In her first 8 professional mixed martial arts fights, “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey had been the Arm Bar Assassin. Nobody could stop her trademark manuever. Even great fighters like Sarah Kaufman, Liz Carmouche and Miesha Tate fell in the first round. Only in a rematch with Tate did Ronda even have to go past round 1. Tate managed to survive until early in round 3, but in the end succumbed to Ronda’s ude hishigi juji gatame Judo technique. Through it all, Rousey has been telling everybody there is more to her MMA skills than the armbar, in all of its variations. However, we hadn’t seen her finish a fight any other way. Now we have. 66 seconds into the first round of her UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship fight versus Sara McMann at UFC 170, referee Herb Dean intervened and called an end to the match after Ronda dropped her opponent with a devastating knee to the liver and followed up by raining blows down upon her fallen foe. Ronda’s record stays unblemished at 9-0 with all 9 victories being stoppages.
The brawl began looking like it would indeed be a very different type of fight for Rousey as both combatants came out exchanging punches and knees as if they were in a back alley donnybrook. Each of these warriors are Olympic medalists; Ronda in Judo, Sara in Wrestling. Nonetheless, the two experts at groundfighting and grappling seemed intent on having a Muay Thai style tussle. As anybody who has seen that type of match knows, knees to the body are a primary striking technique. Ronda and Sara both tried to land knees in close, but Rousey gained a quick advantage forcing McMann against the cage. Sara needed to get off the fence, but before she could Ronda landed a left knee to the liver area. McMann dropped like a marionette with its strings cut, her left hand across her midsection, her head turned away. Here’s where the controversy of this match, if there is any, is rooted. Ronda landed a couple of shots before Herb Dean stepped in. He looked like he had started coming in to stop it as soon as Sara went down. By the time he split the fighters, Sara was trying to get up. It was only a matter of a few seconds that she was on the canvas. Could the fight have continued? I think so. But Sara was hurt and I have no doubt Ronda would have finished her. Still, in a championship fight I probably would say Sara deserved a chance to try to weather the storm. To her credit, McMann made no excuses after the fight, correctly noting that the way she went down forced the referee’s hand. While she was clearly hurt, her going down like her body was plummeting to earth looked worse than it was. But I reiterate, I truly believe Ronda would have finished her anyway.
Where does Rousey go from here? Well, she is part of several upcoming movies, including The Expendables 3, Entourage (yes, based on the HBO series) and The Athena Project. Hopefully, she won’t fall victim of focusing too much on movies and getting beaten by a lesser opponent because her training suffered. As for her next fight in the Octagon, the most worthy challenger is similarly unbeaten Cat Zingano. The question is whether Cat is ready to fight after recovering from injury and tragedy. In January, Cat’s husband Mauricio Zingano committed suicide. Understandably, a fight with Ronda Rousey is hardly the most important thing on Cat’s mind at the moment. Give her time. She’ll come back when she’s ready. Other than Cat, lots of MMA fans want to see Ronda take on Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino. However, while Cyborg now claims she’s willing to come down to the bantamweight limit of 135 pounds, she recently gave an interview saying she was walking around at 165. Fighters do walk around at a higher weight than their fighting weight, but 30 pounds is way over 135. It will take a long time for Cyborg to make 135, if she’s capable of doing so. Even if she makes the weight, with her past steroid use I would require her to fight 1 or 2 UFC matches before getting a shot at the title, whether it’s in Ronda’s possession or some other fighter like Zingano. Cyborg needs to prove she can compete in the UFC and pass their drug testing protocol. Just ask UFC President, Dana White.
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