Paige VanZant became a promotional darling of the Ultimate Fighting Championship the moment she set foot in the organization in 2014. Some three years later, questions remain regarding her ceiling and just how far she can go in mixed martial arts.
VanZant, 23, will shift gears and move to 125 pounds for the first time when she confronts fellow Invicta Fighting Championships alum Jessica-Rose Clark in a flyweight showcase at UFC Fight Night 124 this Sunday at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. Once a staple of the Team Alpha Male outfit, “12 Gauge” now operates out of a Team Quest affiliate in her native Oregon. VanZant has not fought since she was choked unconscious by Michelle Waterson in the UFC on Fox 22 headliner more than a year ago. The technical submission loss to “The Karate Hottie” followed a highlight-reel knockout of Bec Rawlings and dropped her UFC record to 4-2.
As VanZant preps for a pivotal battle with Clark, here are five things you might not know about her:
1. She was grown from small-town roots.
VanZant was born in Newberg, Oregon, a 5.81-square-mile city of roughly 23,000 people in the northwest corner of The Beaver State. Herbert Hoover once called it home before going on to become the 31st President of the United States.
2. MMA called her at a young age.
VanZant made her professional mixed martial arts debut on June 30, 2012, a little more than three months after she celebrated her 18th birthday. She took a split decision from Jordan Nicole Gaza at an Ultimate Warrior Fighting event in Corpus Christi, Texas.
3. She has been successful in her endeavors outside the cage.
Following in the footsteps of UFC hall of famers Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture, VanZant competed on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.” She finished as the runner-up on Season 22 of the popular reality series. More than 12 million viewers tuned in to the finals.
4. Strength of schedule has been an issue.
The four women VanZant has defeated inside the Octagon -- Rawlings, Kailin Curran, Felice Herrig and Alex Chambers -- own a cumulative UFC record of 8-15. The two women to whom she has lost, Waterson and current strawweight champion Rose Namajunas, are 7-4.
5. Volume striking has proven to be her primary weapon.
VanZant in her six UFC appearances has outstruck her opponents by a 620-319 margin, according to FightMetric. Only in her blowout loss to Namajunas was she not competitive on the feet.