Heading into the third week of competition, UFC strawweight Paige VanZant has to be feeling pretty good about her performance thus far on Dancing with The Stars.
After starting off the season with a solid effort that landed her and partner Mark Ballas in fourth place after the opening dances, Team Pow Right In The Kisser was faced with some adversity in Week 2 as Ballas suffered a back injury during Sunday’s rehearsals.
Having dealt with late opponent shifts in the cage over the course of her career, VanZant had no problem switching partners on the fly, teaming up with former So You Think You Can Dance contestant Alan Bernsten to knock out an outstanding Cha-Cha that judge Len Goodman called “the best dance of the season.”
“12 Gauge” and Bernsten earned a score of 24, tying them with Week 1 co-leaders Wanya Morris and Lindsay Arnold for the top score of the week, and establishing VanZant as one of the favorites heading into this week’s performances.
Following a week on the sidelines, Ballas was back in the mix this week as the duo danced a Paso Doble inside the DWTS Octagon. No, for real – they set up a little mini Octagon for them to dance in to commemorate VanZant’s 2014 UFC debut, which she selected as her most memorable year.
Even though VanZant scored a knockout finish to end the dance, the performance, as always, went to the judges and it was a unanimous win for team Pow Right In The Kisser, even if Len didn’t like it as much as he enjoyed last week’s performance.
“It’s a wonderful performance and if that had been a contemporary, it would have gotten a high mark,” stated the oft-booed eldest judge. “But for me, it didn’t look like a Paso Doble.”
Carrie Ann Inaba completely disagreed with her counterpart, suggesting that the choreographers need to help bring the traditional dances forward with new adaptations and praised Ballas for his interpretation, keeping her insights on the dance itself short and sweet, telling the tandem, “That was bad-ass!”
A couple weeks after she stole the show in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, judge Bruno Tonioli thought he saw Wonder Woman on the dance floor, praising VanZant’s effort and telling Ballas, “You’ve got to watch that one because I’ve got the feeling you’ve got a winner on your hand.”
Their scores reflected the high praise, as they garnered two eights and a seven for a combined 23, moving them ahead of Kim Fields and Sasha Farber and into first place on the evening through their dance.
Jodie Sweetin from Fuller House and her partner Keo Mostepe followed them on to the floor and matched their result, with consistent top scorer Wanya Morris of Boyz II Men and his partner Lindsay Arnold clocking in with eights across the board to claim the highest total of the evening, matching their score from last week.
But it was the final pair of the evening, model Nyle DiMarco and his partner Peta Murgatroyd collecting a 25 for their terrific tango.
Last week, veteran journalist Geraldo Rivera and his partner Edyta Sliwinska were the first pair voted off and this week. Landing in the danger zone of being sent home this week were Mischa Barton from The O.C. and her partner Artem Chigvintsev, former NFL QB Doug Flutie and Karina Smirnoff, and Sweetin and Mostepe, who scored a 21 for their Week 2 performance.
In the end, it was Barton and Chigvintsev whose competition came to an end this week, leaving only a collection of strong tandems moving forward to next week’s Disney Night event with guest judge Zendaya.