Paige VanZant is a finalist on Season 22 of Dancing with the Stars.
Next week, the UFC strawweight and her partner Mark Ballas will square off against the teams of Ginger Zee and Val Chmerkovskiy and Nyle DiMarco and Peta Murgatroyd in a battle for the Mirror Ball Trophy in the season finale.
Kicking off the show, the duo teamed with Alan Bernsten, who filled in for Ballas when he was injured in Week 2, to perform a Samba for their trio dance on this week’s semifinal show.
And they brought the house down right out of the gate. This was a first-round knockout performance and the judges didn’t hold back in heaping praise on the group.
“This is such an important night. Tonight we start the voting and scoring to crown the champion,” began lead judge Len Goodman, explaining that the scores from Monday’s performance will carry over to the championship finale next week. “You started with a showstopper. File it under ‘B’ for brilliant.
“My darling, not even those two frisky peacocks could outshine you, my little bird of paradise,” Bruno Tonioli said of the UFC strawweight competitor. “She was the undisputed queen of the jungle. You became the star attraction all the way through. It’s an assertion that you made with such confidence, such beauty and such skill. Beautiful.”
“Shut the front door!” boomed Carrie Ann Inaba. “That is so amazing. You are unstoppable. It is on! Tonight is the semifinals and Paige wants to win! That was on fleek!”
Their high praise translated to high scores, as Team Pow Right in the Kisser (Plus One) pulled 10s across the board, registering their second perfect score of the season. They were one of two teams to get a perfect score in the trio round, but that was only half the battle in the semis, as they still had an Argentine Tango to tackle.
Tune in to ABC SOON. @dancingabc goes live 5!!! Be sure to vote on https://apps.facebook.com/votedwts/
A photo posted by Paige VanZant (@paigevanzantufc) on May 16, 2016 at 3:35pm PDT
And they scored a second consecutive first-round knockout with their steamy second number.
“Nasty. Naughty. But it felt so good,” raved Bruno, who made a promise Americans might not want to see him keep. “If you don’t make it to the finals, I’m going to judge in Speedos next week. You deserve a place in the finals.”
“That was very sexy, but what was amazing about it is that you are phenomenal because you push yourself every week,” said Carrie Ann, showering praise on VanZant. “I love the layers. You are powerful. You are athletic. You are erotic. You are sensual. You are sophisticated. You are dynamic. I love watching you dance.”
“No one’s right, no one’s wrong; it’s about taste,” offered Len, setting the stage for a little bit of criticism. “The choreography was brilliant. The dancing was brilliant. For me, a little too spicy.”
Another round of scores came out 10-9-10, giving Team Pow Right in the Kisser a combined score of 59/60 for the week to sit atop the leaderboard heading into next week’s finale. By comparison, Nyle and Peta scored a 57, while Ginger and Val totaled 56.
These were the top three teams over the course of the entire season and the teams deserving of their place in the finale.
Now it’s time for them to go toe-to-toe-to-toe to determine the winner on this season of Dancing with the Stars.