By Matt Saccaro
Ronda Rousey kneed Sara McMann into oblivion in a minute…or at least Herb Dean thought McMann had been kneed into oblivion. MMA fans were split about that part. Some thought the stoppage was deserved—McMann stopped intelligently defending herself when she crumpled to the mat clutching her sides. Others disagreed, citing the fact that McMann managed to rise to her feet immediately after Dean called off the bout (an intrepid Wikipedia vandal belonged to this school of thought).
The irritating ruckus that follows any disputed stoppage polluted Twitter and message boards before Rousey’s hand was even raised. MMA fans were (and still are) pissed.
And that’s fantastic.
The UFC women’s bantamweight division is essentially a feeder system for Ronda Rousey, as well as a promotional vehicle for the conventionally attractive (they’ll never let you forget that) Judo star. Dana White admitted that he only allowed women in the UFC because of her. The rest of the division has no chance at taking the belt from her—did you see Alexis Davis vs. Jessica Eye? Those women are two of the best in the weight class yet they’re both still
miles astronomical units away from Rousey.
This formula of sacrificing over-matched fighters to the UFC’s sacred cash cow has worked. Ridiculous Dana White assertions aside, Rousey is one of the UFC’s only stars in a roster so bloated and bland that Lorenzo Fertitta himself probably couldn’t name half the fighters. Rousey is legitimately a super-awesome bad-ass who wrecks people and, to borrow Tomas Rios’ parlance, a Bro Queen. She’s tailor made for the MMA fan, from her unique Judo stylings down to the one-of-a-kind face she sports when walking to the cage. But as great as she is, the conveyor belt of challengers who pose no challenge will get boring.
After a while, fans will realize that the Woman to Beat Rousey™ conveniently always happens to be whoever she’s fighting next, and always gets destroyed anyway despite the hype of being Ronda’s “most dangerous opponent to date.” One day fans will get sick of Rousey crushing fighters that aren’t on her level in any aspect of MMA or even athleticism.
Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino seems the likely solution for this problem. She’s the only fighter scarier than Rousey. She’s so tough she made Gina Carano—then WMMA’s biggest star—retire after five minutes in the cage with her.
Too bad Dana White has zero interest in booking that fight, at least in the immediate future. Either he’s posturing, trying to downplay Justino’s value for the sake of negotiations, or he’s afraid that the female version of PRIDE-era Wanderlei Silva will slaughter his prized cash cow, Rousey. It seems White is content to not book what would be the biggest fight in WMMA history so Cyborg can continue to torture lesser fighters outside the UFC and Rousey can continue to torture lesser fighters inside the UFC.
Well what about famed boxer Holly Holm? She’s an impressive 6-0 in MMA and Rousey even expressed interest in fighting her. Too bad White doesn’t seem interested in that match either. This December he called Holm’s manager a “lunatic” and questioned the strength of Holm’s competition, insinuating she wasn’t UFC caliber (despite that term being obscenely meaningless in 2014).
The UFC doesn’t want to book the two biggest fights for Rousey. What’s left for her, then? Crushing the same cadre of women ad nauseam until she leaves for Hollywood or baby-making?
That’s why a controversial stoppage in Rousey vs. McMann was the best thing that could’ve happened. Many fans contested Herb Dean’s choice to stop the fight. The UFC can do the whole “Did Rousey REALLY beat McMann?” angle this time, and people will respond positively to it because it’s not a manufactured “OMG OLYMPIANS” gimmick. It’s appealing to the real emotions present. People felt the stoppage was BS, they want to see McMann fight Rousey again because she was doing well until Rousey’s knee smashed her liver.
The stoppage gave the UFC women’s bantamweight division a storyline—something to potentially look forward to other than clinch-throw-armbar-tap. And what if McMann gets a rematch and wins? Then WMMA will no-doubt have its first great trilogy when Rousey and McMann fight a third time. With Rousey’s star power it’ll be huge.
So let’s be thankful for Herb Dean’s questionable call, without it we’d have yawned and asked “who’s Rousey beating next?”