She got hit in the face. That would probably be the meathead’s quick and easy version of what went wrong for former women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey when she faced off against the new champ Amanda Nunes. That certainly isn’t an incorrect statement by any means, but it’s not really telling the full story of proceedings. Ronda Rousey, her coach Edmond Tarverdyan, and the UFC made some pretty big gaffs leading up to UFC 207.
Media Black Out
So, let’s talk about the fact that Ronda Rousey refused to fulfill her media obligations leading up to the last event of 2016. Speaking to a few colleagues about this situation, it seemed that many people didn’t have too much of a problem with Rousey skipping media scrums and interviews. The major problem I had with all this is that Rousey and her camp were choosing to look at the media as a form of distraction, as if skipping out on the interviews before the fight would somehow elevate her fighting skills to a new level. The unfortunate thing is that while less distractions can sometimes help performance, there was no evidence indicating that media obligations is what led to her first loss in the cage.
In a sense, by going through with the media blackout, it gave Ronda and her camp a false sense of security. Media or no, it’s all about the skill and will once you get inside the cage. Everything else is dust. The UFC allowing her to skip all the media didn’t help things either. She certainly helped to revolutionize the sport, but at the same time codling the once dominant champion wasn’t going to help her confidence but damage it in the long run.
What I saw at the opening bell of the UFC 207 main event wasn’t a Ronda Rousey who had made major improvements since her loss to Holly Holm. In fact, because of how quickly the fight ended, it’s hard to say what, if anything Ronda was able to learn during her time away from the cage. What was evident is her lack of improvement where strategy as well as footwork is concerned. She came straight forward on the same line, offered no feints or fakes, and looked pretty stiff out there. It seemed like Nunes had little issue dismantling Rousey simply because she was there to be hit. The former champion has always been aggressive, but when you don’t evolve your game, add new tools, or keep your opponent guessing then guess what? It’s only a matter of time before you’re figured out.
The Coaching Problem
Now the biggest issue I had with this match up has already been stated above. Ronda Rousey didn’t look like a fighter who took a year off to improve her game. In fact, she seemed even less impressive this time around. Nunes made a statement after her victory suggesting that Ronda’s coach, Edmond Tarverdyan, did her a disservice and I’m inclined to agree. While Ronda Rousey’s ability to hit mitts has improved, her footwork hasn’t seemed to improve all that much. Distance management is the most important dimension of striking and in MMA it’s importance is even more paramount than in boxing or kickboxing. Understand the range in which your opponent can land strikes, enter for takedowns, and have the best chance of winning is overwhelmingly important.
From what we’ve seen so far out of Edmond Tarverdyan as a coach is that he taught Ronda how to throw a decent punch. We haven’t seen feints out of Ronda, no pumping the jab to gauge distance, little to no kicks, and overall little fluidity in her striking combinations. Ronda’s game is all about closing distance, yet we haven’t seen anything to indicate that her abilities to do so with sophistication has improved since her last bout. Either she wasn’t training to learn how to close the gap or she simply had a hard time in doing so against a fighter of Nunes’ caliber.
Total blame can’t be forced on Tarverdyan, but at this point you have to wonder if Ronda had the best preparation possible for this fight with the coaching staff on hand.
Where do you think Ronda Rousey goes from here?