Could Ronda Rousey be the most dominant champion in the history of MMA? Better yet, could she be the most dominant champion in the history of combat sports? Sure, the statement is a tad premature and stuffed with hyperbole. But the manner in which the UFC women’s bantamweight champion dispatched of Alexis Davis in 16 seconds at UFC 175 forces the inquiry.
And the truth is that it’s not all that farfetched to consider given the circumstances.
Rowdy Ronda Rousey’s reign of terror has become Mike Tyson-like in the manner that she is laying waste to opponents. Ten professional fights, ten victories and not a single fight has gone to the judges. Oh yeah, she won the Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight championship in her fifth fight and helped usher the women into the UFC. That’s a pretty impressive to start your career. Sure, it’s only ten fights but there are other mitigating factors that explain why we may be witnessing the most dominant champion in both boxing and MMA.
One can argue that Anderson Silva, Fedor Emelianenko, and Georges St-Pierre had better runs as in the past. In the present it’s about Jon Jones and Jose Aldo. For those, to even suggest Rousey’s name amongst the greats of mixed martial arts is blasphemy. However, the talent of those fighters in comparison to Rousey’s isn’t in question. It’s the level of opposition that places Rousey above the rest. Rousey’s swift dominance over the women’s bantamweight division has been astounding (take a look at her pre and post fight pictures and you’ll see she looks exactly the same) but the bigger issue is that there isn’t an opponent out there that is on the same skill level.
Anderson Silva, Fedor Emelianenko, Georges St-Pierre, Jon Jones and Jose Aldo didn’t light the mixed martial arts world on fire with their arrival like Rousey did. Her first four professional fights lasted a grand total of 2 minutes and 18 seconds. She didn’t see a fight leave the first round until her 8th professional fight – a rematch with former champion Miesha Tate – and she still polished her off with an arm bar. And then the Olympic Judoka competitor met Sara McMann, the Olympic Games 2004 silver medalist in wrestling, and most thought that McMann’s world class wrestling could neutralize Rousey’s Judo. That fight ended with Rousey driving a knee into McMann’s midsection at the 1:06 mark of the first round.
As dominant as Anderson Silva had been, he didn’t dispatch his opposition as emphatically as Rousey. He had a few less than appealing fights with Thales Leites and Demian Maia during his run. Jon Jones’ arrival at UFC 87 wasn’t a barnburner and he met his match against Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165 where he barely hung on to victory. There has always been a feasible challenge present for the other MMA greats. Rousey has no peer.
Obviously, any fighter can win on any given night in the world of mixed martial arts. However, the other difference between Rousey and the rest of her peers is the fact that the women in her division don’t possess the ability to finish as definitively as Rousey does. To put it in perspective, Rousey’s knockout/submission percentage is 100% (10 for 10). Meanwhile, the top five contenders in the UFC women’s bantamweight division – Cat Zingano, Alexis Davis, Miesha Tate, Sara McMann, and Sarah Kaufman – have a combined knockout/submission percentage of 50.6% (39 for 77). With the exception of Zingano, who has finished seven of her eight opponents, Rousey has already dispatched of the top five in dominant fashion. Only Zingano stands in her way of officially cleaning out the division. After that, good luck trying to find a worthy opponent.
Even if you compare Rousey’s dominance to the great run of Mike Tyson, you’ll see some significant parallels between the women’s champ and Iron Mike. Mike Tyson’s career started with 37 consecutive victories and his first 17 fights ending by knockout. He was scary to the point where his opponents were too intimidated by his power to give a good fight. Mentally, Tyson’s opponents were broken before they even set foot inside of the squared circle. It came to a point where the Las Vegas odds makers struggled to find a suitable line for gamblers to be on. The only person who was responsible for Tyson’s career derailment was Mike Tyson. It was clear that he was better than the rest but the stardom got to his head and his commitment to training fell by the wayside.
Rousey finds herself in a similar position. As freakishly good as she is, it will be interesting to see whether she can maintain the same level of drive and commitment as she does today. She’s not just a UFC star anymore. Ronda Rousey is a mainstream attraction whose groundbreaking talent has opened the door for her to start a career in Hollywood. If the world outside of fighting becomes a distraction, then a Buster Douglas will sneak through the back door and end her reign.
As of right now, there are no signs of Rousey slowing down. She has said on more than one occasion that she has learned from the great pugilists how taking success for granted can spell out your demise. For her, if she isn’t fighting, she isn’t seeing any of these doors open. With that being said, she’s determined to trample her opponents in the most impressive ways possible. Even now, as her pristine grappling and submission skills have taken center stage, her commitment to improving as a striker has made her even more dangerous than before.
We’ve already reached a point where we are grasping at straws trying to find a suitable opponent to challenge Rousey. Boxer turned MMA practitioner Holly Holm could be next in line, but her grappling game isn’t nearly as polished as Rousey’s. The aforementioned Cat Zingano will most certainly be the next in line, but even she hasn’t looked quite as dominant as Rousey. Last, but certainly not least is Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos. The former Strikeforce women’s featherweight champion is the opponent that everyone wants Rousey to fight. Aside from her loss in her pro debut, Santos has run roughshod over the competition. However, she has a history of PED use and admittedly would struggle to get her weight down to the bantamweight limit of 135. Maybe one day, but not right now.
With no real competition in sight, we could be witnessing one of the most dominant careers in sports history. At this point, it’s up to Ronda Rousey to maintain her supremacy over the combat sports world.