Paige VanZant Has Superstar Potential

paige-vanzant I wasn’t expecting much from UFC newcomer Paige VanZant in her Octagon debut, but she blew me away with her performance so much so that I think the promotion could have another superstar on their hands. I’ll be honest and admit I thought VanZant was incredibly overhyped heading into her UFC debut at UFC Fight Night 57. I thought she was just a pretty face who was getting so much attention because of her looks, not because of her fighting skills. But boy oh boy, was I ever wrong. VanZant, who took on fellow newcomer Kailin Curran in a women’s strawweight bout that aired on Fight Pass, looked absolutely sensational in demolishing her opponent en route to a third-round TKO stoppage. For nearly three full rounds, VanZant kept coming forward, throwing everything including the kitchen sink at her opponent. Punches, kicks, elbows, knees, ground and pound, submission attempts, takedowns, sweeps, reversals — VanZant did it all, and picked up the biggest win of her career in ultra-impressive fashion. The victory moved VanZant to 4-1 in her MMA career, with her only loss coming to top-ranked strawweight Tecia Torres (of TUF 20 fame). Her 4-1 record is solid, although not that impressive at first glance, but when you consider that VanZant is only 20 years old and has all the potential in the world, it’s actually really damn impressive. Consider Kelvin Gastelum, who just entered the UFC welterweight division’s top 10, was 5-0 at the same age, and it makes you wonder what VanZant’s ceiling truly is. Her trashing of Curran is only one win over a 3-0 fighter who was making her UFC debut, so it has to be taken in context, but it was impressive enough for me to see just how talented VanZant is, and I truly believe she has the potential to be a huge superstar and cash cow for the UFC. In fact, she’s the first woman fighter who has truly caught my eye as having that “it” factor since Ronda Rousey back in Strikeforce and, well, we all know how her career’s turned out. Don’t get me wrong, I still think VanZant has some work to do — a lot of work to do, actually. Specifically, she could probably add some more strength to her frame, because she seemed to be getting outmuscled by Curran before the Hawaiian gassed. But she’s only 20 and already has an incredible base from which to grow from, and that’s scary to think about for all the other female 115lbers in the UFC, all of whom no doubt have VanZant on their radar now, if they didn’t already before. I can’t wait for VanZant’s next fight in the UFC, and if I was the promotion, I would take my time and match her up carefully with someone who can test her, but also someone whom she could look impressive against — likely someone who didn’t make it too far in the TUF 20 house, but who still has a bit of a name (think Felice Herrig or Angela Magana). Either way, I hope the UFC takes VanZant off of Fight Pass, puts her on TV, and starts to really get the hype train going. Because in a few years, who knows, she may be the female Conor McGregor. Considering how much they are currently lacking big stars, the UFC can only hope so.

Written by Adam Martin.

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