Posted April 18, 2015 by Melanie Gale in News

Felice Herrig and Paige VanZant Rumble in Newark


The Felice “Lil Bulldog” Herrig (10-5) vs. Paige “12 Gauge” VanZant (4-1) main card strawweight fight at “UFC on Fox: Machida vs. Rockhold” is being sold as the Blonde WMMA All About Eve Grudge Match, but it’s much more than that, and hyping it that way diminishes both fighters.

Despite Felice Herrig’s sometimes goofy social media persona, she’s a serious, experienced, and well-rounded fighter, a gatekeeper in the best sense. She came to MMA with an impressive kickboxing record, and over the years has proven she knows the game. She’s neither a great athlete nor a great fighter, but she’s a durable one.

Herrig is most effective in the clinch, and her experience and technical skills may nullify VanZant’s offense and do enough real damage to VanZant to turn the fight her way. Herrig is also the better distance fighter and she’s certainly the more technical striker. VanZant may have handily beat Kailin Curran (3-1) in her last fight, but her strikes were sloppy. Herrig also has some deceptive trips from the clinch. A few takedowns and some good work from top position can give her some rounds.

Paige VanZant is an exciting pressure fighter, which often compensates for her real technical flaws as a striker. Most obviously she throws arm punches and sticks her chin in the air, but get her in the clinch and she’s a relentless offensive fighter. She’ll unleash a barrage of knees, punches, and elbows until she breaks her opponent, like she broke Curran. Her ground game is solid, and she’s an excellent athlete with a good chin. Possibly the most important weapon she’s bringing to the Octagon in Newark is the ambition and casual arrogance of youth. She is far from being a champion on the level of bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey (11-0), but she is a contender, and she knows this, and that belief wins fights.

Both have proven they can go the distance. Herrig has mixed it up with elite competition, such as Invicta 125-pound champ Barb Honchak (10-2), and has never been finished. VanZant has won two fights via decision and handily finished two. They both have decision losses to Tecia Torres (5-0), who is an excellent prospect and fighter, well deserving of a spot on a main card against another elite strawweight in her own right.

Much of this fight should be fought in the clinch, and if we’re lucky, we’ll get a ton of offense and lots of transitions and scrambles off of takedown and trip attempts. Herrig will want to slow VanZant down, so there may be some positional work against the cage or from the top in grappling, but not enough to stem the action too much.

If there’s a finish, it’ll go to VanZant, whose athleticism and pressure game will give her a strong, hard-fought edge. But Herrig has the skill and experience to win this one too. Whatever the outcome, it’ll be a terrific fight.

Prediction: Felice Herrig by Split Decision.

The main card starts at 8PM/5PM ET/PT and airs on Fox.

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Melanie Gale