On the heels of the UFC Welterweight title fight being rescheduled — champion Robbie Lawler vs. challenger Carlos Condit — the UFC has called on Ronda Rousey to save the day. In a span of two years, the Women’s Bantamweight (135lbs) champion has become the face of the UFC, next to Conor McGregor.
Go around and ask 10 people to name a UFC fighter and I guarantee eight of them will mention Rousey in some fashion, and half of them will say they don’t like her. Just as fast as her star has risen, her popularity has divided most UFC fans. You either love her or you want to see her get destroyed in the octagon. Why Is that you ask? Great question. In order to understand the “Rousey Effect” we will need to understand her fighting style.
Let me preface this by saying that Ronda Rousey’s skill set is not unique. Her fighting style is very basic. However, her competitive attitude is amongst the best in the UFC, and that is what separates her from the rest.
In preparation for this article, I watched all of her fights on UFC Fight Pass. In my semi-expert analysis, I noticed that she fights the same way every time. Early in her MMA career, she would do anything in her power to get close enough to clinch distance and work her dynamic Judo throws and sweeps from there. She would use her striking to set up the tosses or sweeps. Along with that, her conditioning is inhuman. She could beat opponents on her relentless pace alone. Unfortunately for the rest of her division, she is getting drastically better with every fight.
She is known for the armbar. I have a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and the armbar is the most basic and painful technique out there. This arm lock is accomplished by placing your legs across the opponent’s chest, with one of his arms between your thighs and with the elbow joint against your hips. From that position the opponent’s arm is grabbed with your arms and his forearm is placed on your chest. To lock the arm, you will simply lean back and arch your hips at the same time.
As Rousey’s career progressed, she has added a new toy to her arsenal. Her boxing has improved dramatically since her career has started. She has developed serious knockout power in both hands. Ask Alexis Davis how her jaw is feeling after Ronda put her to sleep. It is remarkable to think that in 15 MMA fights, all but two eclipsed one minute, and those two fights were against Miesha Tate, which she called her “toughest” opponent.
Notice the quotations. The two times she defeated Tate were not really competitive. This fight in particular showed the evolution of Rousey’s game — she took a few shots but absolutely dominated in the stand up and on the ground. In terms of pure MMA skill, it would be absurd to deny that among female fighters in the UFC, Rousey is at least five years ahead in terms of in-ring ability. But she is a human, and like all human fighters, she can be beat. More on that later. Which brings me to why there is such a polarization amongst fans.
Why the love/hate relationship?
So why is she polarizing? Her gender. It’s that simple.
When you look at it at face value, a lot of MMA fans are old-school. “Fighting is a man’s sport,” they’ll exclaim. “Women don’t hit hard enough. They don’t have the same technical skills. They’re fights aren’t as exciting. They shouldn’t be doing something so violent. Leave the fighting to the men.”
Ask Bethe Correia how hard Rousey hits.
Here is the point. Fighting has long been associated with a man establishing dominance over another man. Where there once was a sign that said “No Girls Allowed” there is now one that reads “Girls Welcome” — and that is a tough pill to swallow for some dudes. It’s unfortunate and it’s shallow and it’s close-minded, but it is what it is.
I have been practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for some time now and every day I was getting tossed around by women and screaming for mercy. In today’s society, women are kicking down gender barriers in the male-dominated sports world.
Jen Welter is coaching NFL linebackers.
Sarah Thomas is the first full-time female official for the NFL and NCAA football.
Mo’ne Davis is dominating the Little League World Series.
But “combat” is an element other sports do not have. Most men are taught at a young age to protect women, to never let them get hurt, so it’s uncomfortable for some.
The flip side? That’s the reason she’s so beloved.
Her ability so sell a Pay Per View match is astonishing. UFC 187 featured title fights in the Light-Heavyweight division and the Middleweight division. It had 375,000 PPV buys. Rousey’s last PPV, which she headlined alone on August 1st, had more than 900,000 buys. As far as I am concerned, the whole game changed August 1.
MMA veteran Chael Sonnen recently stated (and I agree with him) that only three fighters in history have sold PPVs on their own: Floyd Mayweather, Oscar De La Hoya, and Mike Tyson. Everyone else needed a dance partner.
Ronda is quickly becoming the fourth.
I stated earlier that there is a blueprint to beat her. I see two ways — with one better than the other.
First, if you saw her last fight, Rousey got into a wild striking exchange with her opponent, and she just happened to put her to sleep. You can hope that she abandons her superior grappling and you can have a chance to catch her. Not the greatest chance, but a chance nonetheless.
The more calculated approach is to keep her away from you. It is very important to know that distance is your friend. Going for the takedown from too far out makes it easy to anticipate and counter and much more difficult to get the leverage and explosion to get the takedown and the opponent will be striking at air. With that, using striking (mainly leg kicks and jabs) can get the distance you need. Rousey’s next opponent, Holly Holm, effectively uses these techniques to beat her opponent; which makes this next fight very intriguing.
All in all, Ronda Rousey could be a victim of her massive success. If she can get past Holly Holm, the UFC may need to look outside the UFC to find an opponent who can really challenge her.
Enter Cris “Cyborg” Justino…