Just after getting a win in her UFC debut, Jessica-Rose Clark felt like the perfect matchup for her second fight would be a showdown with Paige VanZant.
Considering VanZant was also moving to the newly minted UFC women’s flyweight division and was in need of an opponent, Clark felt like she would be the perfect person to welcome the former “Dancing with the Stars” finalist to the 125-pound division.
Like fate intervened, Clark didn’t have to think about the fight for long before it became reality when the UFC wasted no time offering her the matchup with VanZant at UFC Fight Night in St. Louis.
“The fight [with Bec Rawlings] happened perfectly and then right after the fight I thought ‘it would be really cool to fight Paige VanZant’ and then the fight got given to me 12 hours later,” Clark told MMAWeekly. “A lot of people don’t believe in destiny but it almost feels like fate.
“It almost feels like it was supposed to happen in this exact way.”
While the UFC has debuted rankings for the fledgling flyweight division, Clark understands that it’s going to take some time to really determine who are the top fighters in the world at 125 pounds behind new champion Nicco Montano.
Of course fighters like Valentina Shevchenko spring to mind immediately when talking about the best in the world at flyweight, but the reality is until competing at 125 pounds, there’s no telling who will be the true contenders in the division.
That’s why Clark felt a matchup with VanZant made so much sense because not only has the former Team Alpha Male fighter been ranked in the top 10 in her old weight class at 115 pounds but she also carries with her a certain amount of celebrity that will put a lot of eyeballs on this fight.
Thanks to her stint on the competition dance series as well as public appearances and a new book due out in 2018, VanZant is definitely one of the most well known fighters on the UFC roster and especially when looking for name recognition in the new 125-pound division.
“She’s a good fighter and everything and she’s had a lot of success but I think more than anything, she’s intelligent with how she’s gone about her whole career. From a marketing standpoint, this is the money fight,” Clark explained. “This is the one everyone wants to see because people either love Paige or think she’s a joke. No matter how the fight goes down, people want to see what happens.”
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When it comes to her opinion of VanZant’s skills inside the Octagon, Clark refuses to discount her abilities to fight because underestimating an opponent is almost the surest way to suffer a loss.
Still, Clark can’t help but wonder how VanZant will fare at a bigger weight class when she was already just a normal sized fighter in her previous division at 115 pounds.
VanZant claims that a brutal weight cut prevented her from giving her best performances in the UFC but Clark predicts that she’ll be making a move back down to strawweight after she feels what it’s like to face bigger, stronger competition at 125 pounds.
“I think that’s exactly what’s going to happen,” Clark answered when asked if this fight would convince VanZant to go back to strawwweight. “Because she’s not a big strawweight anyways so it didn’t make any sense for her to agree to the fight with me when I’m going to be a lot bigger than her.
“I read something from her the other day where she said not cutting weight will give her a chance to show off her athletic ability as well. I mean that’s cool. Good for her. Have fun.”
Whether size will play a major factor or not will be determined on Sunday night but either way Clark feels like she’s just a bad matchup for VanZant and plans to show her why when they finally clash inside the Octagon.
“I think I matchup really well with anyone to be honest. I have a lot of confidence in my abilities wherever the fight goes. I have a lot of confidence in what I can do and what I have done and I know how much better I get each fight. I think she presents a lot of unknowns because she changes so much with each fight, but I always train to be able to adapt to whatever the other person is going to do,” Clark said.
“With her, I don’t see anything I have to be particularly worried about. At the same time with so many of my past opponents it’s almost robotic because we know exactly what they’re going to do. Like with Bec Rawlings, we only had 10 days to prepare but we knew exactly what she was going to do. With Paige, you can’t say that. She’s unpredictable so I’m excited about that.”