On Thursday, December 10, 2015, Paige VanZant returned to the UFC cage to take on Rose Namajunas at UFC Fight Night: Namajunas vs. VanZant (UFC Fight Night 80). VanZant aka “12 Gauge” was going into the fight with a win against Alex Chambers at UFC 191: Johnson vs. Dodson 2, defeating her opponent in Ronda Rousey-like fashion with an armbar. Since VanZant is being touted by the UFC as the next dominant female fighter through prime-time exposure, network television, and national media tours, she probably feels like she is on cloud nine.
However, Paige VanZant’s performance at UFC Fight Night 80 proved that despite her appeal as a promotional figure, she truly belongs in the UFC and isn’t in it just for fame or recognition. The reason for the praise is because VanZant truly showed a lot of heart and resilience against Rose Namajunas when they fought.
For anyone who watched the fight on UFC Fight Pass, they were treated to a main event best described as a lopsided decimation of “the next Ronda Rousey.” According to MMA Fighting, Rose Namajunas controlled almost all of the fight against Paige VanZant. More than half of the strikes dished out by “Thug Rose” were significant. Not only that, but Namajunas took down VanZant eight times and locked in submissions four times. The final submission Namajunas locked in however would be a rear-naked choke that earned her the win.
“I feel great, I had a great night. I want to pet my dog.”
Rose Namajunas’ victory may have been the talk of the night in which she earned “Performance of the Night” honors, but Paige VanZant’s toughness was the big news the following day because she showed plenty of heart.
For starters, VanZant was pummeled like crazy during the first two rounds, and she suffered an elbow that opened a nasty cut on her right cheek. It would be in the third round that VanZant’s heart would start to show when she endured a deep rear-naked choke for about a minute until the round ended. In the fourth round, VanZant struggled to escape two armbar submissions, even though one of them seemed to show her elbow dislocating and relocating itself back into place. It would be 2:25 into the final round when Paige VanZant would finally surrender to Rose Namajunas’ onslaught, tapping out to a second rear-naked choke.
Even though Rose Namajunas dominated the fight, she isn’t belittling her opponent. As a matter of fact, she is showing a lot of empathy for Paige VanZant, saying she “feels for her,” as reported by Sherdog.
“I feel like the position that she’s in right now is where I was a year ago. Similar, I should say. Nobody’s the same. But I can feel for her. She showed a lot of heart in this fight. I know she’s gonna come back real strong.”
What Rose Namajunas is relating is losing a major fight despite being backed by the full force of UFC’s promotions. For Namajunas, it was The Ultimate Fighter 20 Finale, a venue in which she was touted as “the next big thing” and the favorite to become the inaugural UFC women’s strawweight champion. That night would not swing in her favor as her opponent, Carla Esparza, destroyed her in the same fashion Namajunas destroyed Paige VanZant.
In conclusion, Rose Namajunas is working her way back up to a title shot against Joanna Jędrzejczyk (or whoever the UFC women’s strawweight champion is at that time). For Paige VanZant, she probably earned a lot of respect from the MMA community to go along with her popularity. Anyone who stays in the fight after taking the beating VanZant did has more than earned the right to say they belong in UFC or in any MMA promotion.
[Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images]