The combat sporting year is at its close and as usual the UFC loves to be the finisher with a New Year’s Eve event. UFC 207 is here this Friday at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. With a blockbuster main event in the return of “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey vs. current UFC bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes, the event will determine the state of the women’s bantamweight division for a long time.
There has been no fighter more transcendent in the history of mixed martial arts than Ronda Rousey. Considering the fact that there was once a time where UFC President Dana White said he could not foresee a future with women fighting under the UFC banner, Rousey is somewhat of a self-made miracle.
From her bantamweight debut back in March 2012 in the now defunct Strikeforce organization where she defeated then two-year reigning champ Miesha Tate by her now signature arm bar, Rousey has been making defining moments her trademark.
She quickly rose up the MMA ranks after a successful Olympic judo career with a succession of first round finishes. To date, she has only seen the later rounds only twice in her 13 fight career which has taken the whole sport and women’s contribution to it to new levels.
She became a role model to young girls as an athlete of principle and severe self-determination. Akin only to what Laila Ali did for women’s boxing, Rousey became as much a sex symbol as an athletic powerhouse, elevating the stature and earning potential for women in combat sports.
With the fame came increased media and promotional obligations as well as opportunities to appear in high profile films and global advertising. She became the fodder of tabloids for romantically cavorting with fellow UFC heavyweight fighter Travis Browne, who is still married.
In short, her upside was beginning to have a downside and it culminated at UFC 193 when she faced off against Holly Holm. Avoiding her usual go-to submission ace skill set and opting for a slugfest with the former multiple time women’s boxing champion in three weight classes, Rousey suffered her first defeat in the worst way possible.
After dominating Rousey with strikes throughout the entire first round, it took only 59 seconds in the second round to finish her off for the biggest upset in UFC history. The strategy was succinct and can possibly be taken as the formula to permanently befuddle Rousey. A stick-and-move game plan from the southpaw stance with careful attention to managing the distance was the answer for Holm, and might also be for current UFC bantamweight champion, Amanda Nunes.
Nunes is an aggressive striker that broke Miesha Tate’s nose in her vicious takeover of the belt at UFC 200. It was a defining moment for Nunes who went on a three-fight win streak after brutally losing to Cat Zingano at UFC 178. However, she bounced back from the loss to finish 3 of her last 4 opponents and secure the title.
This is the major question hovering over Rousey’s return: can she adapt to the terrible sensation of loss and focus on Nunes enough to overcome her last outing? It has been over a year since she last fought and she has been notoriously evasive from the media in the time since.
Rousey famously went on the Ellen Degeneres show after the loss stating that she had thoughts of suicide after losing to Holm. One can only take that as a winner’s complex shattered into reality that even the best can still lose. If she can overcome and focus in the same way that Conor McGregor did after his first tragic matchup with Nate Diaz, then we should see a return of the judoka juggernaut that captivated the hearts of millions who do not regularly watch MMA.
Either way, with Rousey going silent and limiting her media availability to concentrate on the Nunes fight, we will all watch her next walk into combat to discover if her championship heart still beats.