UFC strawweight Paige VanZant was submitted by Michelle Waterson during the headlining bout at UFC Fight Night on Saturday (Dec. 17)… but showed heart.
Fighting in front of hometown fans in Sacramento, Calif., the rising 22-year-old was caught in the rear-naked choke by Waterson, but she refused to tap.
VanZant (7-4) nearly went unconscious from the hold, until referee John McCarthy stepped in and stopping the fight at the 3:21 mark in the first round.
Although Waterson previously held the 105-pound Invicta FC title, the win over VanZant was arguably the biggest win of her career. “I want to thank [VanZant] for giving me this opportunity to come here and headline this event,” Waterson said after the fight. “My daughter told me I would be her favorite fighter if I won tonight, so I had to make it happen.
“I’ve been in the gym every day, injured or not, waking up before I had to take my daughter to school so I could get the workouts in that I needed to show the world what I can do in the UFC.”
Although some believe VanZant’s career outside of the Octagon distracts her from fighting, she blamed the loss simply on her lack of jiu-jitsu skills, but plans on focusing more on this during training.
“I knew it was going to be a big test for me… gotta work on my jiu-jitsu apparently, so I’mma do that,” she said in the post-fight press conference. “I’m 22 years old. I have a long time. I have the best team in the world, and it’s finally like really come together as a perfect gym for me. So, I’ll be back.”
“I got caught tonight. It happens,” VanZant added. “I’m not blaming any outside factors, no matter what went on. Got caught, and it happens in this sport. It’s a fight. Absolutely anything can happen… I’m just gonna train hard to get better.”