Eighteen-year-old Paige VanZant made a successful pro debut tonight at Ultimate Warrior Fighting: “Tournament of Warriors Finale” in Corpus Christi, Texas. The Reno Academy of Combat prospect upset hometown favourite Jordan Nicole “Ninja Princess” Gaza via razor-thin Split Decision.
VanZant took an early lead in the fight with effective clinchwork, but Gaza was able to take her opponent to the mat and threatened with submissions that included a tight guillotine and a rear-naked choke very late in the fight. It was not enough, however, and VanZant walked away with a big victory.
The fight began with a quick exchange of left hooks and a clinch followed against the fence. VanZant (1-0-0 pro; 3-0-0 overall) scored with a series of knees to the thigh and Gaza (0-1-0 pro; 4-4-0 overall) answered back with a standing elbow. She was eventually able to take VanZant down to the mat, but VanZant held on to limit damage. VanZant looked to set up an armbar, but Gaza defended with a short elbow strike. With 20 seconds to go, Gaza postured up and landed punches until the bell.
Round two began with another clinch and this time VanZant was able to reverse a takedown and she took top position in Gaza’s guard. Gaza quickly sat up and locked on a tight guillotine choke that had VanZant in some trouble. VanZant held on and defended for well over a minute until she was finally able to free herself. She landed some solid punches from the top and moved to half-guard. VanZant landed more punches to the body and a series of hammerfists before the end of the middle stanza.
With the back-and-forth fight seemingly up for grabs, VanZant opened round three with a pair of jumping knees. Gaza countered with another takedown, but VanZant remained very active from the bottom with elbows. She looked for a guillotine choke of her own, but Gaza escaped and passed to side control. Gaza used a keylock attempt to set up a move to mount, where she teed off with punches. VanZant gave up her back and Gaza locked on a rear-naked choke. Once again, VanZant appeared to be in trouble, but she held on until the final bell.
The judges were divided in scoring the fight, but two favoured VanZant’s striking over Gaza’s takedown and ground control in the opening round. As a result, VanZant remains perfect as a mixed martial artist, while Gaza falls for the second straight time and first as a professional.
Winner: Paige VanZant by Split Decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29) after three 3:00 rounds. She improves to 1-0-0 as a pro.