As we slide further into September, it’s time for another UFC card – UFC Vegas 10: Waterson v Hill. (Of course, there are alternate names as well: UFC Fight Night 177, and/or UFC on ESPN+ 35.) Another UFC card means another Groundwatch column, where I break down the upcoming card specifically with the ground game in mind.
Last week, I told you to watch for several fights. I ended up being mostly wrong about my 5/5 rating for Viviane Arujo v Montana De La Rosa, which surprisingly featured very little grappling. Whether it was a fear of the opponent on the ground, or an attempt to showcase their striking, both women were happy to keep the fight standing.
Once again, the current COVID landscape inflicted other drastic changes right before the fights. Sadly we didn’t get to see Alexandr Romanov due to his opponent testing positive for COVID. Thiago Moises also had to drop out due to a positive COVID test.
However we did get a few good submission highlights, including this armbar from guard by Andre Muniz:
HE GOT IT DONE 😤
🇧🇷Muniz gets the armbar submission in RD 1.
— UFC (@ufc) September 6, 2020
Muniz was one of the fighters I told you to watch for, as he had won his previous UFC fight willingly taking a guard position and fighting off his back.
Another fighter I highlighted was Brian Kelleher, a veteran who has won a handful of fights with his sneaky arm-in guillotine. He did it again last week against a late call-up opponent Ray Rodriguez (not Kevin Natividad, who dropped out a day before the fight). Seriously, don’t leave your neck out on a double attempt against Kelleher.
This week again, I will present each fight with my own “Groundwatch Rating” for UFC Vegas 10: Waterson v Hill; essentially an overall score of how likely we will see groundwork. To clarify, “groundwork” means things like takedowns, passes, submissions, and so on – the stuff that grappling and jiu-jitsu nerds watch for in UFC events. With that stated, let’s start breaking down the card.
Sabina Mazo v Justine Kish – Women’s Flyweight (125lb)
Sabina Mazo has a BJJ background, but rarely uses any grappling in her fights. She doesn’t have any submission wins, but does have some success taking her opponents down. Justine Kish started as a Muay Thai fighter but does have some submission wins early in her pro career. Both women are going to look for their striking to win (side note: Mazo has much better striking numbers). I don’t see much happening on the ground in this fight – 1/5.
Brian Barberena v Anthony Ivy – Welterweight (170lb)
Barberena is a UFC veteran who mainly gets his wins via KO/TKO, though he did submit Sage Northcutt with an arm triangle in 2016. That said, it’s unlikely he will be hunting for a takedown. Anthony Ivy has a more mixed history, with three pro submission wins. Perhaps most interesting is this kneebar submission win in a Fury fight. His limited fighting background makes him hard to predict. I’ll rate this a 2/5 because Ivy may want to look for grappling, I’m just not sure.
Brok Weaver v Frank Carmacho – Lightweight (155lb)
Brok Weaver has a really great backstory, but so far has looked a bit overmatched in his limited UFC action. He is facing Frank Camacho, an experienced UFC fighter who is only 2-5 in the UFC. Both of these guys have a few submission wins in their past, but it doesn’t appear that they will be trying to get to the ground. Camacho averages 1 takedown per fight, and Weaver doesn’t have any takedowns in the UFC – 1/5.
Alan Patrick v Bobby Green – Lightweight (155lb)
Alan Patrick Silva Alves has shown to be a bit of a grinder in the UFC. He averages almost 4 takedowns per fight with a low striking volume, and this tactic has proven to be a winning combination for him. He hasn’t had a UFC fight in nearly 2 years though. Bobby Green is a well rounded UFC veteran with 9 submission wins to his name (out of 26 total). He mixes in takedowns; and when he does get his opponent down, looks for passes into more favorable positions. I would expect Patrick to search again for takedowns, as Green is a superior striker and the heavy favorite. But Green will likely stymie him – he has a takedown defense of 73%. There is potential for ground work here, but nothing super exciting – 2/5.
Roosevelt Roberts v Matt Frevola – Lightweight (155lb)
Roosevelt Roberts is the first real submission artist on this card. He has a troubled past and turned from a streetfighter into an MMA fighter, training grappling at Carlson Gracie Temecula. Though he was actually armbarred by Jim Miller in his last fight, he is dangerous on the ground when he can match the physicality of his opponent. He finished earlier competitior Brok Weaver with a RNC but his most interesting submission win might be this standing guillotine win against Darrell Horcher in 2018.
Matt Frevola is an up and coming fighter with another nice ground game. Training out of Gracie Tampa South, he has three submission victories before he joined the UFC. One of those three was an arm triangle in a Contender Series against Luke Flores (See his arm triangle victory over Flores below).
This fight could definitely go either way. Just looking at the numbers I may think Frevolta would work to take down Roberts (avoiding the guillotine of course) and try to grind out a win on top. Frevolta tends to wade into strikes, so that could be a problem for him. Roberts may try to use his slight reach advantage to keep the fight standing, but he has skills on the ground. Regardless, this appears to be one of the more exciting fights for UFC Vegas 10: Waterson v Hill – 4/5.
Sjara Eubanks v Julia Avila – Women’s Bantamweight (135lb)
Sjara Eubanks is mainly a boxer, showing good striking stats. She does average 2 takedowns per fight and does well when she can accomplish a few. Avila is also a striker with decent volume. She has zero grappling stats thus far in the UFC. There could be a takedown or two, so this is a 1/5.
Matt Schnell v Tyson Nam – Flyweight (125lb)
Matt Schnell is a submission specialist – 8 of his 14 pro wins have come from a submission – and had four straight wins before his last fight, where has was knocked out by Alexandre Pantoja. Schnell has used several submissions to gain victories, but he hit two triangle choke submission wins in a row before his last fight. The first was against Louis Smolka, and the second was against Jordan Espinosa (see the highlight video below). Schnell only averages 0.64 takedowns per fight, so he doesn’t necessarily force the action to the ground but seems happy to work once he gets there.
Tyson Nam is a kickboxer with some power and will want to keep the fight standing. It will be interesting to see Schnell’s strategy for the fight. Will he want to bang it out on his feet or take the fight to the mat? Oddsmakers have this fight as a toss-up so nobody has any solid guesses. Because this could be a decent chance for a submission, I’m rating it a 3/5.
— UFC (@ufc) August 3, 2019
Billy Quarantillo v Kyle Nelson – Featherweight (145lb)
Quarantillo, the second Gracie Tampa South fighter on this card, is a well rounded fighter. He has 5 wins from submissions, 5 from KO/TKO, and 4 from decisions. Two fights ago, he finished opponent Jacob Kilburn with a triangle choke (see the video below). He also has a very high striking volume (with limited sample size – a dominating win in his first fight skews the numbers).
Kyle Nelson has some submission wins (and a submission loss) in his pro history and will mix up his approach, winning by TKO/KO as well.
With both athletes willing to go to the ground, this looks like it could be an exciting fight – 3/5.
— MMA Gone Wild 🅙 (@mmagonewild) December 8, 2019
Ed Herman v Mike Rodriguez – Light Heavyweight (205lb)
Ed Herman is another veteran submission artist with varied techniques used to get the tap. These subs have included arm bars, RNCs, and even a heel hook from a 50/50 position. Herman’s heel hook victory occured way back in 2011 – before heel hooks were cool. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a great video to embed here, but was broken down in detail on Bloody Elbow right after it happened. Herman has a pretty amazing fight history and was willing to go to the ground with anyone, including Demian Maia and Jacare Souza (which, on those two fronts, didn’t work out so well for him).
Mike Rodriguez fought recently in August, which I previewed as a 0/5 fight. That fight was a quick KO win for “Slo Mike”. With his reach advantage, Rodriguez will attempt the same approach here. Herman will not be able to out-strike Rodriguez, and will likely have to get the fight to the mat in order to win. Slo Mike has been susceptible to the takedown in the past, and Herman is a game veteran, so there is a decent chance for grappling here: 3/5.
Roxanne Modafferi v Andrea Lee – Women’s Flyweight (125lb)
Modafferi has been around for a while and has mixed record in the UFC. One thing I noticed was that her takedown numbers are low overall (1.29 takedowns per 15 min), but she has not won a UFC fight unless she won the takedown battle. (Her striking numbers are not that great, to be honest.) She has a handful of submission wins in her past, but only one submission win since 2011.
Andrea Lee is a good striker and will seek to win with her great kickboxing skills. Almost all of her wins have come from striking (though she did submit Jamie Thorton with a kimura in an LFA fight, it was a mismatch and more of a mistake by Thorton than elite skill by Lee). Lee has defeated good grapplers like Montana De La Rosa with this approach.
If I was coaching Modafferi I would want her to grind out a win with takedowns and top control, because Lee’s striking seems vastly superior. Lee is a heavy favorite (-345 at the time of writing) and I don’t see much chance for Modafferi, or grappling in general. It’s a 1/5 rather than a 0/5, because that seems to be the only chance for a Modafferi win.
Ottman Azaitar v Khama Worthy – Lightweight (155lb)
Ottman Azaitar’s nickname is the “Bulldozer” and that seems very appropriate. He’s currently undefeated in his pro career, with 9 of 12 wins coming in the first round of his fights. Though he has a few submission victories, I don’t see much recent data to suggest he will be trying to get to the ground.
His opponent is Khama “The Death Star” Worthy, another exciting fighter, who last won via high elbow guillotine (see the victory video below). He seems like an up-and comer but he’s been fighting in lower promotions for years and recently got a shot in the UFC. Worthy is a bit more well rounded than Azatair, but still not an elite grappler. It will be interesting to see how he approaches this matchup. He does have the reach advantage, but I’m not sure if he is the better striker. Overall, the fight looks interesting but not necessarily for the ground work: 2/5 on the Groundwatch scale, based on the chance for a submission.
"THE REAL ****ING DEAL!" 🗣@TheDeathstar_1 is done being an underdog!
— UFC (@ufc) June 27, 2020
Michelle Waterson v Angela Hill – Women’s Strawweight (115lb)
Despite her “Karate Hottie” nickname, the UFC veteran Michelle Waterson does have a history of submission wins (9 of 17 career pro wins coming from a submission). Her last submission win was 4 years ago against Paige VanZant, following a nice throw from the cage (see the video below). Training at Jackson-Wink, Waterson has improved her overall game steadily over the years, and though she may have a ceiling, it’s relatively high in this division.
Angela Hill has a Muay Thai and kickboxing background, but has improved her wrestling over time. She mixes in a takedown occasionally, but not often. She is definitely a game opponent for Waterson, and will probably have the striking advantage, especially early in the fight.
I’m rating this as a 3/5. I expect the fight to go longer, which I think will lead to some grappling exchanges. If this does happen I still like Waterson for a potential submission.
— UFC (@ufc) December 18, 2016
Overall Card Rating
UFC Vegas 10: Waterson v Hill isn’t the best card for fans of jiu-jitsu and grappling, but there are some interesting matches with decent potential. Despite the narrative of a “weak card” because the original main event was cancelled, this actually looks decent overall. It just doesn’t have the potential for outstanding grappling exchanges. Because of that, I’m rating UFC Vegas 10: Waterson v Hill as a 2/5 overall.