Paige VanZant, with a win in only her sixth pro fight and second in the UFC, established herself as the UFC’s newest female superstar, one who can give Rhonda Rousey a run for her money in the arena of media exposure.
Fighting tough veteran Felice Herrig at New Jersey’s Prudential Center Saturday night, the 21-year-old VanZant administered a brutal beating to her more experienced opponent, winning all three rounds in the strawweight showdown, and never really feeling a threat from the 30-year-old kickboxing specialist.
VanZant won easily on the cards of all three judges, by scores of 30-27 and 30-26 twice.
“I can’t believe I just beat Felice Herrig,” VanZant exclaimed in her post-fight, in-ring interview. “She was one of my idols. This is huge. I started crying before the fight was over. So, it’s very emotional.”
Herrig came into the fight with 10 wins under her belt, against five losses. VanZant had lost just once in her previous five fights.
She didn’t fight as if she was in awe of her onetime “idol,” however. She opened the fight by driving a series of knees into Herrig, and the assault never ceased after that, slamming ground-and-pound punches into Herrig’s face until, about a minute into the third round, she trapped Herrig’s head against the cage and slammed a series of sharp elbows into her face.
After that, the fight seemed to go out of the once-feisty veteran, and she spent the final two minutes of the fight mostly trying to escape and keep the damage she was suffering at the business end of Paige VanZant’s strikes to a minimum.
VanZant experienced only one risky moment early in the fight, when Herrig was able to take her packs and put the former cheerleader into a rear naked choke. But VanZant slipped away and the brief moment of danger quickly slipped away with her.
In an interview with Fox Sports later in the evening, the 5’4″, 115-pound VanZant remained humble, acknowledging that she was still learning and promising, “I’m going to change in every single fight.”
The fight was part of the UFC on Fox 15 card. Paife VanZant has appeared earmarked for UFC stardom since her debut last November, a TKO win over Kailin Curran, which produced not only a victory, but a $50,000 “Fight of the Night” bonus and — thanks to her exciting, upbeat style and blonde, girl-next-door looks — a Reebok endorsement contract, as well.
[Image: Alex Trautwig/Getty Images]