This Saturday night, January 5th, Alexis Davis and Shayna Baszler square off in the co-main event of Invicta 4. The bout is a rematch of a fight that occurred in March 2010. Baszler took that fight via a competitive unanimous decision. I highly suggest you watch the fight video on youtube, as it was a thrilling display of grappling skill, with both fighters aggressively attempting numerous submissions. Both Davis and Baszler have significantly improved their striking since their first fight, and this bout should be another entertaining affair.
All Ronda Rousey fights inevitably occur primarily on the ground, so it stands to reason that the best submission grapplers have the greatest chance to beat her. And yet, Rousey has not yet faced a Bantanweight fighter whose primary skillset is submissions. Miesha Tate is a competent submission artist, but her main skill is wrestling. Sarah Kaufman is primarily a striker. Brent Brookehouse recently argued that Ronda Rousey's next opponent, Liz Carmouche, is an unqualified title contender. He was right. But the cards are further stacked against Carmouche because she's also a wrestler, not an elite submission grappler. Sara McMann, who may fight Rousey after Carmouche, is of course an Olympic medalist in wrestling, not a master of submissions.
Davis and Baszler are the top two submission grapplers in Rousey's weight class. They present greater challenges to Rousey on the ground than any of the fighters currently considered likely to fight her in the near future (i.e. Carmouche, McMann, Tate, Santos). Davis and Baszler deserve more buzz than they're getting, and Saturday night they'll demonstrate why.
In 17 career fights, Alexis Davis (12-5) has submitted 6 opponents while never being submitted herself. The 3-time Strikeforce veteran is the only BJJ black belt among top ranked Bantamweights, earning that honor in 2012 under Cesar Gracie. She's also competed against top submission grapplers: In May of this past year, Davis tangled with Kyra Gracie in a superfight at the World Jiu-Jitsu Expo. Gracie, considered by many to be the top female BJJ player in the world, won on points. However, Davis more than held her own, at one point catching Gracie in a deep armbar. Davis lacks Rousey's explosive athleticism, and can be a bit slow on her feet. However, Rousey might have a smaller skill advantage over Davis than anyone else in the division.
In 22 career fights, Shayna Baszler (15-7) has submitted 14 opponents while submitting to a choke or joint lock just once (she submitted to strikes once as well). The lone time she was submitted was 7 years ago. Baszler is a Josh Barnett catch-wrestling protégé. She's a particularly dangerous opponent for Rousey because she's so creative and willing to take chances to secure a submission. Baszler is considered to be the only fighter (male or female) to win two pro bouts via twister. Baszler's combination of skill and risk-taking could pose a danger to Rousey. There's a realistic chance that she'd catch Rousey with an unexpected submission.
An impressive victory on Saturday night should inject either fighter into "the mix" in the UFC's 135 division. If you believe, as Brent Brookehouse suggested, that the UFC is throwing Rousey softballs to build her brand, then Davis and Baszler may get shafted. However, if they keep winning, the UFC can only ignore them for so long.
Watch the fight this Saturday night, January 5th, online on PPV. In the mean time, you can watch this pre-fight interview with both fighters.