By Elias Cepeda
MMA fans have always wondered what would happen if the sport grew to the point where it could attract the types of elite athletes that have historically gone to, say, the NFL or the Olympics. Surely once that happened, we’d see a marked rise in athleticism and potential in the sport we all love.
Well, that new breed of elite MMA athlete has arrived. He isn’t the dominant and other worldly athletic Jon Jones. He isn’t the pound for pound great and all-around lethal weapon Georges St. Pierre. She’s Ronda Rousey.
The Strikeforce women’s bantamweight champion successfully defended her title Saturday night against Sarah Kaufman. In about the last year and half the Olympic Judo bronze medalist Rousey has had her first six professional fights, winning all six by arm bar in the first round.
Kaufman is a former champion and has only lost twice in her career. Tate has only lost three times. Both women have almost three times the professional MMA experience as Rousey.
“Rowdy” Ronda isn’t perfectly well-rounded yet. She hasn’t been tested in a fight yet and she simply hasn’t fought nearly as much as the women she faces. But she’s been able to dominate them all because she brings a lifetime of doing a couple things at a higher level than even most MMA champions have ever done anything.
As a world-class Judo player Ronda is great at taking people down and submitting them with arm bars, just like her mother was during her hey day as an international Judo competitor.
There are no real barriers to enter MMA – it is an accessible and democratic sport in many ways. If someone wants to fight MMA, they will be able to find a promoter willing to give them a fight. Whether or not they become good depends on their talent, their work and lots of luck, like anything else. But we’ve seen many non blue-chip fighters become champions in MMA based almost entirely on yeoman-like hard work.
That’s a beautiful thing. It is also a thing of beauty to see a similarly hard-working individual who just happens to be a world-class athlete and raised in a competitive shark-tank and has emerged an efficient killing machine.
That’s Ronda Rousey. Our friend Mike Chiappetta wrote this weekend that she has the best killer instinct in all of MMA. It’s hard to argue with him.
Her finishing with arm bars is just one way that all of her fights have looked the same. The other is how she starts all her fights by storming her opponents, putting them on their heels and in a defensive mindset from the beginning. Ronda Rousey is literally trying to submit you from bell to bell.
Rousey may or may not continue to be flawless but the point is that she’s got more potential than almost anyone in the sport because of her elite athletic pedigree and superior competitive mindset. Former Strikeforce 145 pound champion Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos has dismissed Rousey as an easy mark that has never yet been kneed hard on the chin, as Santos is good at doing to people.
That may be true, and if Santos ever comes down in weight to face Rousey we might see how the two match up. “Cyborg” is certainly the larger and more experienced fighter. But, while Cristiane passes the time during her doping suspension by trash-talking Ronda, we should appreciate what we’ve got on our hands with Rousey.
She’s entertaining in and out of the cage, fights more aggressively than anyone else in the sport right now and has the biggest upside of anyone in MMA.
The best prospect in MMA is the chick already wearing the gold.