders as former long-time champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk returns to her natural weight class to defend her No. 4 ranking against No. 7 Michelle Waterson.
Here’s a look at that bout and the co-main event with Mybookie UFC odds.
UFC Fight Night 161 Odds, Preview & Predictions
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- When: Saturday, 8 PM ET
- Where: Amalie Arena, Tampa
- Live Stream: ESPN+
Joanna Jedrzejczyk (15-3) vs. Michelle Waterson (17-6)
- UFC Fight Night 161 Odds: Joanna Jedrzejczyk -320
Joanna is a -400 favorite for this strawweight bout with Waterson at +300. Jedrzejczyk was the champion at 115 pounds from March 2015 until November 2017, making five successful title defenses. Her only losses have come against champions: Rose Namajunas, who dethroned Jedrzejczyk and then KO’d her in the rematch, and flyweight titlist Valentina Shevchenko.
Joanna lost to Shevchenko last December by unanimous decision. Jedrzejczyk did everything she could to change the course of the bout, but Shevchenko had an answer for everything. She took Jedrzejczyk down five times and neutralized her long-range striking. All three judges scored the fight 49-46. Jedrzejczyk actually outlanded Shevchenko 124-118 in total strikes, but there was no question Shevchenko’s were far more meaningful.
After an undefeated start to her pro career, capturing the strawweight title and defending it a record five times, Jedrzejczyk is facing her roughest patch yet. She has lost three out of her last four fights. Jedrzejczyk will be competing in the UFC for the 13th time, but only for the fourth time without a title on the line. She has already built a historic career that has seen her land the seventh-most significant strikes in UFC history (1,345) and hold the third-longest average fight time (18:29).
What about Waterson?
Waterson’s biggest win was her Invicta atomweight title victory over Jessica Penne in April 2013. A little more than two years later, she made her way to the UFC as a strawweight, and in just her second fight with the promotion headlined UFC on FOX 25 and submitted Paige VanZant. After a two-fight skid to eventual champion Rose Namajunas and Tecia Torres, Waterson has bounced back nicely with three straight wins over Cortney Casey, Felice Herrig and Karolina Kowalkiewicz.
Waterson denied Kowalkiewicz a single round on judges’ scorecards, picking up unanimous scores of 30-27 for her well-rounded attack. With one round left to work, Kowalkiewicz came right at Waterson. She walked through a head kick and denied another head and arm throw. As before, though, Waterson kept her volume high and used footwork to keep herself from getting cornered.
Waterson has landed fewer strikes per minute than Jedrzejczyk and absorbs slightly more. In her seven fights in the UFC, Waterson has landed 4.04 significant strikes per minute while absorbing 3.57, for a +0.47 differential. In the UFC, 81% of Jedrzejczyk’s landed significant strikes have come when standing and not in the clinch, compared to only 55% for Waterson.
Waterson is a jiu-jitsu purple belt who has been putting her ground game to good use in MMA. Nine out of her 17 wins have come by submission. Jedrzejczyk, by contrast, is not too keen on submissions and has only scored one in her entire career.
Cub Swanson (25-11) vs. Kron Gracie (5-0)
- UFC Fight Night 161 Odds: Kron Gracie -170
Gracie is -180 for this featherweight fight and Swanson +150. Swanson’s best days are in the past as he has lost four straight fights dating to December 2017. The losses have come to some of the top names of the division, however, in Brian Ortega, Frankie Edgar, Renato Moicano and Shane Burgos.
“I feel like I’m the best fighter I’ve ever been,” Swanson said. “It’s unfortunate that I’ve had some losses, and I haven’t been able to show that, but this is another chance to make a statement and against a Gracie. I think it’s an honor for me.”
Swanson has claimed that multiple jiu-jitsu schools declined to train him because his opponent has the Gracie name. Gracie made his UFC debut in February, submitting Alex Caceres via rear-naked choke in just over two minutes. Swanson may have another run left in him, but as he nears his 36th birthday, a loss here could just as easily mark the end of a strong career.
A decorated Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist and a member of the renowned Gracie family, Kron has finished all five of his MMA bouts via submission. Somehow, Gracie’s win over Caceres marked the first win for the First Family inside the Octagon since 1994.
Expect Gracie to look for the takedown and the submission early and often, and it is up to Swanson to knock him out before he gets it.
Expert UFC Fight Night 161 Betting Picks
Jedrzejczyk by decision and Gracie by submission.
Rest of the UFC Fight Night 161 Main & Preliminary Card
- Cub Swanson vs. Kron Gracie
- Mackenzie Dern vs. Amanda Ribas
- Matt Frevola vs. Luis Peña
- Eryk Anders vs. Gerald Meerschaert
- Niko Price vs. James Vick
- Ryan Spann vs. Devin Clark
- Max Griffin vs. Alex Morono
- Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Tim Elliott
- Marlon Vera vs. Andre Ewell
- Miguel Baeza vs. Hector Aldana
- Marvin Vettori vs. Andrew Sanchez
- JJ Aldrich vs. Lauren Mueller