The Showtime Kick. The H-Bomb. And now — Kick the Can?
Paige VanZant knocked Bec Rawlings out with a flying crane kick — almost Karate Kid style — in the second round Saturday night at UFC on FOX 21 in Vancouver. The rising strawweight star said she has used the move in practice and she and her teammates have that nickname for it.
"We call it a ‘kick the can,' the one I knocked her out with," VanZant said on the FS1 post-fight show. "I've done that a few times in training camp. I was like, I might as well go out there and use everything in my arsenal."
Rawlings won the first round on all of the judges' scorecards, nailing VanZant with hard punches just about every time she waded into harm's way. VanZant is usually the aggressor, pushing the pace, initiating the clinch and turning fights into mad scrambles. She didn't do that in the first round against Rawlings and that was by design, VanZant said.
"Coming in, I knew that she might have superior boxing than I did and that was something I really wanted to work on for this fight, not immediately closing the distance and trying to rush her, because she would have a really strong right hand," VanZant said. "I wanted to kind of keep my distance, feel her out, see what she did, see how she reacted to all my moves and kind of felt it out and got the finish in the second."
VanZant (7-2) flashed some spinning techniques and wild kicks in the first round. On one such move, Rawlings actually laughed at her and shrugged her shoulders. In the second round, it was one of those flashy maneuvers that put "Rowdy Bec" down and out.
For the first time, VanZant said she learned to listen to her corner during a fight. Previously, adrenaline would just take over. Team Alpha Male head coach Justin Buchholz told her to kick with her left leg and she listened.
"These are things that I've kind of always been capable of, but I never actually used," VanZant said. ... "I heard him say, ‘left kick, left kick, left kick,' and he kept telling me it's open and I finally decided it's open and I went for it."
It sure did work. VanZant, 22, is now the UFC strawweight leader in finishes with three. She had not fought since a fifth-round submission loss over Rose Namajunas last December and this was a big way to rebound.
The long layoff for "12 Gauge" was in part because of her appearance on the spring season of "Dancing With The Stars." VanZant finished second in the competition and raised her star power even higher. But she might have come back too quickly.
"I took the fight before I even stepped back inside the gym," VanZant said. "It was definitely a test for me, but I pushed really, really hard. All my teammates saw that I pushed hard the last four weeks of this fight camp and it paid off."
VanZant has been very popular in the mainstream lately and is getting pulled in different directions. She had to turn down a role in the "Kickboxer" sequel with Jean Claude Van Damme in order to adequately prepare for this fight. MMA is still VanZant's priority, for now.
"I know that people want me because I'm different and if I wasn't a fighter I wouldn't be different, I wouldn't be unique," she said. "And people like me because I am an MMA fighter. I'm a chick who fights. That's why I am desired outside of the Octagon and I knew with the ‘Kickboxer' movie it would cut into this fight camp and I just had to turn it down. The timing wasn't gonna work. I wanted to stay focused for this fight."