Can ’12 Gauge’ Paige Conquer The Squared Circle?

Lakeland, Florida–With the nearly month long lull in combat sports activity coming to an end, our patience is being rewarded with a fun filled 2021. Open the flood gates, Moses! Sure, watching Garcia vs Campbell after the holidays basically felt like a nicotine patch on my arm in a world with no smokes but hey, I got a bad pack a day habit of WATCHING FIGHTS! I was really starting to go through MMA and Bare Knuckle Boxing withdrawals, so you could certainly imagine my pure joy when I realized that BKFC: KnuckleMania on February 5 is just around the corner!

BKFC has been making history with every successive event they’ve held since 2018 and they are truly outdoing themselves in the process every time! Every card, barriers get broken. Viral moments are captured. This February 5 event is certainly no different, as KnuckleMania will be the second women’s main event in the BKFC books. Making her much anticipated debut, former UFC star Paige VanZant (8-5 MMA) is set to face BKFC fan favorite Britain Hart (1-2 BKFC, 4-4-3 Pro Boxing).

VanZant Accepts Hart’s Callout At BKFC 14/Photo Credit: Phil Lambert for BKFC

When you look at PVZ’s career matchmaking wise, she honestly hasn’t been done many favors. Other than a bout with Rachael Ostovich (4-6 MMA) in 2019, ’12 Gauge’ has only fought the elite of the elite in Strawweight and Flyweight. Matchups with Former Strawweight Champ Rose Namajunas and a recent defeat to the surging Amanda Ribas bring life to this perspective. Being thrown to the wolves is something that Paige VanZant is used to doing and she will be doing it again soon with the unorthodox and aggressive Britain Hart!

Britain Hart is particularly intriguing as a fighter, namely for her style and her record. It’s somewhat rare to see a record that features almost as many draws as wins. I took the time to watch a few of her fights. Other than that legendary war with BKFC Featherweight Champion Bec Rawlins at BKFC 2, the fight that impressed me the most was her fight with highly seasoned Amateur Boxer and Undefeated Professional Boxer Jaime Mitchell (5-0-2 Boxing) at Roy Jones Jr Boxing on UFC Fight Pass.

Britain Hart Fought Undefeated Jaime Mitchell To A Draw In 2019//Credit: Terrel Emerson

Britain Hart has fast hands and a triple jab that is her most underrated weapon. Hart likes to grab the back of her opponent’s heads in a Muay Thai clinch that confuses her opponents and throws hard shots inside. Though she tends not to throw straight punches, her looping shots find a home much of the time. For the most part, Hart is always taking on more technical and experienced fighters. A lot of her fights that went to decision that she lost could have frankly gone the other way just as easily. I find it incredibly impressive that she fought Jaime Mitchell, who has sixty fights between her amateur and pro careers, to a FREAKIN’ DRAW?? Amazing.

Her clinch and blitzing style bewilder her opponents at times and earn Hart points on the judges cards. With four wins and three draws on an eleven fight record, this tells a story of a brawler with a style that is difficult to overcome. Britain Hart’s fights often lead to stalemates with fighters Hart should be losing to when comparing resumes on paper. She’s a puzzle that only very elite strikers can solve. The one thing that seems to work against her is that she cuts easily and that’ll tend to sometimes influence a judge’s decision in a close fight.

All that being said, both of these athletes have a war on their hands. VanZant now exclusively trains bare knuckle striking at American Top Team in Florida so her dedication cannot be questioned. The KnuckleMania main event has high stakes and career defining opportunities for both fighters. A win for Paige VanZant will make her debut a huge success and most likely guarantee a title shot for ’12 Gauge’. A win for Britain Hart officially puts her on a two fight winning streak and I wouldn’t at all be surprised if derailing the Paige train off the tracks gets Hart a similar opportunity at Featherweight Gold.

It’s not a big secret that Women’s Boxing doesn’t get the respect that it deserves. Criminally underpromoted and thoughtless, horrific mismatches occur on the regular. Another Women’s Main Event Super Bowl Weekend could very well put BKFC on the map as a top tier destination for elite female fighters to get the glory, promotion, and admiration that they are due. Professional Boxing is broken and stuck in it’s ways. It’s interesting to watch Bare Knuckle, a sport that was illegal from the late 1800s to 2018, reform into a modernized version of the sport that promotes diversity and inclusivity. Be sure to catch BKFC: Knucklemania February 5, live on pay-per-view 9pm Eastern time!

By Josh Herbold

Fight Historian Bare Knuckle Boxing Media Host of "The Bare Knuckle Half Hour" on the MMA Island Youtube Channel Twitter/Instagram: @jherbsports

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