Her win over Miesha Tate lasted longer than her collected MMA career before the fight, but it still ended the same way: first-round armbar. At Strikeforce on Saturday “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey proved she was more than just a pretty mouth piece as she lifted the promotion’s bantamweight title, snapping her opponents arm along the way.
Having only fought five times in her professional career, her ascent to the top of women’s MMA has been dizzying. Many doubted her worthiness, none more than incumbent champion Tate who charged Rousey with having talked her way into a title shot.
“I didn’t talk my way into that one,” was Rousey’s curt reply, moments after having the belt wrapped around her waist.
Rousey is a new breed of female fighter, combining Olympic level athleticism with the verbal skills to cut a promo on a microphone better than all but a handful of her MMA counterparts, male or female. It’s rubbed several fighters the wrong way; no one expects a woman to smack-talk like this and certainly not one setting herself up to be the face of women’s MMA.
But that’s exactly what she did. She headlined the event and brought more attention to women’s MMA than any other more “deserving” contender ever could.
When the bell rang, Tate charged her opponent, hoping to engage Rousey in a high octane stand-up war. The contender looked clearly out of her depth and the Olympic judo bronze medallist wasted no time in taking the fight to the mat. It was a signature Rousey move which almost ended in the signature Rousey way as the she locked onto Tate’s arm. The champion fought through and displayed plenty of ground skills of her own.
The two fought back to their feet and displayed beautiful scrambling and mat work before Rousey using a perfectly timed judo hip throw had Tate flat on her back. This time Rousey showed her superior ground skills, taking full mount and back mount, throwing punches on a cowering Tate before locking another armbar.
Tate continued to resist until the last minute, when her dislocated elbow bent backwards on itself and the match was over at 4:27 of the first round.
Rousey and Tate did not exchange words or share an embrace after the match. The bad blood between the two remains.
“I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, since I kind of started [the trash talking], but after weigh-ins, when she got in my face and I pushed her back and she said I should be fined for head butting her… if you’re going to try to act hard, just follow up with it,” Rousey said in a post match interview, adding, “Don’t pull back and say I should get a fine. I thought that was kind of messed up”.
The Tate-Rousey bout was billed as the biggest women’s MMA fight since the Gina Carano-Cris “Cyborg” fight in 2009, and it certainly lived up to the hype. In fact, it could be argued that this fight was the cleanest and most technically sound women’s fight that Strikeforce has ever put on.
Many are already calling Rousey a female version of Brock Lesnar, who helped bring the UFC to mainstream audiences and turn it into one of the fastest growing sports in the world.
Certainly with Gina Carano pursuing a career in acting and Cris “Cyborg” Santos sidelined for a year due to a failed drug test, the stage is set for Rousey to take on the role of the “face of women’s MMA”.
However, Dana White, UFC president, has always said that the fight organisation would consider women’s MMA if it had the strength in depth that the men’s sport has and that depth is still lacking.
Rousey’s first challenger will likely be the fighter deemed by many – including Tate – as the one who deserved to fight for the title on Saturday night: Sarah Kaufman. The former champion won a bloody battle over Alexis Davis via majority decision in the main undercard attraction. But after Kaufman there are virtually no challengers at 135 pounds in Strikeforce.
The UFC’s parent company Zuffa bought Strikeforce last year and inherited its female division. It will be down to Zuffa, perhaps with an all-female series of The Ultimate Fighter, to build the depth in female talent to bring women’s MMA into the mainstream.
The Tate-Rousey match has already shown there is interest in women’s MMA and we’re maybe just one superfight away from capping that achievement. That fight could be against the most dominant female fighter in the history of the sport – Cris “Cyborg” Santos. That fight could finally peak the UFC’s interest enough to finally look to start an all-female division of its own.