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Namajunas Steps in as Replacement to Fight VanZant

Paige VanZant’s next fight might have gotten a bit harder, the UFC confirmed Wednesday.

Justin Buchholz, host of the Stud Radio Show podcast, claims (h/t BloodyElbow) that Joanne Calderwood — VanZant’s original opponent at a UFC Fight Night on Dec. 10 in Las Vegas — will no longer be able to compete due to an undisclosed injury. Instead, the fast-rising UFC strawweight will be taking on former title contender Rose Namajunas in her first ever main event.

Not one to believe in the UFC’s rankings, it’d be hard for VanZant to ignore what jump she’s making in taking a fight with Namajunas. Calderwood, a heavy favorite in The Ultimate Fighter 20, is ranked eighth in the weight class. Namajunas, a surprise contender for the inaugural UFC women’s strawweight championship, is ranked third — sitting behind former champion Carla Esparza and strawweight juggernaut Claudia Gadelha.

VanZant comes into this fight having won four straight, with her arguably most impressive victory coming against Felice Herrig at UFC on FOX 15 in April. Plenty of different factors going her way, VanZant has quickly become one of the UFC’s most marketable fighters, given a headlining slot in just her fourth fight with the promotion. It’ll be the first ever non-title, all-womens headliner inside the Octagon.

Presumably standing in the red corner, Namajunas comes into the Dec. 10 affair having one just one out of her last three — not counting the run she went on inside the TUF house. Her most recent victory, coming against Angela Hill, solidified her as a top prospect, if not title challenger, in this division.


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