SIMPLY THE BEST
Let’s be honest, whether in mixed martial arts or boxing, pound-for-pound rankings mean nothing. Originally created to judge who the best boxer was outside of the heavyweight division, the rankings have morphed into something that exists to start fights – not in the Octagon, but on Twitter, on message boards and in barrooms.
Ever since Anderson Silva’s pair of losses to Chris Weidman, the top spot on MMA’s P4P list has belonged to UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, and rightfully so. But while the idea of Ronda Rousey making her way to that lofty position has been on my mind for a while, the trigger was pulled Saturday night after her latest demolition job, a 14-second finish of Cat Zingano in the main event of UFC 184.
Sorry “Bones,” but how can anyone argue with what Rousey has done in her UFC career thus far, most notably in her last three fights?
Sara McMann – Olympic Silver medalist and unbeaten MMA pro.
Alexis Davis – Talented veteran MMA fighter known for her toughness.
Cat Zingano – Unbeaten pro MMA fighter expected to give Rousey her toughest test.
Combined time it took Rousey to beat that trio? 96 seconds.
It’s mind-boggling to see what Rousey does to her opponents in the Octagon, especially considering that everyone she fought is a legitimate world-class fighter. There will be the arguments that Jones’ level of competition is higher, and I could listen to a case for that, but the bottom line is, Rousey has been fighting pro for a shorter amount of time than all but one of her UFC opponents (McMann, and only two months longer), and all of her foes have been among the best in the world. And if they are of a lesser caliber than Rousey, then she did what dominant fighters should do with lesser competition – she got them out of there as soon as possible.
I don’t think putting Rousey on top of the P4P list is a slight to the other fighters on there. It’s just that if you take away weight classes, physical differences between male and female athletes, and go based on skill set, technique and attitude, how can you not say – based on what we’ve seen so far – that Rousey is the best in the game?
I’ve been a firm believer in the Rousey as a prime Mike Tyson talk for a long time now, and while I used to routinely be called an idiot for it, apparently I’m not so stupid anymore, or at least I have many of my peers in the same building with me. And my premise, always, has been that I don’t compare Rousey to Tyson in fighting style, but in the excitement she brings and the menace that sets in before the opening bell, the feeling that something bad is going to happen and it won’t be to the champion. After Saturday night, we can star power to the mix. Yes, Rousey has already done all those things that make an athlete crossover into mainstream star territory – films, magazine covers, mainstream magazine features, etc – but at STAPLES Center in the heart of Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the world, Rousey brought the stars out, and they were just happy to be there. I witnessed more than a few celebrities excitedly holding up their phones to take pictures as Rousey stood in the Octagon, and while the fight with Zingano lasted just 14 seconds, there was seemingly no disappointment felt by anyone in that building. It’s probably impossible to explain, but you had to be there to feel the energy in the arena. It was something special. And though Rousey’s ability to bring in A-listers to her event will get the bulk of the attention, for me personally, getting calls about the fight from friends and relatives who don’t even watch the UFC, or seeing them post about UFC 184 when it was over shows just how far Rousey is reaching. She’s a special athlete, and the rest of the world is finding that out.
Well, that’s the question, isn’t it? If Ronda Rousey is the best fighter on the planet, who can beat her? As intimidating as she’s looked, they fight for a reason, and that reason is that on any given night, one fighter can beat another. With four-ounce gloves and an infinite number of ways to lose, it doesn’t appear that anyone can go through an entire MMA career without experiencing the bitter taste of defeat. So to say Rousey is unbeatable, yeah, it looks that way, but it isn’t likely to be the case if you consider the mental focus that it takes to stay on top with all the outside pressures involved, not to mention someone whose sole purpose is to knock your head off your shoulders and change their life forever. If we’re playing the odds, the staying unbeaten forever thing likely isn’t going to happen. And the funny thing is, despite Rousey finishing opponents in under a minute, there is no shortage of contenders wanting to fight her. Zingano wanted to do it again Saturday night, and if Rousey was down for it, Bethe Correia would have immediately stepped up to keep the champ from her traditional post-fight chicken wing feast. But as far as realistic next opponents, Rousey mentioned Correia and Holly Holm as potential challengers, but I get the impression Rousey-Holm is going to take a little time to marinate. Correia seems to be a good choice, but I think a fight between the Brazilian contender and Jessica Eye would be a solid title elimination bout, especially with Rousey expected to film a movie before her next title defense. As for the rest of the top ten, Rousey has already beaten everyone in the top five (Zingano, Tate, Davis, McMann, Sarah Kaufman). That’s scary.
WHAT ABOUT CYBORG?
Everyone’s asking, so I guess my answer about a potential fight between Rousey and Invicta FC featherweight champion Cris “Cyborg” Justino is the same as UFC president Dana White’s: If Cyborg can make 135 pounds, then the two should have a fight. Seems simple, but that’s a big ask of Cyborg, who just defended her crown on Friday with a 46-second of Charmaine Tweet and who walks around as more of a welterweight than a featherweight once. In other words, making 135 will be an issue, but with the right team in her corner to put her on a proper diet and get her down to that weight in a healthy fashion, why wouldn’t she want to make that move and set up a bout even bigger than her signature win over Gina Carano in 2009? Sure, money isn’t everything, but it is nice, and if you’re talking strictly about history, this is the fight to be made. We likely won’t see it for a while though, and not until Cyborg proves that she can get down to bantamweight.
THE FINAL WORD(S)
I would be remiss if I didn’t give a tip of the hat to the man in the hat himself, Chuck Mindenhall of MMAFighting.com, who had the line of the weekend in his Sunday column on Rousey: “Ronda Rousey is from De Mars, women are from Venus. There’s a distinction to be made there, because at this time in the fight game it’s Rousey and the rest of the gender.”
Nope, can’t top that one. Won’t even try.