clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Paige VanZant vs. Felice Herrig is more than just a casual affair

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Felice Herrig and Paige VanZant might be the first fight on a major main card to carry such an uncompromising air of…aesthetics…and that of course makes for many little quibbles. The purists in this sport (all half dozen) will point up the total disregard for the meritocracy in play here. The 21-year-old VanZant has exactly one fight in the UFC, and she might have been losing it until she wasn’t. Felice Herrig has only one officially, though her appearance on The Ultimate Fighter 20 makes it feel like she’s been around much longer.

They won, though, and that sets up a clash between two undefeated UFC strawweight prospects (read: pretty blonde assassins!) in a spot on Big FOX. You know this is the way to go. Don’t act like you don’t. Casual fans are a gray finicky mass of 18-to-35’s with libido that rages on for days. Casuals are the damndest set of lukewarm eyes to ever be so coveted. Casuals are the reason to drink.

And let’s face it, Herrig likes to post provocative pictures on her social media accounts. VanZant isn’t apologizing for being a second-generation Nicole Eggert. The UFC ain’t dumb. Matchmaker Sean Shelby ain’t either. They know what resonates. Everybody knows the demographic. Everybody knows that this is a fight where people put down the remotes. So, to roll out a lazy cliché that UFC president Dana White is fond of using, it is what it is.

It. Is. What. It. IS. Besides, let’s not forget that both can fight. That’s the actual transcendent piece of know, that second part that sort of fills in all the surface narratives.

VanZant is a legitimate prospect who trains in Sacramento with the seemingly exclusionary Team Alpha Male. She only just became legal to drink in March yet this will be her sixth pro fight. Against Kailin Curran she took home $50,000 for fight of the night. She was losing on the scorecards but caught Curran late and turned the tables. Delicate? Not exactly. That face has been punched plenty, and the truth is she ladles out punishment with the best of them.

If anything, a fight with Herrig, the seasoned kickboxer, could be too much too soon. In the wide open world of the strawweights, title shots are not the far-fetched things that you find in other weight classes. Not too many people know much about anything, nor how this might offset that. We’re still in the education process of who’s who. Not many people thought Poland’s Joanna Jędrzejczyk would become the champion so fast, or that she had the tools to beat Carla Esparza. And even before that Vegas got a little flustered when it put Esparza as the underdog against Rose Namajunas, for reason that didn’t seem entirely sporting.

So Herrig has a big chance here to make a statement against VanZant on a big stage. Ditto VanZant. She can turn some heads by getting by the toughest challenge of her young career. The winner will be in a nice position to call some shots.

And ultimately, that people are caught up a little in the aesthetics isn’t a bad thing. At least not for Herrig or VanZant. It’s the way it is, it’s the way it is, it’s the way it is. Namajunas was being labeled the next Ronda Rousey for reasons that didn’t jibe strictly to technique and fighting style, nor even her untame attitude that she got from the mean streets of Milwaukee. Marketability is as shallow as it is ranging. 

No? In March 2012 Sarah Kaufman and Alexis Davis went to war in Columbus, Ohio, battering each other for three rounds. Go back and watch that fight. It was good enough to stand among the best of the year, but it was overshadowed almost completely by a fight on that same card. That was the night when Rousey won the Strikeforce belt from Miesha Tate. The math is yours to do.

VanZant and Herrig will fight on the main card tonight, while a week later Kaufman-Davis II will happen in Montreal on the UFC 186 prelims. What does that tell us? Not much, other than everything you need to know.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Fighting Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Fighting