Pannie Kianzad is coming back with violence on the brain.
In April 2022, Kianzad, 31, went into her second career rematch against fellow Swede, Lina Lansberg. The initial encounter was Kianzad’s third professional bout and Lansberg’s debut. Ultimately, “Banzai” bested her fellow countrywoman via a third-round technical knockout (punches) before eventually picking up a unanimous decision in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) one full decade later.
“It was my 10-year anniversary because we fought back in 2012,” Kianzad told MMA Mania. “It had kind of always been — even though I finished our first fight by TKO, we come from the same town so for 10 years I’d been hearing, ‘Oh, the ref stopped it too early’ and stuff like that. It was a good stoppage. I was like, ‘You know what, when I get that win back, mmm ... I don’t care how long it takes, I’m just gonna show that I’m the baddest b—ch in Sweden.’
“There’s always been doubters and everything but everybody knows who the best b—ch in Sweden [is], that’s me,” she continued. “I’ve always been that. So, when I got that second win, I was like, ‘Yes! There’s only one b—ch here and it’s me. That’s it.’ (laughs). I would be old and in a wheelchair and still not forget about it.”
The Lansberg rematch was an important win for Kianzad (16-6), acting as her rebound effort after a hard-fought unanimous decision loss to Raquel Pennington in the fight prior. It was a victory good enough to keep the Top 10 Bantamweight contender near title talks despite the previous loss snapping her four-fight winning streak.
Kianzad was set for what appeared to be a potential title eliminator as she was matched with the current next title challenger, Irene Aldana, for a Sept. 2022 clash at UFC 279. Unfortunately for the Iran native, Kianzad suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in wrestling training the day after signing her contract. Instead of walking into the biggest fight of her career on the grandest stage, she was off for surgery one week and a half later and three months of rehab at the UFC Performance Institute (P.I.) in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Taking her recovery seriously and slowly, Kianzad saw no need to rush the process as she’d already missed the boat on facing Aldana. Things have shaken out rather favorably for The Ultimate Fighter 28 (TUF) finalist, however, as she’s drawn the No. 4-ranked contender, Ketlen Vieira, for her return fight at UFC London on July 22, 2023.
“I think the division is wide open,” Kianzad said. “Ever since [Julianna] Pena beat [Amanda] Nunes, it’s become wide open. Even though she lost the belt, it’s kind of like anybody’s game. A lot of stuff happened when I was away. I got bumped up two ranking spots when I was injured. I was No. 9 then Aspen Ladd and Sara McMann went away and I was bumped up to No. 7.
“I was really happy that I got another shot at the No. 4 because I do think I deserve it,” she continued. “I’ve won five of six fights lately and I’ve been doing great. I had a tight fight with ‘Rocky’ (Pennington) and I mean s—t happens, of course, but I do think that that’s where I belong.”
UFC London will be a welcomed less than two-hour flight for Sweden’s Kianzad, who hasn’t fought in Europe since her Nov. 2019 unanimous decision win over Jessica-Rose Clark. In terms of London specifically, Kianzad has only fought in the city once, which was for her Cage Warriors title-winning effort against Eeva Siiskonen in Nov. 2014.
Kiazad has hopes of springboarding off a Vieira win toward her first UFC title shot. With the champion, Nunes, defending against Aldana one month prior and some other match ups playing out in the meantime, “Banzai” believes it will come down to who makes the most noise in the Octagon.
“I think everything depends on my performance,” Kianzad said. “I don’t think it’s enough to just beat Ketlen by a really close fight or anything like that. I think I need to make an impression and I think the same for Ketlen. She had pretty close fights. Holly [Holm] was pretty close, ‘Rocky’ was a really close fight.
“I think me and Ketlen, Holly, and [Mayra] Bueno Silva, we need to make really big impressions. If I make a really good impression and the UFC likes my fight and it’s a good fight, I think I’ll definitely be fighting for the title. Everybody else has kind of already fought for it.”