Last week UFC president Dana White proclaimed the promotion’s biggest star to be Ronda Rousey. The Women’s Bantamweight Champion debuted almost exactly a year ago and had won both of her UFC fights going into her fight on Saturday at UFC 170 against fellow Olympian, Sara McMann. Rousey has also completed a series coaching on the Ultimate Fighter (TUF) reality television show and has begun a successful Hollywood acting career to go alongside her UFC fighting.
On Saturday, for just the second time in history, a UFC pay-per-view event was headlined by a women’s fight and it was the first time in UFC history that both athletes competing were ex-olympic medalists. McMann was seen by many as being able to finally provide a remedy to counteract Rousey’s Judo expertise, using her wrestling. She had, after all, won Olympic silver in that discipline at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. Rousey had won bronze in Beijing, being the first American woman to medal in Judo, but she has a more dominant aura still inside an MMA cage.
Over the last few weeks, rumours had been spreading of a more well rounded Ronda Rousey. The Champ had won all eight of her fights by arm-bar submission going into Saturday night, the most recent being her third-round victory over arch nemesis Miesha Tate in December. Stories were circulating though of a Ronda Rousey who had been sparring with top ranked boxers and winning. Her coach, Edmond Tarverdyan told Ariel Helwani on his “MMA Hour” podcast that if she wanted to, Rousey could be a professional boxer. Would we see this side of her on Saturday or would she revert to what she knows best, what her mother mastered before her and what remains a part of her DNA; her judo.
Outside of UFC’s Octagon, Rousey’s smile can light up any room. She is charming, beautiful and respectful (as long as she isn’t fighting Tate). Inside the Octagon however, it’s a very different story. When Rousey makes her ring walk, she makes it with purpose and attitude. As she steps into the Octagon and looks across at her opposition, she has a look of intent that is more than intimidating. Saturday was no different.
McMann is a physical specimen. As she awaited the start of the fight, muscles protruding through her shirt, one couldn’t help but feel like her seven fight undefeated streak was about to come to an end. On this night, against this opponent, she had surely just bitten off a little more than she could chew.
The fight began. Rousey attacked. The two exchanged punches before Rousey pushed McMann up against the cage. Seconds later the fight was over. Rousey had delivered a devastating knee to the liver of McMann and dropped her to her knees before finishing her with punches. The first knockdown in a women’s UFC event. Referee, Herb Dean, might have stopped the fight a little early but to those who watched the one minute and six seconds of action, there was only ever going to be one winner on this night.
Like magic, immediately, Rousey returned to her happy normal self. The same person that has charmed everyone from audiences of US television talk shows to Hollywood producers was now flanked by her mother and her sister, still smiling and having hardly broken a sweat.
This amazing athlete is the reason Dana White brought women to the UFC just a year ago after once denying it would ever happen. Fast forward to today and she is a world wide celebrity that transcends sport. She has laid the foundations for a second women’s division to be introduced into the UFC later this year. In Ronda Rousey, the UFC has struck gold.
In the much hyped co-main event between ex-training partners Daniel Cormier and Patrick Cummins, Cormier dominated and won by 1st round TKO. Cummins had received much of the attention in the build up to his fight after taking the fight on 10 days notice whilst working part time in a coffee shop. The UFC will give Cummins a chance to fight a less accomplished opponent in a situation where he has time to prepare,but it was a disappointing performance nonetheless for the much hyped light-heavyweight. Whilst not expected to win, many thought he might put up an element of a fight. Cormier though, was just too good.
Follow sports & MMA columnist, Asher Simons onTwitter @ashersimons