Paige VanZant’s amazing run on Dancing with the Stars finished with the UFC strawweight coming away with the silver medal, as America’s Next Top Model winner Nyle DiMarco took home the Mirror Ball Trophy for Season 22.
VanZant and her partner Mark Ballas entered Tuesday’s finale atop the leaderboard, carrying a combined score of 118 from the last two weeks of judges’ scores, good for a four-point edge over the two other teams.
As part of the finale, which featured flashbacks to various stages of the season and performances from the entire cast, Team Pow Right in the Kisser recreated their stunning Paso Doble inside the DWTS Octagon from Week 3, that once again ended with VanZant scoring the TKO win over Ballas.
In addition to each of the pairs of finalists repeating one of their signature performances, there was also a fusion dance that counted towards the final results to deliver. For VanZant and Ballas, that meant 24-hours to put together a Jive/Salsa mash-up to “Little Bitty Pretty One.”
And as they had done all season, Team Pow Right in the Kisser delivered a knockout performance.
“What an awesome way to end this awesome season,” Carrie Ann Inaba said. “You have set the standard from Day One of this competition and you continue to set the standard.”
“I could see you teasing me with another knockout performance,” purred Bruno Tonioli. “You always had the power and the technique and now you’re able to play it and you played me completely.”
Len Goodman summed up the technical side of this competition perfectly in his final comments to the UFC strawweight who has been a standout on the dance floor all season.
“If this was judged purely on dance, you’re the one to beat,” he said, bestowing high praise on “12 Gauge” for her last dance and her performance throughout the competition.
The scores reflected their praise, as VanZant and Ballas earned another perfect score of 30 for their final number, putting them at the top of the heap in terms of scores over the last two weeks.
But the competition isn’t decided on dancing alone, as the scores from the last two weeks were combined with votes each team accumulated over the last two weeks as well to determine the winner.
Good Morning America chief meteorologist Ginger Zee and her partner Val Chmerkovskiy were eliminated in third place, a slight hiccup in their final performance combined with lower scores the previous two weeks doing them in.
That left VanZant and Ballas going head-to-head, with DiMarco and his partner Peta Murgatroyd, who shone all season and put up a perfect score in their dance on Tuesday night, and when combined with the audience votes, it was DiMarco who got the nod.
It was a tremendous season for VanZant, whose confidence clearly grew from week-to-week and whose charisma, personality and energy jumped off the screen. Despite not raising the Mirror Ball Trophy, this was a star-making venture for the 22-year-old fighter.
And now that she’s hanging up her dancing shoes, the question is when will she tape up her four-ounce gloves and return to the Octagon?