Who’s Next for Ronda Rousey?

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Ronda Rousey smile

Less than a year ago, the UFC women’s bantamweight division looked like one that contained Ronda Rousey and then the rest. As we head into the middle part of 2016, there is now an argument to claim that the women’s 135lbs division is one of the most open in the UFC. Having made six comprehensive defences of her title, Rousey suffered the first loss in her career at the feet and the hands of Holly Holm at the Etihad Stadium, Melbourne, at UFC 193.

Title merry-go-round

The new champion’s reign was short-lived, though, with Miesha Tate (18-5) choking out the former boxing champion four months later at UFC 196 to earn the title and blow the division wide open. It is even more interesting following the news that former Strikeforce and reigning Invicta featherweight champion Cris Cyborg (15-1-1 no contest) is set to make her Octagon debut in Brazil over a year after signing a contract with Zuffa.

With Rousey set to make her eagerly-anticipated return to action before the end of the year, her list of options is now a lot longer than it was a few months ago. Expected to face Holm in a rematch before her loss, UFC president Dana White insisted in the immediate aftermath of Tate’s victory in early March that Rousey would face her long-time rival for the title in a third fight between the two. That appears to have changed, with Rousey now believed to be edging closer to a rematch with Holm and she is being priced as short as 3/4 in the odds for the win.


IMAGE CREDIT: freelook.info

A division that now has two number-one contenders in Holm and Rousey – and potentially three if Cyborg can make the bantamweight limit – means the former champion’s return is less clear than it was a few months ago. While any fight involving Ronda is going to sell, the UFC need to figure out just what they are going to do with the women’s bantamweight division. 

The problem for the UFC has always been Rousey’s burgeoning career in Hollywood. The 29-year-old was always going to take a break after UFC 193 in order to film two movies. That time on the sidelines was consequently the reason the company was forced to make Holm vs. Tate in order to keep the division moving.

After watching as those plans for a lucrative Rousey v Holm title rematch went up in smoke after the gritty Tate sunk in a devastating rear-naked choke at 3:30 of the fifth and final round, the UFC is now throwing around a number of ideas regarding Rousey’s return. While there is little doubt who the company would ideally want as their champion, Ronda’s path to the title might not be as simple as many expected after her loss.

IMAGE CREDIT: sportingnews.com

IMAGE CREDIT: sportingnews.com

One option the UFC are rumored to be exploring is matching the two former champions up again to determine who will fight Tate for the title. Rousey has said very little regarding Holm (10-1) since her defeat, but it’s hard to believe she isn’t determined to avenge that loss. Having stopped all of her 12 opponents, with 75 percent by way of submission, Ronda wasn’t used to being challenged inside the Octagon. Not only did Holm compete with her, she ruined Rousey’s image as an unbeatable force.


Unfinished Business

Let’s not get this twisted. If Ronda wanted, she could push for an immediate shot at the title when she returns. With two wins over the new champion already on her record and the most recent coming at UFC 168, a fight with Tate probably wouldn’t be as intimidating as stepping back into the cage against the only women to ever defeat her in the MMA arena.

Rousey (12-1) has never backed down from a challenge in her life, and vanquishing those demons against Holm could be something Ronda feels she needs to do before even thinking about wearing the belt again. For the UFC, both fights make sense. However, it’s hard to picture a bigger rematch in the organization’s history than Rousey vs. Holm II if the former champion beats Tate for a third time upon her return. 



UFC 200

With UFC 200 fast approaching, and the company desperately needing to stack the deck with the sort of fights which befit such a historic card, it’s obvious the company will be trying to get Rousey back in time for July’s card. If she could beat Tate and reclaim her belt, a Rousey vs. Holm rematch later this year could well be the biggest fight we’ve ever seen in MMA history. If Rousey could beat Tate on her return and then defend the title successfully against Holm, those doubters who have claimed she isn’t the superhero we all thought would have to eat their words.

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Jeremy Brand is an experienced MMA writer and columnist. He is the founder of MMASucka.com, and has represented the company with media credentials at many mixed martial arts fights. Jeremy is also a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, training in BC, Canada.

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