Paige VanZant, 6-1, and Rose Namajunas, 4-2, look to step out of Ronda Rousey’s huge shadows. They will take the UFC octagon tonight on UFC Fight Night, live on UFC Fight Pass. Their fight is the main event of a strong card which includes rising star Sage Northcutt. Both Paige VanZant and Rose Namajunas want to be next in line to face Women’s Strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczk. First, they must pull out a victory over each other. It is a pivotal bout that could position the winner into not only top contender status, but put the victor in a prime marketing spot.
In the wake of Ronda Rousey losing her title and keeping a low profile these days, another fighter must step up and take the baton. Ideally, the person to do it will reap great benefits, including a few marketing campaigns to give their overall profile a boost.
One would think that it would be Holly Holm that takes the opportunity of increased exposure. She is the champ, the one who defeated Rousey, so she is deserving. Her public appearances are up, but is the demand for her cannot be anywhere near as high as the former.
Paige VanZant has been getting a push for a while. She can easily wear the shoes that Rousey has worn just based off of personality.
Marketability is of the utmost importance in the UFC. VanZant is a young 21-year-old prodigy who could pass for a Disney or Nickelodeon star more than she does a mixed martial artist. She has a charm about her that suggests she could someday appear in a few movies before her fighting career is over.
Paige VanZant is getting a lot of the buzz for the fight and, according to Fox Sports, she will play to the Las Vegas crowd tonight. She enjoys the spotlight. Winning will only make it brighter.
Her bout versus Alex Chambers was an impressive win. If she can somehow defeat Rose Namajunas, she will have deserved all of the hype she comes with.
The one concern is whether or not the arc for Paige VanZant is moving too fast.
In the strawweight division VanZant is ranked seventh. Her opposition, Rose Namajunas, is third. If you consider who Namajunas two losses came from, former championship Tecia Torres and Carla Esparza, then you know that she is battle-tested.
Fighting Namajunas is a big jump up for VanZant. While they are close in rank, judging from their previous fights, they are miles apart in skill. But that is why they fight.
Namajunas seemed to have studied her opponent well. She spoke about what she discovered to SB Nation’s MMA Fighting.
“She makes a lot of mistakes in her fight, and just girls haven’t been able to capitalize on it yet. I mean, she has such heart and tenacity that she’s able to kind of make up for it in a sense, and she also uses her mistakes to her advantage because some people overly jump on things, or try and jump on her back and try to choke her out too fast, and she gets back on top. She likes those scrambles. But for me, I’m really good in the scrambles. It takes me less than a second to see something and grab onto it, so she’s got to be very careful.”
This is who Paige VanZant has to face, someone who looks to take an advantage the moment a mistake is made. With a win, Namajunas would be closer to getting a title shot than her challenger. The question for Namajunas is how marketable is she?
Like Paige VanZant, Rose Namajunas is young. She is actually only two years her senior. She fights with more of an edge to her. VanZant is bouncy and exuberant, Namajunas is deliberate and calculating. Her octagon abilities are closer to that of Ronda Rousey, meaning she will fight with her opponents and look to always attack when the opportunity presents itself. Rose Namajunas wants to make you tap. And it is done in a business-minded way.
Can Rose Namajunas rock a runway, star in a film, and do some of the things that Rousey has done? Sure. She is sporting her new short hairdo these days. Namajunas is not one who wants fans to focus on her looks, she would rather fight.
With a continued amount of dominance, there will be a mother lode of options that will open at her feet. Is she truly interesting in that lifestyle? Her love for fighting may supersede those things. She knows that the world awaits her if she can do what she does best.
When the bell sounds off tonight, there will be a UFC matchup featuring two up-and-coming fighters looking to one day main event a pay-per-view the way that they will main event the UFC Fight Night card. They each know that a win could propel them to much more exposure and notoriety, especially since one of the faces of the UFC, Ronda Rousey, has taken a low-key approach these days. The moment that Paige VanZant and Rose Namajunas stare at each other, they will also understand that the win could garner them a shot at the queen of the strawweight division. Joanna Jedrzejczk will be watching with a keen eye.
[Photo by Bryan Steffy/Getty Images Entertainment]