By Raphael Garcia
The busy season of mixed martial arts has begun. As the leaders in the industry, the UFC looks to flex its muscles this month with important and highly-anticipated cards. Things kick off on December 10 with a UFC Fight Night card that hasn’t received a large same amount of coverage. However, the main event is expected to be an opportunity for the winner to emerge as the new darling of the strawweight division.
In the UFC Fight Night 80 headliner, Rose Namajunas is slated to face Paige VanZant in a 25-minute affair. Namajunas is stepping in on short notice for Joanne Calderwood but creates an even more stern test for VanZant. This matchup opens up a compelling story that should start off the month right for the UFC.
According the FightMetric report for this bout, VanZant looks like she has a large advantage. She lands more strikes per minute and is more accurate, while taking less damage and scoring more takedowns. However, these numbers are misleading, considering the way these two fighters tend to compete, and the level of competition they’ve faced in the past.
Namajunas is coming off of her first win in the Octagon at UFC 192 over Angela Hill, after dropping bouts to Carla Esparza at the TUF 20 Finale and Tecia Torres at Invicta FC 6. Both of these women are head and shoulders above the level of competition that VanZant has excelled against at this point in her UFC tenure. However, that is only one reason that this fight is so interesting.
This fight is also intriguing because of its promotional value. VanZant is clearly the frontrunner to become the “face” of this division, even though she’s well behind current strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk in skill and quality wins. Namajunas is in a similar position because she has the “look” that organizations like in their champions (even though the UFC has yet to update its photo to the shaved head that Namajunas has adopted since cutting her hair for training purposes).
Paige VanZant vs. Rose Namajunas is a compelling bout for reasons both inside and outside the cage. As the organization kicks off an important few weeks, this is the right fight to get things rolling and create strong momentum on the way to 2016.
UFC Fight Night 80
• Paige VanZant vs. Rose Namajunas
UFC Fight Night 80: Namajunas vs. VanZant (formerly UFC Fight Night 80: VanZant vs. Calderwood) takes place on December 10, 2015 at Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, Nevada.