Monday 16 January 2017

Comment: Ronda Rousey’s shock loss is good for women’s MMA

Tom Rooney

Published 16/11/2015 | 18:23

Holly Holm of the US (R) lands a kick to the neck to knock out compatriot Ronda Rousey and win the UFC title fight in Melbourne on November 15, 2015. RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE NO ADVERTISING USE NO PROMOTIONAL USE NO MERCHANDISING USE. AFP PHOTO/Paul CROCKPAUL CROCK/AFP/Getty Images
Holly Holm of the US (R) lands a kick to the neck to knock out compatriot Ronda Rousey and win the UFC title fight in Melbourne on November 15, 2015. RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE NO ADVERTISING USE NO PROMOTIONAL USE NO MERCHANDISING USE. AFP PHOTO/Paul CROCKPAUL CROCK/AFP/Getty Images

Traditionally, when long-standing UFC champions have been dethroned by unheralded or overlooked challengers, the consensus reaction tends to be one of an anger-infused incredulity.

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When Chris Weidman knocked out Anderson Silva at UFC 162 in July 2013, many did not want to believe that the greatest martial artist on the planet had been undone by a former collegiate wrestler fighting for just the 10th time.

The comment sections were awash with poorly-spelt rants that the best middleweight in history had been caught cold by a lucky punch and, come the rematch, Weidman would be brutally dispatched and Silva would return to the ludicrous position he occupied in the imaginations of the keyboard warriors.

Five months later at UFC 168, Weidman clubbed Silva to the mat in the first round, before the Brazilian’s leg was shattered when the champion checked his kick in the second.  It proved a gruesome ending to one of the most memorable reigns in MMA’s brief history.

Neither bout concluded in a standard fashion but, in the less than three rounds of action they comprised, it was abundantly clear that the preternaturally talented Weidman possessed a secret ingredient that the 10 previous pretenders for Silva’s crown did not.

And, he’s never been forgiven for it. At least not by those who refused to believe, despite all the compelling evidence, that Silva’s time had come.

The knock on affect of those turn of events was that, for the first time in nearly a decade, the middleweight division was wide open, and a hell of a lot more interesting.

Weidman remains the kingpin having defeated Lyoto Machida and Vitor Belfort, though Luke Rockhold waits in the co-main event of UFC 194. And then there’s the not so small matter of the menacing Ronaldo Souza and incredibly athletic Yoel Romero, who lock horns the same night.

Never has the 185lbs bracket been so intriguing, or alive with possibility. Now, thanks to Holly Holm’s seismic knock out of Ronda Rousey at UFC 193, the same can be said for the women’s bantamweight division.

First off, it must be clearly stated that Rousey deserves an immediate rematch, whenever that may be. And, here’s why; she is the only reason women are fighting in the UFC to begin with.

Until her emergence, the UFC were adamant that female combatants would never grace the octagon but, in Rousey, they saw dollar signs and untapped markets. When they absorbed the Strikeforce promotion she was installed as their first ever female champion.

The experiment obviously proved fruitful because, at the end of last year, the strawweight division was introduced.

In Rousey, they inherited someone that ticked all the boxes; an engaging, if unhinged personality, a gripping back story, immense fighting prowess and the ability to transcend the niche.

Until meeting Holm, the Californian had dispatched of her first six opponents with an almost laughable ease. So much so, their presence bordered on the irrelevant.

They were merely the required victims for Rousey to devour, not individuals in their own right, who were capable of broadening the appeal of a burgeoning enterprise.

Simply put, this was not healthy or sustainable. Miesha Tate, Sara McMann (an Olympic silver medallist), Liz Carmouche (the first openly gay UFC fighter) and Cat Zingano all had plenty to offer, just not while being swept away in the Rousey slipstream.

Whether she knows it or not, Holly Holm has brought about an unalterable paradigm shift; the second she separated Rousey from her senses, the Albuquerque native handed her contemporaries a fresh start, and the opportunity to emerge from the wreckage wreaked by Rousey.

The UFC must re-evaluate too. The allure of Rousey’s invincibility has been shattered, and so too the persona they reaped so much reward from.

Even by the UFC's standards, the average female fighter is paid pittance, while Rousey was commanding up to $5m a fight since updating her contact. Perhaps a more egalitarian approach will should be considered, so they’re no longer reliant on one woman carrying an entire branch of an ever-growing sport.

That’s the problem with unbeaten streaks, they always end.

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