A little over a year ago I wrote a column titled, “What’s next for Rousey?” after she devastatingly knocked out bantamweight challenger Alexis Davis in only 16 seconds at UFC 175. Today I am still in the same spot, asking the same question. Who is going to stop the most dominant female fighter on the planet, or heck, even just make her sweat a little defending her title?
Keep in mind, it likely took you longer to read that lede than it took for Rousey to defend her title this past Saturday at UFC 190 against new challenger/victim Bethe Correia (9-1).
One can say that Rousey’s performance Saturday was a letdown in the way it took her 34 seconds to finish Correia, not 16 as in past defenses. From the stroll to the octagon to having her hand raised by fight’s end, Rousey was a woman on a mission. Once the opening bell sounded, Rousey promptly took center control of the octagon and engaged in strikes with Correia. Out of fear for Rousey’s Judo throws, Correia dropped her guard. Rousey took advantage of this defensive lapse from Correia and landed a right hook directly to the temple of the challenger. Seconds later, referee John McCarthy stopped the fight and Rousey had officially defended her UFC bantamweight belt for the fifth consecutive time.
With the victory, Rousey improved to 12-0 over her career and her legacy as one of the greatest combat athletes in history only continued to grow. While a first-round finish is a huge feat for almost any professional mixed martial artist, it has become routine to Rousey. Take this into perspective, 11 of Rousey’s 12 professional opponents have failed to escape the first round against the champion.
Forget the first round… it’s now rare for a challenger to survive a mere minute in the cage with Rousey. Rousey has knocked out her last three opponents in the octagon, taking only 64 seconds of combined fight time to do so.
Now the MMA universe looks at Rousey’s future with curiosity. What feat could possibly be left for Rousey to crush in her career?
The most likely and probable answer to that question is yet another rematch between Rousey and Miesha “Cupcake” Tate (17-5). While Tate is the only woman to last longer than a round in the cage with Rousey, I am just tired of this “rivalry” between the two fighters. While a third installment of Rousey vs. Tate is very likely, it is definitely not the fight MMA fans around the world are thrilled to see. Tate is merely a gatekeeper in the women’s bantamweight division. While she has put on some impressive performances against others within the division, it was utterly obvious how overpowered and overmatched Tate was in her first two bouts against Rousey.
Another rumor luring around Rousey’s future is a possible battle with 33-year-old bantamweight contender Holly Holm (9-0). While Holm is undefeated in the octagon with world-class boxing pedigree, Rousey’s striking has improved exponentially of late and she would dominate the fight should it go to the ground.
Perhaps the most popular route for Rousey would be to take on Invicta featherweight champion Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino (14-1). While the super fight would draw record-breaking crowds, there are plenty of factors going against its finalization. The largest hindrance to this bout is Justino’s history of substance abuse. On several occasions, Justino has tested positive for performance enhancing drugs, which has made UFC President Dana White hesitant to sign her a UFC contract. White has been a long-time critic of Justino’s career, which hurts the likelihood of this bout being realized. Should Rousey and Justino fight, the two would likely have to meet in a catch weight bout at 140-pounds. Rousey has expressed great discomfort with the idea of moving up to 140-pounds for the fight. And as the champion, Rousey is fully entitled to make her challenger cut the weight necessary to fight her as a bantamweight. Also, the likelihood of Justino making her UFC debut against the world’s biggest combat star seems very unlikely to pass. While the Cyborg fight is an enticing one to fight fans, it may very well be recognized as a “could-have-been” matchup in the years to come.
With her dominant reign in the UFC over the past two years, Rousey has undoubtedly moved into the legendary ranks of the MMA universe. Feel free to place Rousey on the Mount Rushmore of MMA legends. The dominance which Rousey has displayed over the bantamweight division is simply unprecedented. I have not seen a fighter so far ahead of any challenger thrown their way since Anderson Silva had his grip on the MMA world for the beter part of a decade. I would even go as far as to argue whether Rousey has had a more dominant reign as champion than Anderson Silva did in his prime (That’s a debate for another day).
Rousey is not only a trailblazer for women’s MMA, but in the eyes of many she stands as the face of the entire UFC organization. Witnessing Rousey’s dominance over the past two calendar years makes one ask, “Will she ever lose?”
While the rest of the bantamweight division searches for Rousey’s kryptonite, the champion looks to dominate on new platforms. The octagon has been no match for Rousey, she is a best-selling author, and as of Monday, announced she will be starring in a feature film based off of her autobiography.
While Rousey’s future may be in question, her legendary legacy most certainly is not.
Did I mention she’s from Riverside? Represent.