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Paige VanZant finishes runner-up on 'DWTS' after bringing judges to tears

When Paige VanZant entered the "Dancing With The Stars" competition, the 22-year-old wasn’t sure that her ability on the dance floor would match her skill as a mixed martial artist.

But as the show entered its finale, VanZant not only proved that she was a competent dancer, she ended up posting a near-perfect score in her final routine that brought two of the judges and her dance partner to tears and ended up securing a second-place finish in season 22 of the dance competition.

VanZant and her partner Mark Ballas performed the salsa and a freestyle dance that captivated the judges. The salsa performance, which was the duo’s pick during the “redemption” stage when Ballas had to be replaced due to injury, scored 29 out of 30 points. But that was only a precursor of what was to come.

For their second dance, VanZant and Ballas performed a freestyle that drew a perfect 30 out of 30. But, perhaps of more significance, the performance had an emotional effect on the judges. Two judges and Ballas, himself, were brought to tears by VanZant’s performance.

"It's a really special moment. I've been on this show now 18 seasons in a row, and I'm so proud of this girl for how far she's come," a tearful Ballas said. "She's completely opened up from when I saw her the first day, she's completely changed."

Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to defeat the mirror ball winners Peta Murgatroyd and America’s Next Top Model winner Nyle DiMarco.

But the fact that VanZant made it this far is a victory in itself for the UFC’s No. 8 ranked strawweight.

VanZant’s progression throughout the season was noteworthy and has led to other opportunities. She was recently cast in the next installment of the “Kickboxer” movie series in a role written specifically for her after producers watched her on DWTS.

With a near DWTS victory and a possible burgeoning career in Hollywood on the horizon, it will be interesting to see when (or if) she’ll have time to get back to mixed martial arts.

 

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