After months of questions, rumors and perplexing happenstances, fans of newly minted UFC flyweight Paige VanZant finally know what the future has in store.
On January 14 at UFC Fight Night 124, 12 Gauge will face off with Jessica-Rose Clark. The UFC announced the news over social media on Tuesday night:
OFFICIAL! St. Louis, we have a good one for you. It's @PaigeVanzantUFC vs @MissJessyJess on Jan 14. #UFCSTL https://t.co/NMHlkag4oU2017-11-29 00:28:57
It's a welcome bit of normal news for the former strawweight contender.
In September, VanZant raised eyebrows by pulling out of a UFC 216 fight with Jessica Eye due to a combination of ear infections, a herniated disc, ringworm, a sinus infection and pink eye.
Things went from strange to stranger, though, when VanZant tweeted out of the blue in November that she was seemingly going from the doctor's office into a UFC title shot opposite the inaugural UFC women's flyweight champion, who will be crowned this Friday at the finale to The Ultimate Fighter season 26.
By comparison, the matchup between VanZant and Clark is normal...more or less. While VanZant is one of the bigger names in the UFC courtesy of the inordinate amount of time spent on-camera, Clark is one of the freshest faces in the company.
Signed by the UFC just a matter of weeks ago as a short-notice replacement, Clark scored a split-decision win in her UFC debut over Bec Rawlings at Fight Night 121. Though the win wasn't emphatic, Rawlings' name value is strong enough and the flyweight division's hierarchy is ambiguous enough that it felt as though a higher-profile fight was due.
Despite the fact that neither woman owns an especially strong record, this is something of an important fight, given the lack of certainty surrounding the flyweight division's title picture. Whoever wins when they face off next year could very well be lined up for a crack at gold.