Saturday night was a coming-out party for one of the hottest up-and-coming fighters in the women's strawweight division. That party was for Paige VanZant, who took advantage of mainstream exposure in her fight with Felice Herrig to turn in her best performance to date.
Dominant in her bout, VanZant mixed up her attacks on Herrig and completely overwhelmed the TUF 20 veteran to a lopsided decision. It was a performance that has taken VanZant from promising prospect to potential contender at 115.
In VanZant, you have a marketable top fighter in the strawweight division. However, you don't want to give her too much, too soon. That's why a slow build is the way to go for "12 Gauge."
So who should she be matched up with next? Let's examine three potential opponents who could be next up for VanZant.
If VanZant's coming-out party was Saturday night in New Jersey, Maryna Moroz's coming-out party was in Poland the previous week. Moroz went from unknown sacrificial lamb for Joanne Calderwood to bona fide contender in quick, impressive fashion.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk is going to need a challenger in the near future. While Moroz and VanZant are certainly on track to grab said title shot, they are still early in their careers and could benefit from added experience.
That's why a VanZant-Moroz matchup makes a ton of sense. A title shot could be on the horizon, and each woman would have to go through one another to get it.
Rose Namajunas/Nina Ansaroff Winner
In examining a bout between Rose Namajunas and Nina Ansaroff, you have a fun little scrap. Examining further, it's a fight that could provide a good matchup for VanZant regardless of the winner.
Namajunas is a TUF runner-up; Ansaroff is a tough Invicta vet. They both have styles that could play well against VanZant.
They have to settle their business first. VanZant against Namajunas is probably the fight to make, but if Ansaroff was able to pull out the victory, she could also fight the bill.
Tecia Torres/Angela Hill Winner
Paige VanZant was supposed to be on TUF 20 but was deemed too young for the house. What if her MMA gimmick became running through all of the people who were supposed to be her castmates?
That's where a UFC 188 bout between Tecia Torres and Angela Hill comes into play. Both were cast members of TUF 20, and they will collide in a bout that could produce a great matchup with VanZant.
Both Hill and Torres would match up well with VanZant in terms of excitement. It would be a great fight that would benefit any UFC Fight Night main card.