The Endearing Dominance of Ronda Rousey

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Darkness befell momentarily over the Rio crowd, feverishly intensifying the already palpable atmosphere inside the HSBC Arena. As a show of lights began and the theme song to Freaks and Geeks reverberated inaudibly over a canonical ensemble of timid boos and polite cheers, it became apparent that the conviction of this Brazilian audience was tested in front of the millions watching across the world.

Why such hesitation? The answer: “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey.

To the trained observer, the pro-Correia chants that accompanied this choir could have been nothing more than a front to save face. That’s because it is well-known that to Brazilian fight fans, solidarity towards one of their own may as well be a patriotic obligation; but on this night at UFC 190, they were torn between dutiful affection for the homegrown upstart and a genuine admiration for the prodigal queen of WMMA.

Ronda Rousey marched out fittingly to the sound of Joan Jett belting I don’t give a damn ’bout my bad reputation.

Stoically, the baddest woman on the planet swaggered her way into the Octagon with stone cold demeanour. At some point during her walk-out, a cage-side fan even threw a Brazilian flag at her, but she had no interest in playing that game: this fight had nothing to do with national pride and shouldn’t even have been personal if not for Correia’s wins over Ronda’s friends and her trash talk – the two elements responsible for her getting the title shot.

As the opening bell sounded, the raucous crowd began cheering the action, no longer bound by the shackles of nationalist decorum.

Dominance, it appears, is universally endearing.

Thirty-four seconds later, Ronda Rousey exorcised Bethe Correia’s championship delusions with a straight right to the temple.

The building popped.

Perhaps the Rowdy one’s most impressive feat that night wasn’t winning the brawl against a brawler, but making 14,723 Brazilians break character.

Hot Rod would’ve been proud.

The Double-Edged Sword

With UFC 190 in the books, MMA historians will undoubtedly look back at its headliner pitting Ronda Rousey and Bethe Correia as nothing more than a gross mismatch oversold by the propagandist marketing engine that fuels the UFC’s PPV machine. However, truth be told, Joe Silva has very few booking options left for Rousey since she has finished 7 of the top 10 ranked fighters in her division.

In that sense any woman with an undefeated streak who is willing and able to make 135Lbs automatically defaults to the tag of contender.

Greatness can be a double-edged sword, and in Ronda Rousey’s case, the lack of viable challengers could potentially short-circuit her entire division.

As it stands, of the three top 10 bantamweights who have yet to challenge the UFC Women’s Bantamweight champion, only Holly Holm fits the criteria. The former 18-time world boxing champion is currently riding a pristine 9-0 record (6 TKO, 3 Dec) since her MMA debut in 2011. An impressive win against a ranked opponent in her next bout would make her 3-0 in the UFC, and could put her in line for contention. If that happens, the Preacher’s Daughter would be the most accomplished striker to ever face Rowdy and could pose a unique stylistic challenge.

For one to truly appreciate the dominance of Rowdy Ronda Rousey, one need only look at the numbers.

Five Facts on Ronda’s Dominance

First Fact: 1536 seconds
In 12 professional bouts Rousey has spent a total of 1536 seconds fighting – That’s 25 minutes and 36 seconds for the mathematically challenged. To put that in a perspective Mike Goldberg would surely appreciate, the length of Rowdy’s 12 career fights is virtually identical that of one Georges St-Pierre title defense.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Then again, this is like comparing apples to oranges, so instead let’s shift focus to Ronda Rousey’s contemporaries and see how they stack up.

Second Fact: 37%
At a similar point of 12 fights into their careers, Miesha Tate and Cris Cyborg Justino’s active fight times were 67m:51s and 69m:13s* (one fight N/A) respectively. These two are widely considered her main rivals, but neither is nearly half as effective as Ronda Rousey.

Proportionally speaking, the UFC Women’s Bantamweight champion has finished a 100% of her opponents by only requiring roughly 37% of Tate and Cyborg’s individual cage times (first 12 fights) to get the job done. In comparison, Tate and Cyborg have career finishing rates of 51% and 75% respectively. No matter which way you cut it, the numbers emphatically favor Rousey.

Third Fact: 62-2-1-3
In her last ten fights since joining the Zuffa banner, FightMetrics data show that Ronda Rousey has only been on the receiving end of 62 total strikes, in addition to two takedowns, a single submission attempt and three passes. Those are very slim numbers.

To put these in perspective, divisional contender Miesha Tate was on the receiving end of 56 total strikes in her last bout against Jessica Eye. So in fact, Rousey was hit in her last ten fights just a little over the number of times Tate was tagged in one single scrap.

Since MMA is a game of cumulative attrition, it can be argued that higher active Octagon time can proportionally impact compounded damage to the competitor. In that sense, one of the keys to Ronda Rousey’s dominance stems from her ability to limit that attrition by finishing her opponents quickly.

Fourth Fact: 86%
Say what you will but the quality of Ronda Rousey’s opposition has been astounding since her debut. With the exception of one fight (Charmaine Tweet, 0-0), Ronda Rousey has never faced an opponent that didn’t register a winning percentage of at least 67% prior to their match-up. Collectively, Rousey’s opposition held a pre-fight record of 101-17. That’s a winning rate of 86%. Three of her last four opponents had unbeaten records (ie. Zingano, McMann and Correia) but they were dispatched collectively in a meagre 1m:54s.

Meanwhile, I can’t even finish taking my shower in that little time, but I digress.

Fifth Fact: 62%
Out of 11 career opponents, only three were able to last more than a minute inside the Octagon with Ronda Rousey: Sara McMann (1m:06s), Liz Carmouche (4m:49s) and Miesha Tate, twice (4m:27s, 1st fight; 10m:58s, 2nd fight). In fact, Miesha Tate’s combined 15m:25s of shared cage time with Ronda Rousey represents roughly 62% of her fight career.

Mathematically, you could say that Rowdy Ronda Rousey has spent the majority of her career fighting Cupcake, which is a perfect transition into the next part of this piece…

Will the next contender please stand up?

In the face of such dominance, what options does the UFC have left to book against Ronda Rousey?

As mentioned earlier, Holly Holm may be a dominant win away from booking herself some pay-per-view points, but whether she would rise to the occasion to pose a threat is a question that remains to be answered.

When she fights, Rousey does not advance or retreat; she stalks and baits her adversaries with predatory swiftness. This strategy may not work when faced with such a patient and technical striker as Holm. Like the reigning champion, the product of Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA Academy has an elite set of skills, and in her case she also has two of the most cerebral coaches on her side. Unlike Correia, she would not blindly stand in the pocket or pivot to her opponent’s strong side during a firefight. She is no amateur, and against her, Ronda Rousey would likely have to revert to her primary operative mode: arm-collecting.

On the other hand, no woman has studied the Rowdy one harder (literally) than former Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight champion Miesha Tate.

If Rowdy had overwhelmed Tate in their first encounter, their second fight proved to be a different beast.  Tate had the crowd on its feet and was winning some of the early exchanges for the first 10 minutes of their grudge match, but Ronda would go on to land 106 more overall strikes than Tate.

The boat may have sailed on Tate’s chances though, but I may be precipitous on my assumptions. It is no coincidence that since beating Tate in their second match, Ronda Rousey has scored the first three TKOs of her career in her last four fights. She understood that her striking was suspect, so she worked tirelessly on her weakness and turned it into strength, which is part and parcel with what great champions do.

Regardless, Rousey vs. Tate III could do great business for the UFC if the promotion can emphasize everything that I just mentioned about this rivalry.

Other than that, there is always the option of re-matching Ronda Rousey with some of her previous opponents if they can rack up a few impressive wins. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Cat Zingano in the mix again.

And then, there’s the controversial Invicta Featherweight Champion Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino.

If Cyborg believes that she could just bulldoze her way through the incomparable “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey the same way she has overpowered most of her opponents, then she would be sadly mistaken. But before this fight could even be considered, she first has to be able to make the weight.

For Cyborg who walks around at over 170-pounds, in order for her to reach the bantamweight limit, she would have to shed some of her muscle mass. How this would affect her remains to be seen, but that is the price to pay if she wants her ticket to the big dance.

“Rowdy” Ronda Rousey versus Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino would be the biggest fight in WMMA history.

Will it happen? We will just have to wait and see.