Few fighters are given the opportunity to succeed under the brightest of lights.
Even fewer are capable of spoiling another fighter’s chance for greatness.
At UFC Fight Night 80, both scenarios will be given time to culminate, as strawweight standouts Paige VanZant and Rose Namajunas will collide in an ultra-important headliner.
The 21-year-old VanZant is widely regarded as one of the promotion’s most prized possessions, representing a complete package of beauty and skill. Some have argued that the Team Alpha Male contender has been gifted hand-picked opponents by the UFC in order to preserve her divisional momentum.
While Kailin Curran, Felice Herrig and Alex Chambers all garner notoriety at the female level in today’s sport, they are not the dynamic athlete that is needed to compete alongside the likes of VanZant. Instead, “12 Gauge” has ran through them like a hot knife to butter, suggesting that she is in need of higher competition.
Luckily for VanZant’s outlook and fight fans eager to see her compete against the best at 115 pounds, Namajunas will step inside of the Octagon on Dec. 10 ready for for war. She will test VanZant at every turn of the fight, offering blistering strikes, perfected range, timely submissions and an ability to finish when the cage turns red.
But can she win? Can Namajunas play spoiler to PVZ and the UFC’s drastic attempt to turn her into the next Ronda Rousey?
You better believe it.
There aren’t too many strawweights in the UFC right now that possess the potential of “Thug” Rose. She may be a work in progress, much like VanZant, but her stint on The Ultimate Fighter Season 20 shed some light on how dangerous she can be when her natural abilities take over.
Trained by fiancee and former UFC heavyweight standout Pat “HD” Barry, Namajunas has really took flight in her stand up. Besides champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk, the 23-year-old may possess the most dangerous striking in the entire division. She has commanded such respect based on her ability to launch unorthodox spinning attacks, close distances in a flash, land heavy shots in the clinch and pressure opponents up against the cage in effort to box them in.
It’s a disciplined offensive approach that allows her to damage opponents on the feet, then finish them via submission
But despite her well-rounded pallet, she isn’t invincible. As good as Namajunas has been on the ground, she has also tapped to the likes of Carla Esparza when competing for the vacant UFC strawweight title nearly one year ago. The loss certainly slowed her momentum stemming from a 3-0 TUF record (all by submission), but it was needed in order for Namajunas to redefine herself as a true contender.
When VanZant and Namajunas lock horns at UFC Fight Night 80 in a matter of weeks, it will represent a collision between two of the very best young talents currently gracing the female roster. It’s a shame that they have to meet before individually challenging for a championship, but these things tend to happen in a top-heavy weight class.
The intelligent pick to make is undoubtedly VanZant, as she’s currently slated as a 2-1 favorite. But that isn’t that big of a difference when stacked up against a fighter who possesses equal athleticism, a superior ability to channel distances and an understanding that beating someone like “12 Gauge” will launch her to the front of the pack.
VanZant is no longer being gifted lesser opponents, which could very well backfire as an anticipated fight opposite Namajunas draws near.