Rose Namajunas surged into title contention on Thursday when she defeated Paige van Zant via rear naked choke at UFC Fight Night 80 in Las Vegas.
The women's strawweight contenders headlined a card also featuring lightweight bouts between Michael Chiesa and Jim Miller, as well as Sage Northcutt and Cody Pfister.
“Coming in I knew I had to control my emotions. I couldn’t get overly excited so I stayed calm and remained in the moment,” Namajunas said in her post-fight interview.
“I thought I had the submission several times but I guess it just needed a little bit more. I listened to my corner the whole way through and took my time.
“I felt amazing in there and it was a big confidence booster to come out on top tonight. I want to take some time off and not rush anything. I want that title but I want to know I’m ready for it when it comes.”
Van Zant had racked up four consecutive victories and three in the UFC ahead of the clash, while Namajunas had recorded just one win since losing to Carla Esparza in a clash for the inaugural strawweight title in December 2014.
Namajunas dominated Van Zant for all five rounds of the contest, constantly searching for submissions, and Van Zant's bravery and determination was all that saved her at times.
In the fourth round she trapped Van Zant in arm bars twice, but the Team Alpha Male fighter refused to tap on both occasions.
With Van Zant's determination finally eroded, Namjunas finally managed to finish the fight two minutes and 25 seconds in the fifth and final round.
Meanwhile, teenage prodigy Sage Northcutt proved his UFC debut victory over Franciso Trinaldo was more than a fluke when he defeated Cody Pfister via guillotine choke 41 seconds into round two.
Main card results:
Rose Namajunas def. Paige Van Zant – Submission (rear-naked choke)
Michael Chiesa def. Jim Miller – Submission (rear-naked choke)
Sage Northcutt def. Cody Pfister – Submission (guillotine choke)
Thiago Santos def. Elias Theodorou – Unanimous decision