A while ago I wrote an editorial piece detailing the dominance of “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey, using raw numbers and statistics to highlight just how far ahead of the curve she is compared to her closest rivals. One of the key points I made was that Joe Silva and the UFC’s matchmaking committee have few options left when it comes to booking Rousey’s next fight. Amid rampant speculations based on the UFC’s current rankings, Miesha Tate appeared to be up next for a chance to avenge her two losses in her lopsided rivalry against the “Rowdy One”. However, with yesterday’s announcement that Holly Holm will challenge Ronda Rousey for the UFC Women’s Bantamweight championship at UFC 195, MMA fans naturally took to social media to voice their bewilderment and discontent.
— UFC (@ufc) August 21, 2015
The Heat Against Holm vs Rousey
Some of the key arguments against Holly Holm vs Ronda Rousey center around the idea that Miesha Tate, Amanda Nunes and Cat Zingano are all more deserving of a title shot than Holm. Another segment of the populace simply isn’t buying Holm as a viable challenger and don’t believe she is up for the task. Based on her underwhelming performances since joining the UFC, who can really blame them? Of course, there are also those who are disinterested by anything other than Cris “Cyborg” Justino vs Ronda Rousey.
Through the counterpoints that I am about to present, the objective of this piece is to explain the thought process behind the UFC’s decision to book Holly Holm vs Ronda Rousey, and to show that it is based on sensible logic.
Counterpoint #1: Tate, Nunes and Zingano all deserve a shot at Rousey more than Holm.
About the first argument that there are more deserving challengers than Holm, I cannot disagree.
With Amanda Nunes’ recent eye-opening performance against Sara McMann, she has officially entered the Ronda Rousey sweepstakes and could be a big win away from cashing in the biggest payday of her career. Another challenger, Cat Zingano, hasn’t fought since losing to Rousey in 14 seconds, so I’ll leave her out of the discussion for now.
Miesha Tate on the other hand, is far and wide Rousey’s only legitimate rival via occupying 62% of the champion’s total career Octagon time. Based on Cupcake’s four-fight win streak, she does legitimately deserve a title shot. The caveat, in her case, is perception. Having already lost twice to Rousey, even if hardcore MMA fans can feign polite interest for a trilogy bout, justifying a HD Pay-Per-View price tag of $USD 59.99 on Miesha Tate vs Ronda Rousey 3 to the casual fans may not be a wise business move — at least, not right away. If I were Dana and the Fertitta’s, I would consider throwing a few more top 10 fighters at Tate to either solidify her streak or possibly build a few challengers if any of them can beat her. The possibilities are endless:
Miesha Tate vs Cat Zingano 2
Miesha Tate vs Amanda Nunes
Miesha Tate vs Bethe Correia
Miesha Tate vs Cris Cyborg Justino
Whoa! I got carried away on that last one.
I want to point out that few MMA fans seem to ponder things beyond the here-and-now, and that’s why most can’t see the logic behind the UFC’s booking decisions. So here’s an exercise for you. Ask yourself this simple question:
What would happen to Miesha Tate if she loses to Ronda Rousey for a third time?
Despite her two losses to Rousey, Miesha Tate remains one of the few veritable cornerstones of contemporary WMMA. If Cupcake fights Rowdy and loses for a third consecutive time, her credibility as a viable challenger would be completely shattered and none of the fights that I listed earlier would even be remotely tantalizing. People forget that the UFC’s Women’s Bantamweight division isn’t really a one-woman show.
So the UFC not booking Miesha Tate against Ronda Rousey right away is a smart decision on both the business and promotional end. Believe me, these two will fight again someday; as long as there is money to be made, the UFC will surely make it happen.
Counterpoint #2: Holly Holm is not ready to face Ronda Rousey.
Newsflash! Nobody is ever prepared to face Ronda Rousey. What kind of backwater argument is that?
Time is of the essence, so despite — or rather, because of — her underwhelming performances in the Octagon, the UFC needed to book Holly Holm vs Ronda Rousey as quickly as possible. Truth be told, a boxer with Holly Holm’s accolades just doesn’t waltz into an MMA gym every other day. In having a decorated pro boxing champion face the baddest woman on the planet, the UFC could leverage the potential interests of boxing loyalists who may not even watch MMA. (Yes, those people exist.)
Picture this: two undefeated fighters who both possess an elite set of skills — the challenger, a former 18-time pro boxing world champion, versus the queen of WMMA, an Olympic judo medalist — in the “biggest fight in UFC history” of that specific weekend. Imagine all the ink the media will be bleeding (this article included) and the ballyhoo that will surround this fight.
It will be a big deal.
Whether Holm is ready or not is of little consequence when the champion is as dominant as “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey. For Dana White and the UFC, if it looks good on paper then it’s probably good enough to sell. Sooner or later, Holly Holm vs Ronda Rousey was going to happen anyway, but the longer the wait, the higher the chances are for Holm to lose her undefeated streak.
I imagine Joe Silva’s thought process to be something like this:
Holly Holm’s win streak? Not sure how long that’ll last.
Nunes, Zingano and Tate? They’re not going anywhere.
Holm vs Rousey it is! Boom!
Counterpoint #3: No other fights matter for the Women’s Bantamweight title except Cris Cyborg Justino vs Ronda Rousey.
First of all, Cris “Cyborg” Justino still needs to prove that she can make the 135-pound limit before this fight can be taken seriously.
Second of all, I disagree: there are still a few compelling fights to make for the UFC’s Women’s Bantamweight championship.
Cris “Cyborg” Justino vs “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey may be WMMA’s version of a Fedor vs Couture pipe dream, but once that fight happens, the prophecy will become true and no other fight in the division will matter. Look at all the fights the UFC would be throwing out the window…
Holly Holm vs Ronda Rousey
Amanda Nunes vs Ronda Rousey
Cat Zingano vs Ronda Rousey 2
Miesha Tate vs Ronda Rousey 3
If and when the UFC decides to book a Cris Cyborg Justino vs Ronda Rousey superfight, it would probably be on one of its biggest cards.
Hint, hint… UFC 200 is next year. I bet the promotion could use a couple of superfights on that card.
If the UFC were to make “Cyborg” and “Rowdy” fight tomorrow, the entire Women’s Bantamweight division would go dry in its aftermath and turn into a wasteland. By extending the wait, not only does it build-up the hype, but it would also allow new crop of challengers to emerge from the pack.
Open for Debate
Based on everything mentioned in this piece, in my opinion, Holly Holm vs Ronda Rousey is the right booking decision for the UFC. It not only safeguards the longevity of its Women’s Bantamweight division, but it also increases the number of match-ups that the fans would be interested in seeing.
By doing so, the fighters win, the fans win and the UFC wins.