VanZant stunned most with her impressive UFC debut against Kailin Curran and followed that up with a drubbing of Felice Herrig. The win moved her into the top 10 where she currently is the No. 8-ranked contender in the strawweight division. As a top-10 fighter with a lot of buzz, the UFC could have easily put her in a prime-time bout with potential title implications, but it made the right decision not to.
Chambers is not a big threat to VanZant. She is a former atomweight with a decent overall game but shouldn’t threaten VanZant in a serious manner. Chambers was able to score an upset over Curran earlier in 2015 via armbar, but it was a fight that she was losing up until that point. VanZant should be able to dominate this fight.
The biggest reason the UFC is right in making this fight? VanZant is 21.
There is no reason it should rush one of its most talked about prospects up the ladder. She is still a developing fighter. Prior to making her UFC debut, she met Tecia Torres in Invicta FC where she lost a decisive decision. It wasn’t until everyone saw how much she grew as a fighter in her UFC debut that she was taken as a serious prospect. She has a very high ceiling, and pushing her into the deep end of the pool is nonsensical at this juncture.
The UFC has, for years, rushed young prospects into beatings against elite opposition. It has been a common critique of how it treated prospects. This should be a welcome change. At just 21, VanZant has much to learn. Team Alpha Male is the perfect camp to hone her skills, and with time she could become a legitimate threat to the title—but that time is not now.
Chambers is a great opponent for her development. VanZant should not be threatened, but Chambers is quality enough to potentially find success on the feet or the floor. It will force VanZant to be sharp. It is a low-risk fight with potential high-end rewards for 12 Gauge.
Do fights against Claudia Gadelha, Jessica Aguilar or, even, Joanna Jedrzejczyk make sense for VanZant? Does pitting her against other prospects such as Rose Namajunas serve the UFC better? No.
The options for top-10 opponents were slim, and even if there were more options the UFC made the right call to put VanZant on the slow path to the top. It has an investment in VanZant, and it wants to maximize the rewards.
With an impressive victory against Chambers, VanZant could then take a bigger fight on the back end of the top 15. And another victory could then put her into the talks for an elite fight. But not now. As it stands today, in mid-2015, there is no reason VanZant should be fighting the elite.
The UFC should be commended for treating a prospect like a prospect. It made the right call.
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