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Paige VanZant ready for return to commentary booth for inaugural Kinektic grappling event

Paige VanZant wears a lot of hats these days and one of them is in the world of color commentary.

The women’s flyweight will return to the broadcast booth this Friday night for the Kinektic 1 — a team-oriented submission grappling event that will air on UFC Fight Pass beginning at 10 p.m. EST.

VanZant made her color commentary debut at the M-1 Global: Road to M-1 USA event that took place in April. “12 Gauge” enjoyed the process of her first event very much and has been admittedly bitten by the broadcasting bug.

“I had an amazing time commentating with Sean Wheelock at the M-1 Global show and, of course, I get to commentate alongside him again,” VanZant told MyMMANews.com. “I think the more we work together, the better flow we’re going to get, the better I’m going to be at it. This is his full-time job, he has a ton of experience (with broadcasting), and I have the experience competing in the cage and on the mat, and I get to add a little bit more flare to the color commentary. It’s super fun and I’m super excited to be a part of such an awesome event.”

Working with a veteran play-by-play commentator like Sean Wheelock, experience and wisdom can be passed on in a big way. For VanZant, that wisdom, combined with her personality and competitive nature, she can add a unique touch to the event.

“I really just try to make it personal,” VanZant explained. “I’ll use the knowledge that I have, the experience that I have, and translate that to the audience. I think the big difference between this one and the last one, the MMA shows that are more on the local and regional level, you’re going to get more casual fans that aren’t super in-depth or knowledgable to what’s going on. With something like this, you’re going to get true fans, people who know what’s happening — MMA people and jiu-jitsu people — and I can commentate a little more in-depth and with a more detailed precision. It won’t just be kind of a vague overview of what’s happening. I’m excited to use my experience with grappling, my experience with competing and translate that to whoever is watching, explaining to people what I think could be happening, what I think is going on and I think it will be an awesome flow with what Sean and I have.”

The format for the event is a team style, elimination, submission-only ruleset. There will be four teams that are captained by UFC veterans Chael Sonnen and Chris Lytle, current UFC light heavyweight Anthony Smith and decorated grappler Craig Jones. They have each compiled teams to compete in the event The one-night tournament consists of bouts with eight-minute time limits. Losers of the semifinal matches are eliminated; draws result in the elimination of both athletes; and the first team with five members eliminated will be out of the competition. The surviving team will be declared the winner.

There are additional wrinkles added into the competition that make it extremely fascinating, something that VanZant is highly anticipating.

“It makes it super interesting,” VanZant said. “The big thing is that you don’t know who you’re going to be grappling beforehand. You just decide who will go first in your lineup, but you won’t know any of the other team’s lineups. So you don’t know who you’re going to be grappling against. It takes the element of preparing for one specific person out of it. It goes all down to in the moment, who is better on the mat, at that moment. Everyone can try to do the grappling math, or the MMA math: this person beat this person, this person has these accolades and they bring all these things to the table. It’s going to take everything else away and it comes down to who is better on that night, at that very moment.

“There could be a team who has the superior level decorated grapplers, but you never know what’s going to happen when it comes to strategy. With the strategy behind it, I think we’re going to see a super competitive night. It’s definitely going to have a huge impact, especially if you see these matches going the distance and you see your teammates get eliminated, it could be very troublesome. Or, if you see one person that just keeps taking out an entire team, you could have one person on the mat and they could eliminate someone’s entire team just by themselves. The strategy, like if someone gets eliminated, the captains need to decide who they think can take out someone that just took out one of their teammates. It’s going to be interesting to see how these coaches and captains react.”

In addition to the one-night tournament, a grappling SuperFight is scheduled to take place between UFC veteran Anthony Birchak and UFC hopeful Raufeon Stots. Both guys will be looking to make an impression on the MMA community, and, more than likely, the UFC brass on Friday night. VanZant believes it will be an opportunity for both competitors to show off how well-rounded they are in the world of martial arts and make a great impression.

“I feel like every time I see these SuperFight grappling matches, it’s not as competitive as I would like,” VanZant said. “I hope that it is extremely competitive and, even though there’s not specific medals or world titles on the line, I hope that these two competitors go out there and bring it, which I know both of them usually do. I think it’s going to be an awesome thing to see and it’s great the Kinektic is bringing these SuperFight matchups in between. It’s more than just a submission grappling night, you’re going to see things you don’t typically see on a daily basis.”

VanZant is currently healing from an arm injury that has kept her sidelined since January, so her return date to the Octagon remains unclear at this point. On Friday night, VanZant will have the opportunity to watch and call a night of submission grappling matchups to allow herself to bring out her competitive juices in a different way to share with the world. VanZant sees a bright future for Kenektic and the world of submission grappling, thus hoping Friday night will just be the tip of the iceberg.

“Even though this is the first event, I hope that they bring more submission tournaments like this and hope that this continues on, catches that wave and gets some notoriety behind it.”