Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Strawweight scrappers Paige VanZant and Bec Rawlings will brawl this Saturday (Aug. 27, 2016) at UFC on FOX 21 inside Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Colombia, Canada. In a match up of prospect and veteran, what adjustments must be made for either woman to claim victory? Let's break it down.
After a quick rise through the ranks, VanZant’s momentum came to a bit of a halt back in Dec. 2015. VanZant hasn’t been out of the limelight since then, but this will be her first return trip to the Octagon. Rawlings has seen some hard times in her career, but she’s put together a pair of victories in her last two UFC fights. She’s looked better than ever since moving to train with Alliance MMA, which is likely the reason for her recent success.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for both women:
Key Wins: Felice Herrig (UFC on FOX 15), Kailan Curran (UFC Fight Night 57), Alex Chambers (UFC 191)
Key Losses: Rose Namajunas (UFC Fight Night 80), Tecia Torres (Invicta FC 4)
Keys to Victory: VanZant is a highly aggressive fighter with endless cardio. For the most part, that's enough to overwhelm her opponents, as VanZant marches into the clinch, tosses her foe around, and does good work from top position.
That should work pretty well opposite Rawlings.
Rawlings has improved, but her core game is still the same. She's pretty much a boxer with a habit of charging forward, and wrestling has never exactly been her strong suit. All in all, that means VanZant shouldn't have a ton of difficult finding the clinch, and that's an area in which she thrives. VanZant is simply so active and constantly pressures her foe from that range; it's exhausting, and Rawlings has fatigued in the past.
Really, the biggest threat to VanZant is a sudden submission. She's proven herself tough to finish, but Rawlings will be dangerous early on, so VanZant needs to be wary early on.
Key Wins: Seo Hee Ham (UFC Fight Night 85), Jasminka Cive (Invicta FC 5), Lisa Ellis (UFC Fight Night 65)
Key Losses: Heather Jo Clark (TUF 20 Finale), Carla Esparza (Invicta FC 4)
Keys to Victory: Rawlings is an aggressive striker and one of the larger Strawweights on the roster. She's a very tough fighter, who is usually in the fight until the final bell, even when faced with highly-ranked foes.
To win this match up, Rawlings has two real options. The most obvious — and the one she'll likely attempt — is to keep her distance and try to make this a boxing match. Rawlings has shown some solid punching technique in the past, and it definitely could help her against VanZant's forward aggression.
However, that may not end up working. Rawlings has a habit of over-extending and punching herself into the clinch, which would definitely benefit VanZant. Plus, Rawlings doesn't have a ton of knockout power, so she'd likely be in for a three round war.
The alternative for Rawlings would be to try to employ her submission game, which accounts for four of her seven wins.
VanZant is skilled on the ground, but Rawlings is bigger and more experienced. If Rawlings is able to secure a dominant position early, she may be able to finish the bout before she has to deal with VanZant's best attributes.
Bottom Line: It’s an intriguing fight between aggressive Strawweights.
Following her loss and layoff, VanZant is in an interesting position. If she’s able to win this bout, she re-establishes herself as a Top 10-ranked fighter and someone to watch as a potential title contender moving forward. However, a loss would be a definite setback. At just 22 years old, there’s no doubt that VanZant could still improve to be a top fighter, but a loss to Rawlings would indicate that it wouldn’t be for quite some time.
This is a pretty huge opportunity for Rawlings. She’s coming off a pair of strong victories, and a third here could propel here into the rankings. There aren’t many Strawweights on win streaks right now, so it really could open a lot of opportunities for her.
On the other hand, defeat keeps Rawlings firmly in her current position. She won’t lose any ground, but Rawlings has fought hard for her current win streak. If she comes up short, those victories no longer help her all that much, as Rawlings will need a new win streak for another step up in competition.
At UFC on FOX 21, Paige VanZant and Bec Rawlings will battle. Which fighter will have her hand raised?