Do we not respect Ronda Rousey for her impact on the sport?

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Following the announcement of the retirement of Amanda Nunes, many have discussed the impact that she’s had on the sport. There is one woman who has had a bigger impact on the sport itself, Ronda Rousey. Despite the end to her career, which saw her suffer back-to-back knockout losses at the hands of Holly Holm and then Amanda Nunes, we have to look at her career as a whole. These two losses have slightly tainted her career, however, on reflection, is her career not respected enough amongst MMA fans today?
We take a look at her career and her brutal UFC beginning.

UFC 157

To kick off her UFC career, Rowdy Ronda Rousey headlined the historic UFC 157. The Olympic Bronze medalist in Beijing in 2004 already was making a name for herself before even her Strikeforce days. Rushing to 3-0 in her amateur career with all finishes via armbar, she recorded just two professional wins before joining strikeforce.
The four names on her Strikeforce record alone mean that Rousey deserves a lot of credit. Sarah D’AleioCharmaine Tweet, future career rival and UFC champion, Meisha Tate and future Invicta FC champion and legend of women’s MMA, Sarah Kaufman all fell at the hands of Rousey, none of whom could protect their arms for more than a round and each suffering an armbar finish.
Following the amalgamation of Strikeforce and the UFC, the belt that Rousey had won was promoted, at a press conference to the UFC belt, awarded to her by the man who said women would never fight in the UFC, Dana White.
Her first title defence for the UFC came at UFC 157 against fellow pioneer, Liz Carmouche. Carmouche was coming off the back of two straight finishes and held an 8-2 record at the time. The bout had hype for sure, it was the first-ever women’s fight in the UFC, however, people were certainly apprehensive.
What played out, however, goes down as an instant classic. Rousey was a -1000 favourite heading into the bout and many expected her to run through Carmouche without any issue. After a failed hip throw, however, Carmouche took the back of Rousey and ripped a nasty face crank and almost tapped the champion. Rousey showed great heart and, predictably, regained her composure and notched the armbar finish.

Grudge Match and Four Blow Outs

Next came The Ultimate Fighter 18, where Rousey was scheduled to face off against Cat Zingano. Zingano had just defeated Meisha Tate, however, suffered an injury and had to withdraw from filming and the fight itself. Tate, the former bitter foe of Rousey stepped in, surprising and angering Rousey. The two would go on to build their rivalry across the filming of TUF 18 and would go to war at UFC 168.

UFC 168 was headlined by Chris Weidman and Anderson Silva in a highly anticipated rematch and it’s a feather in the cap of Rousey and Tate that they were placed in the co-main event spot. The fight would mark a turning point in the career of Rousey. It was the first time that she would be extended to a second and third round in her MMA career. Tate put up a great fight against Rousey, taking her down in the first round and not crumbling under the pressure. 0:58 into the third round, however, Rousey’s ground game got the upper hand and she broke the arm of Cupcake on her way to yet another title defence.

LAS VEGAS, NV – DECEMBER 28: Ronda Rousey (black shorts) attempts to submit Miesha Tate in their UFC women’s bantamweight championship bout during the UFC 168 event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on December 28, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Next came back-to-back finishes totalling just 1:22 seconds combined. She welcomed a clinch with Sara McMann before ending things with knees to the body before dismantling Alexis Davis in 16 seconds.

Cat Zingano finally got her title shot, however, a 14-second armbar saw her crash at the hands of Rousey. Neither fighter attempted a single strike, making it the only title fight in UFC history with no strikes thrown or landed. Many questioned whether the fellow undefeated Bethe Correia would be the one to upset Rousey. Rousey entered the bout a -1800 favourite and treated Correia in a way that the odds suggested. She didn’t feel the need to use her grappling and became a boxer for this one, knocking Correia out on the feet and upsetting the Brazillian fans.

Heading over to Australia, many believed that Rousey’s grappling would be too much for her opponent, Holly Holm. The hall of fame boxer was just 2-0 in the UFC and wasn’t seen as a finishing force. What played out, however, has gone down in history as one of the most shocking moments in UFC history. Holm dominated Rousey, made her miss, embarrassed her and ultimately showed that she was the superior woman in the cage that day. She knocked Rousey out in the second round, sending her from the realms of the undefeated.

After the belt was passed around, Rousey returned a year after her devastating loss to Holm to challenge Amanda Nunes for the belt in the main event of UFC 207. Nunes proved that she was far better than Rousey, that Rowdy had huge holes in her game in the stand-up department and that she was no longer good enough to cut it at this level. We would never see Rousey compete in MMA again, but we have to ask whether her impact on the sport is underappreciated.

Does Rousey deserve more respect?

Few have started their careers with such dominance. Yes, she was a respected and known name in MMA, however, headlining a UFC card in your debut shows just how much faith the UFC had in her. No one would have questioned it if she was placed in the co-main for her debut. She coached TUF just one fight into her career, proving how much of a colossus she was. Dana White doesn’t hand that privilege out to everyone. With six PPV headline spots under her belt, she was a guaranteed ticket seller.

Moving on to her actual fights, she was dominant… until she wasn’t. Throughout her first six fights, she was only hit 52 times, for context, Meisha Tate was responsible for 24 of those strikes. Jon Jones was landed on more across his first two fights, Conor McGregor was landed upon 52 times across four fights and Khabib Nurmagomedov received 54 strikes in his first four fights also. this proves just how dominant Rousey was.

Comparing her to the three men mentioned previously, it took Jones nine promotional fights to record six finishes, McGregor did it in seven fights and Khabib in 12 fights. Rousey recorded six in six.

Although Nunes went on to have a greater MMA career than Rousey, she’s not close to her with regards to star power. Nunes’ biggest selling PPV is her UFC 207 fight with Rousey. Next was UFC 200, which was largely generated off the back of a stacked card which included Brock Lesnar. After that, it falls off massively to UFC 215, which didn’t sell particularly well. Every single Rousey PPV sold better than Nunes’ third highest, even when the opponent didn’t captivate fans.

It’s time to respect the impact that Rousey had in putting women in the spotlight in the UFC and MMA in general.

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Frazer Krohn has been with MMASucka for nearly 5 years. He is the host of the MMASucka podcast, which is released every Monday. He's the author of a series of six books about MMA, which were published in 2023.

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