Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) 115-pound contenders Paige VanZant and Rose Namajunas clashed last night (Thurs., Dec. 10, 2015) at UFC Fight Night 80 inside "The Cosmopolitan" in Las Vegas, Nevada.
VanZant debuted in the UFC about a year ago, and she's quickly become a star. In her first slot as the main event, "12 Gauge" was looking to live up to the hype and prove herself an elite strawweight at the age of 21.
Namajunas, despite her record, was the more experienced and proven combatant. She ran through The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) and had a title shot before her 23rd birthday, and "Thug Rose" was looking to build momentum towards another title run last night.
She certainly put on the best performance of her career in this one.
Early on, Namajunas started the fight with quick combinations, bouncing in-and-out and landing hard. Before long, Namajunas moved into a takedown attempt from the clinch and was successful, landing in half guard.
From top position, she transitioned around VanZant's defenses and landed several hard elbows, cutting her opponent. VanZant worked back to her feet, but that only led to her eating more strikes on the feet. Near the end of the round, Namajunas' countered VanZant's usual head-and-arm throw and took her back, doing more damage until the bell.
VanZant survived the round, but she was bleeding freely and clearly behind.
The second round was more of the same, though VanZant absorbed far less damage. Mostly, Namajunas just out-grappled her opponent, but VanZant never stopped scrambling. Despite that activity, Namajunas did a nice job transitioning and maintaining top position, or scoring another takedown when VanZant worked back to her feet.
Additionally, she repeatedly countered VanZant's attempts to land the head-and-arm throw. On the whole, it was another dominant round for "Thug Rose," who was winning every scramble.
The third also played out in similar fashion. VanZant was clearly in desperation mode and charged at her opponent -- who did seem to be slowing down just a bit -- but Namajunas was simply too prepared. Each time VanZant tried to get something offensive going, Namajunas would simply take her down and showcase her excellent jiu-jitsu.
The biggest moment of the third round came in the last 30 seconds. As VanZant went to stand up for the umpteenth time, Namajunas literally leaped onto her back into a deep rear naked choke. VanZant reacted quickly, jumping into the air and slamming her opponent fairly hard. Whether or not that helped wasn't obvious, but "12 Gauge" was able to survive the choke either way.
Unfortunately, she was far behind on the scorecards and still unsuccessful in reversing her opponent's momentum.
The fourth round was, again, more of the same. However, the first championship round was highlighted by an extremely deep arm bar attempt from Namajunas, which seemed to pop her opponent's arm. Nonetheless, VanZant showed serious grit in escaping and continuing to work towards the victory.
She was simply out-matched here.
The finish finally came in the fifth round. Once more, Namajunas scored an early takedown, and she capitalized in similar fashion to the third round when VanZant looked to stand. Jumping on her back -- which resulted in another slam -- Namajunas finally forced the tap.
This was a stellar performance for Namajunas, who controlled every aspect of the fight. Her groundwork was beautiful, as Namajunas flowed around her opponent's defenses and continued to attack with multiple submissions.
In addition, Namajunas kept her composure. She was never frustrated by her opponent's toughness and simply kept plugging away towards the finish. Eventually, it worked out for her.
After this victory, Namajunas is undoubtedly back in the title mix. Claudia Gadelha will likely challenge for the bout next, but "Thug Rose" put forth a strong argument here. Namely, her clinch takedowns looked phenomenal, and that's exactly what anyone looking to defeat Joanna Jedrzejczyk will need.
Alternatively, a match up with Tecia Torres -- assuming she wins her fight later this weekend -- would make sense.
This is undoubtedly a tough loss for VanZant. She showed a ton of grit and a deep gas tank, but her opponent was simply a step ahead in each area. She tried to find an answer, but there simply wasn't one available.
On the bright side, VanZant is still just 21 years old. While her opponent is just a couple years older, Namajunas is far more experienced. Regardless, VanZant has the athleticism and heart to contend in her division, she just needs more time to refine her game.
That's the benefit of a loss like this, it really does expose the issues that need to be fixed.
Last night, Rose Namajunas put on a dominant display of grappling to submit Paige VanZant in the fifth round. Can Namajunas hold a UFC title?
For complete UFC Fight Night 80 "VanZant vs Namajunas" results and play-by-play, click HERE!