Paige VanZant might be young, but she took her loss like a season veteran.
Facing the media after losing to Rose Namajunas, VanZant admitted that she still has a long way to go in terms of skill level to be an elite fighter in the UFC. There were no excuses -- just sobering truths. VanZant didn't shy away from any of it.
"I definitely have the heart, I have the aggression," she said. "I don't have the technique yet and I think everyone has known that."
Namajunas, 23, dominated VanZant, 21, in every facet of MMA and in every second of the main event fight at UFC Fight Night 80 on Thursday night in Las Vegas. VanZant was bloodied early and then finished late, via rear-naked choke submission in the fifth round.
VanZant (6-2), though, never gave up despite plenty of opportunities to do just that. Namajunas almost got her with a rear-naked choke in the third and then two separate armbars in the fourth. "12 Gauge" fought her way out of all of them, even though no one would have blamed her for giving in.
"She's got the dog in her," UFC president Dana White said. "There's no quit in her."
The Team Alpha Male product wasn't looking for any moral victories. She wanted to win and said she was "sad" that she didn't, shedding some tears in the process. But she also conceded that, as everyone saw, she wasn't quite ready for this step up in competition, either.
"I got outclassed in every way," VanZant said. "So just get back with my team and game plan and work on my technique. ... I just wasn't prepared for that fight."
Namajunas (4-2) will now move onto a contender fight. VanZant will fall back to the pack and maybe that's a good thing. Namajunas said that she saw a little of herself last year in VanZant. Namajunas went to finals of The Ultimate Fighter 20 and lost to Carla Esparza in a bout for the inaugural women's strawweight title in December 2014. The defeat ended up doing "Thug Rose" a lot of good.
VanZant probably won't want to hear any of that. But at her age with her considerable athletic gifts -- not to mention one of the best teams in MMA around her -- there are still big things on the horizon.
"There was no pressure," VanZant said. "I'm just new, ya know? I've got a lot to learn. Just working with my team. I'm trying not to cry, guys."