Paige VanZant is currently bringing sexy back, at least on her Instagram account, where she has posted a clip of her dancing in her bra to the Justin Timberlake song. She’s also set to face off against Joanne Calderwood on December 10, in the headlining fight of UFC Fight Night 80, the first of three UFC events over three consecutive nights.

One of these events is newsworthy. The other, not so much. Yet news of VanZant dancing to the Timberlake track was picked up by TMZ and all sorts of media outlets. News of her first headlining fight for the UFC? That seems secondary to VanZant’s sex appeal (ironically, the clip isn’t sexy so much as cute, just VanZant having fun, but “hot fighter in bra” gets more clicks, right?).

Here’s the thing: there’s a lot more to talk about in regards to VanZant than what she’s doing on social media these days. How about how she’s fitting in with Team Alpha Male (apparently quite well, and she’ll be just the first of several Alpha Male fighters to enter the octagon over that three-day stretch in December)? How about whether or not she’s ready to take on Calderwood, who is actually ranked two spots behind her in the UFC’s official rankings for the women’s strawweight divisions, but who still may represent the toughest challenge of VanZant’s young career to date?

How about talking about title aspirations, and becoming the youngest UFC champ in history — something still on the strawweight star’s to-do list? And is she ready for all this?

That’s the more pertinent question, really. For all of VanZant’s success in the octagon thus far, there’s still a feeling that she’s very green, has lots to learn, and is far from ready for a title shot in the strawweight division. The UFC made the right call bringing her along slowly and allowing her to develop (and you can ignore anyone who claims the UFC is “protecting” her; she hasn’t fought a can since joining the promotion), but were she to get past Calderwood, a clash with strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk likely wouldn’t be far behind — and while she may very well be ready to face Calderwood, she simply isn’t at the level required to dispatch Joanna Champion.

All this is symptomatic of three things: the lack of a standout front runner at strawweight, the dearth of stars in the UFC, and the quick ascension of Paige. The UFC needs stars, so VanZant is pushed hard. There aren’t a lot of options for title challengers with Claudia Gadelha hurt, and Paige, with a fourth straight win, would have as good an argument as any. And the fact is, she’s succeeding. She has come on fast and strong, and really, if a fighter is winning, the general rule of thumb is that the path leads upwards.

That said, it’s not a bad thing to put the brakes on, even just a little, now and then. There are plenty of other options at strawweight for VanZant, and as the saying goes, you learn ten times as much from a loss than you do from a win. Aisling Daly, Julianna Lima, Michelle Waterson — there are lots of good options for 12 Gauge.

Yet ready or not, here she comes. It’ll be interesting to see just how far she can go, and whether the UFC continues to apply the brakes, or lets her loose.

About The Author

Senior Staff Writer

Covering the sport of MMA from Ontario, Canada, Jay Anderson has been writing for various publications covering sports, technology, and pop culture since 2001. Jay holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Guelph, and a Certificate in Leadership Skills from Humber College under the Ontario Management Development Program. When not slaving at the keyboard, he can be found in the company of his dog, a good book, or getting lost in the woods.