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2015 Is The Year That Changed Women’s MMA

Ronda Rousey, Holly Holm
(Photo courtesy of AP)

2015 was a huge year for the sport of MMA, full of memorable fights, drama and champions. The year has been filled with so much action that it is wrapping up with seven new champions. The men’s division holds many of those memorable fights, but it’s the women’s division that takes home what is arguably the most memorable moment of 2015 — Ronda Rousey’s KO loss to Holly Holm.

That statement alone shows how far women’s MMA has come; from the days when Dana White said women would never fight in the Octagon in 2011 to now, women having the most memorable fight of the year.

Rousey is of course the woman who came and changed the game. Her undefeated record, exceptional judo technique and trash talking tactics opened up the opportunity for a shot at the belt. The moment she won, women’s MMA would never be the same.

Her charisma outside of the octagon and her domination in combat was appealing to everyone. She soon began landing movie roles, appearances in other sports/entertainment organizations like WWE and numerous interviews on late night talk shows like Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel Live. With her name crossing over to the mainstream media world, so did the UFC.

Underneath the shadow of Rousey was the rest of the bantamweight division and the ever-growing strawweight division. Fighters like Rose Namjuanas, Page VanZant, Tecia Torres, Valérie Létourneau and Holly Holm were warming up while Ronda soaked up the spotlight.

VanZant was slowly becoming an increasingly large crowd favorite, while Namajunas was developing her skills, waiting for the opportunity to present itself. “The Tiny Tornado” Torres has been flying under people’s radar even though she’s remained undefeated. Létourneau was finally able to secure the UFC ranking she deserves after an enduring performance against the strawweight champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk.

The most underrated and underestimated of them all was Holm. Her true skills had been kept a secret in her previous UFC bouts. When she was given the shot against the “most dominating athlete,” her ability to dominate was finally pushed through.

The bar had been set and she came along not only reaching it, but also far surpassing it, exposing all of the holes in Rousey’s skills and abilities. UFC 193 will forever be engrained in MMA history and more so in women’s MMA history. All of the media fueling Rousey’s unbeatable aura was proved wrong the moment the championship belt was wrapped around Holly’s waist.

Up until that point, Rousey had consumed the entire brand with her skill, trash talk and mainstream media exposure. However, without her overtaking the spotlight, the rest of the women’s division can now claim their much-deserved recognition. Holm has become the admiration of many, including boxing champion Oscar de la Hoya, actors like Jamie Foxx, and has gained her own mainstream exposure by appearing on Larry King Live, Late Night with Seth Meyers and Live with Kelly and Michael.

It can be said that Rousey’s success is what can now make Holm’s win and Holm herself successful, but Rousey’s loss at UFC 193 means so much more for the entire division as a whole.

The attention gathered for UFC 193 has now been confirmed to surpass 1.1 million PPV buys. Rousey losing has left that and even more new fans on the edge of their seat awaiting her strong return. Will she be able to work on her striking and footwork to reclaim her belt? Or will she be overwhelmed once again and retire from MMA?

Whether she does or doesn’t is what will make the future of women’s MMA perhaps even bigger than it is now. If she does make a strong return, then we may see a very interesting unfolding for the rest of the bantamweight division. If she losses and decides to retire, we can say that her impact in women’s MMA will never be erased and has now influenced a full array of women mixed martial artists. This will then give the remaining women fighters an opportunity to push through and be acknowledged as part of the UFC brand and, more importantly, as part of women’s MMA.

While Rousey became the antagonist, Holly has proven to be humble in her triumph, setting an example of sportsmanship for the women’s division. While some may say it will be hard to measure up to the fame Rousey had secured, she is surely an incredible example to follow. After all, this is only the beginning for action that women’s MMA and we have only seen a part of what Holly is capable of doing for the sport. We will be seeing so much more of her and the entire women’s division in 2016.

Questions will be answered, new fighters will emerge and the future of women’s MMA will be even clearer in the upcoming year. 2015 will go down in the book of women’s MMA as the year that changed everything.

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