Paige VanZant returned to the UFC octagon Saturday with a victory after delivering a vicious head kick to her opponent Bec Rawlings. This was VanZant’s first fight back since finishing in second place of last season’s Dancing with the Stars. It was an impressive finish by Paige, who suffered a beat down in her last fight in December in a loss to Rose Namajunas.
VanZant took the first round to find her rhythm, missing a spinning head kick by so much distance, Rawlings actually snickered at her. According to Forbes, just 17 seconds into the second round is when Paige delivered the switch kick that sent Bec Rawlings to the mat, with VanZant jumping on her to finish with some ground and pound. Rawlings was so focused on the initial kick, she never saw Paige’s left foot coming up to meet the side of her head.
— FOX Sports: UFC (@UFCONFOX) August 28, 2016
Paige VanZant had been on the rise in the UFC women’s strawweight division with four consecutive wins before she was stopped hardcore by Rose Namajunas in December via submission. Prior to being submitted, Paige’s face had taken the brunt of Namajunas’ punishment.
At the time, though disheartened by the loss, VanZant vowed to come back stronger, admitting that she was young and had much to learn still. Shortly after that defeat, however, it was announced that Paige VanZant would be competing in Season 22 of Dancing with the Stars. VanZant proved to be a strong competitor with her partner Mark Ballas, dancing her way to the finals and finishing second.
While some wondered if nine months out of the octagon would cause Paige to lose momentum, with tonight’s performance VanZant proved herself to be a contender again. With this finish, VanZant has now achieved more finishes than any strawweight in the UFC women’s division and has the second most wins in that division.
According to an interview with Fox Sports following the fight, Paige stated she would like the opportunity to fight on the UFC card in December.
When asked if there was a fighter in particular that VanZant would like to call out she stated, “No I have absolutely no idea who. I’m sure there’s going to be plenty of people that want to take the fight so I’m okay there.”
Paige continued, “I just really want to get back in there. I feel really good and especially I’m not injured at all so I’m going to be able to go straight into a fight camp and really get back into shape.”
While Paige received many kudos from other fighters and fans across social media, one of her biggest congratulations came from her Dancing with the Stars partner Mark Ballas, who undoubtedly probably thinks those dance moves he taught her had something to do with the switch kick finish.
— Urijah Faber (@UrijahFaber) August 28, 2016
— Kenny Florian (@kennyflorian) August 28, 2016
That’s my girl @paigevanzantufc beautiful finish.
Congratulations!! Proud of you.
— Mark Ballas (@MarkBallas) August 28, 2016
Paige admits she has been offered many other opportunities outside of the octagon, such as the film role in the remake of Kickboxer, which she turned down to train for her fight with Rawlings. But VanZant stated that while the other opportunities are nice, fighting is her main goal and she doesn’t intend for anything to interfere with that. Eventually, VanZant would like to challenge current champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the belt. Unfortunately for Paige, there is a long list of contenders in front of her, including the one who rocked her world last December, Rose Namajunas.
[Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images]