Great Fights is a series aimed at newer MMA fans who are looking for recommendations on the sport's finest bouts.
If you ever get asked what fight has the best grappling exchanges of all time, throw everyone a curveball by mentioning Jessica Penne vs Michelle Waterson in 2013.
With the Invicta Atomweight title on the line, Penne and Waterson engaged in one of the slickest and most aesthetically pleasing grappling-heavy fights in the history of MMA.
Waterson came in as the underdog, riding a 4-fight win streak, while Penne held the belt after submitting Naho Sugiyama with a triangle choke at Invicta FC 3.
Both Waterson and Penne went into the fight with six submission wins apiece. There was no way this fight was going to have little grappling.
Immediately in the opening striking exchanges, Penne got Waterson to the fence, clinched up and pulled guard. The confidence in her submission game off her back was evident. The two tussled and fought for positions, reversed those positions, and continued working. Waterson used an Omoplata to sweep Penne and then tried to lock in an armbar toward the end of the round, displaying excellent work off her back.
In round two, Penne attempted a Gogoplata which almost landed Waterson in trouble; Penne switched to a heel hook which Waterson then used to land into full mount, displaying a strong defensive base.
The highlight of the second round came when Waterson got to her feet, stood over a kneeling Penne and popped her with a clean jab. Penne looked dumbfounded. It was almost comical but served as a reminder that they were in a fist fight and not a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu match.
Even describing the frantic scrambles has this writer out of breath. Waterson and Penne would treat fans to their brilliant tete-a-tete for another two rounds.
Penne began to take over in the third round, hunting less for the submission and more for the ground and pound finish. Working her way into top mount, the Atomweight champion landed an array of hammer fists and elbows. She eventually managed to stack Waterson and land even more strikes. Under a serious amount of pressure, Waterson rolled onto her stomach and looked as if she were ready to accept defeat. Penne landed a couple of strikes as the referee hovered over the action, seemingly seconds away from stopping it.
But Waterson was not out.
The Karate Hottie showed her technical nous to land a couple of heavy elbows, off her stomach, and directly to Penne's temple. The flexibility on display in that instant would have been mind-blowing if we hadn't seen what happened next.
After working her way out of almost being finished, Waterson found herself on the end of Penne's armbar. It's hard to believe that Waterson's arm didn't snap, nor did she tap, and somehow even found herself escaping the submission.
If the third round was anything to go off, Penne would continue to have her work cut out for her if she wanted to finish Waterson.
Round four opened up with Waterson looking like the fresher fighter. She landed a couple of heavy leg kicks before the fight ended up on the mat again. This time, Waterson would win the exchange and the Invicta Atomweight belt, dealing Penne her first career loss in the division.
An all-time great MMA fight - forget gender, forget organisation, etc. This is one of the most exciting grappling-heavy fights we'll ever see.
UFC Fight Pass subscribers can watch the fight (and finish) here: https://ufcfightpass.com/video/34442/michelle-waterson-vs-jessica-penne-invicta-fc-5