February 28th, 2015. It was a sunny but breezy day in Los Angeles, California. After a lengthy press conference titled “Welcome to the Show” that showcased the second quarter of the UFC’s 2015 schedule, and a few hours in LA Live interacting with several fighters at the UFC fan village, the Staples Center opened it’s doors and I entered the arena for the commencement of UFC 184.
Headlined by a women’s bantamweight title fight between then champion Ronda Rousey and undefeated challenger Cat Zingano, after a rib injury forced then middleweight champion Chris Weidman to postpone his long-awaited title defense against veteran Vitor Belfort three months later, UFC 184 turned out to be almost nothing that most MMA spectators were expecting it to be. Injuries plagued the card from top to bottom, and though Rousey vs. Zingano was seen as an adequate replacement headlining bout, it was being seen by many as a Fox Sports 1 type card given the lack of star power. Oh how the times changed after that night in downtown LA.
To the hardcore women’s MMA community, UFC 184 was a treat. A long-awaited matchup that was almost two years overdue in Rousey and Zingano and the UFC debut of highly touted prospect and multiple time world boxing champion Holly Holm. To the casual fan, UFC 184 wasn’t thought to bring much to the table as far as intriguing matchups or high stakes. Cat Zingano was a 5-1 underdog, wasn’t all that known and was coming off a win after a 17 month layoff due to an ACL reconstruction and the unexpected death of her husband. Rousey’s aura of invincibility was nearing it’s highest luminance, and Zingano didn’t seem fit to dim it in any real tangible manner. Nonetheless the event did a respectable estimated buy rate of around 600,000 and a sell out that housed close to 20,000 fight fans that Saturday night.
2015 Submission of the Year: Ronda Rousey Armbars Cat Zingano at UFC 184
The Mission by Puscifer would play over the loud speakers and lead an intense yet stoic Cat Zingano to the Octagon first. The song was apt of the mood, of the moment, of her character. She seemed determined and prepared to take glory, but none of it would matter when the woman in the opposing corner would emerge from the bowels of the Staples Center. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts would lead the defending champion to the cage to her now trademarked theme of Bad Reputation. The opening riff of the sub-three minute track would blare out to a frenzied heavily pro-Rousey hometown crowd.
“Big” John McCarthy called the commencement of the bout and three seconds later, Zingano darted out like a cheapskate when doors open on Black Friday. Possibly the most ill-advised, high risk maneuver in MMA history was executed when Zingano threw a jumping-skipping knee that totally missed Rousey’s torso. Rousey immediately went for her instinctual collar tie grip and never let Zingano off the hook. Rousey’s right arm stayed glued to Zingano’s back even amidst one of the fastest, chaotic and most cartoonish scrambles MMA has ever seen, and before Zingano had any chance to realize the compromising position she was in, she had her elbow hyperextended to an excruciating degree. The modified far-north arm lock signaled the end of the bout at just 14 seconds into the opening stanza. It held the record for fastest finish in UFC title fight history, which was held for 287 days until Conor McGregor bested it by one second when he starched Jose Aldo.
Rousey will still own the record for fastest submission in UFC title fight history for the immediate future, even if she no longer holds the belt on her mantle. In her post-fight interview, Rousey stated she wanted to take away the 0 on Bethe Correia’s undefeated record and wanted to test herself against a high-caliber striker like Holly Holm. Both fights came to fruition in 2015, although they ended in the starkest of contrasts.
2015 was the sweetest and the bitterest for the “Rowdy” one. UFC 184 proved that she is a legitimate pay-per-view draw, and the subsequent UFC 190 and 193 proved she is a transcendent superstar. She became a household name but she also lost her divinity in the world of prizefighting, but that February night was a night that she’ll not forget, given the stage she was presented, the incomprehensible success she had inside the cage and in her accruing financial and world renowned athletic status.
Maybe it seemed anti-climactic, maybe it was somewhat unsurprising to some, but I had never heard a crowd scream so loud like when Rousey skipped around the Octagon, grinning and pounding her hands together after she secured the win. It was a deafening roar for several seconds after Rousey got the tap, and as if that wasn’t enough, it began raining as soon as the arena began clearing out, almost as if the gods of combat had been appeased with what just went on in that 30-foot cage. Praise be with Ronda Jean Rousey, the notorious arm collector and occasional rain maker.