The opening bout of this Saturday’s UFC on Fox 15 main card features a women’s strawweight showdown between the experienced veteran in Felice Herrig and divisional prospect Paige VanZant. While I used the word prospect in regards to VanZant, she is being promoted as anything, but a prospect as the UFC machine along with a Reebok endorsement deal are promoting her as the belle of the octagonal ball.
Most fighters usually can’t say that their sixth professional bout is the most important of their career. VanZant will be an exception to that rule as good looks, fun personality, and raw potential have placed all of the attention on VanZant’s shoulders. A win over Herring means her promotional push is justified, while a loss means she is just another pretty face who got the gig over someone more qualified.
Felice Herrig might be one of those more qualified fighters as she was a favorite to win the title when season 20 of The Ultimate Fighter ushered in the strawweight division. While Herrig’s tournament bid was ultimately unsuccessful, she defeated Lisa Ellis at the TUF finale to earn her current top ten ranking. Herrig has also done a good job of promoting herself as a sex symbol of sorts, even before her time in the UFC.
When looking at the fight’s combative nucleus, the Paige VanZant that defeated Kailin Curran in November doesn’t beat Felice Herrig on Saturday night. However, an improved VanZant should find herself on an even playing field since the 21-year-old is now training at Team Alpha Male. VanZant’s aggressive attack could successfully break through Herrig’s Muay Thai offense. Fighting from a distance is Felice Herrig’s modus operandi, but she is also good at landing kicks and elbows up close.
This fight is a tough call; however, the thing that stands out to me is Paige VanZant’s ability to keep moving forward while applying constant pressure. She also displays an uncanny amount of poise in the cage. That is a huge advantage for any fighter to have regardless of experience. VanZant can overwhelm Herrig on route to a stoppage, but it all goes back to the openings she leaves while fighting at such an erratic pace, and I believed Herrig’s experience will lead her to find an opening to capitalize on.
The Pick: Felice Herrig via TKO in 3rd Round