By Paul Martin
Down in Melbourne, Australia – a couple of weeks after Ronda Rousey told the media that her upcoming opponent, Holly Holm, would enjoy her life more if she loses – Rousey was sparring with Holm for UFC 193 (centered around sixty thousand people at Etihad Stadium). In the second round, she received a side thrust kick to her head which was hard enough to both knock her out and stunt her burgeoning image as the dominating matriarchal figure of the sports world.
Up to this point, Rousey had fought in 12 professional MMA matches seemingly with ease as most of her opponents were unable to escape the first round or her infamous armbar. Both pundits and common observers acknowledged that watching Rousey dominate inside the octagon had become an experience for the ages, helping its witnesses reimagine and recalculate the breadth of female athleticism.
There have been plenty of names in the past 15 years that have enjoyed similar critical acclaim as the woman of sports - Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, Danica Patrick, Mia Hamm, even Gina Carano in the same MMA sport – yet all of them seemed to always be missing something that prevented them from transitioning from a recognizable sports name to transcendent public figure. Maria Sharapova’s range wasn’t nearly as long as her glimmering legs, Serena Williams wasn’t more marketable than her male cohorts, Danica Patrick was too demure, Mia Hamm’s domination was encapsulated inside a sport that most Americans already had trouble warming up to regardless of gender, and while Gina Carano was adorned by the MMA world, she was nowhere near as talented as Rousey.
Rousey’s recent bout seems to be a smorgasbord of every quality you would expect out of a superstar athlete. One of those qualities being the unforgiving arrogance that had made her polarizing to fans and Instagram handles. Casually calling out boxing legend Floyd Mayweather Jr. as well as claiming she could beat every woman in her division with her hand tied behind her back, she’s spearheaded her way as arguably the highest paid fighter in UFC while partaking in roles in feature films such as Entourage (2015) and The Expendables 3 (2014).
Before the side thrust kick from Holm that resulted in one of the greatest upsets in both UFC history and one of the most costly events in sportsbooks history -though arguably still not the greatest duel in American history – there were whispers from the more astute MMA observers that Rousey’s fighting ability wasn’t technically sound across the board. Specifically her famous stand up striking game, which ironically was the part of her game that Holm had made a successful career out of.
Despite this, Rousey’s no holds barred demeanor and domination hitherto is not a ruse, and has led UFC president Dana White to compare her to Mike Tyson, who also wasn’t shy about bringing his troubled past into the ring.
Revisionists could make this combination of skillsets the perfect recipe for an upset against Holly Holm, but those following Rousey’s career trajectory knew the arrogance that resulted in endless backlash, was starting to seep into the octagon. Despite her startling loss against Holm, Ronda Rousey has, without a doubt, earned a spot in in sports history and American minds as one of the most famous female athletes, let alone fighters, in recent history.