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Roundtable: Anticipating the return of Ronda Rousey

Mixed martial arts fighter Ronda Rousey trains at Glendale Fighting Club, Wednesday, July 15, 2015, in Glendale, Calif. Rousey, the UFC bantamweight champion, will return to the octagon against Brazil’s unbeaten Bethe Correia at UFC 190 in Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 1. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Do you have any issue with Ronda Rousey getting an immediate title shot?

Daniel DeMarco: I do not. Not that I would have been upset if she didn’t either. I just find it to be a perfectly viable option. There is something to be said about dominant champions getting title shots after they happen to lose it. Rousey managed to defend the UFC title five times in spectacular fashion. If you want to include everything since she won the title in Strikeforce, that is seven defenses for you. Rousey defeated all of the best women in the world until Holly Holm stepped in the Octagon with her. And then in one performance, it came crashing down. So I have no issue seeing if that one performance was a one-night issue, or a sign of genuine change.

Riley Kontek: No. She is the biggest female draw in the sport, even with a loss in her last fight in the way she lost. She is a megastar. Her inactivity really means nothing, as the UFC is a business and they will make the fight that makes them the most money. It’s also the last card of 2016, so what better way to end the year than with the biggest star the company has outside of Conor McGregor.

Travis Wakeman: None. Especially if that’s what it took to get her to come back. I don’t believe there’s a more intriguing storyline in the entire sport than her return, and I for one am thoroughly looking forward to how she responds to her shocking loss last year. Look, she lost one fight. Yes, it was in devastating fashion, but she had been utterly dominant prior to that point. People have gotten immediate title rematches for a lot less. I’m sure there will be those out there who feel it’s “unfair,” but in my opinion, those are the fans that hate on Rousey to begin with.

Jordy McElroy: I have no issue whatsoever with a former champion as dominant as Ronda Rousey skipping a contender’s fight and jumping right back into the fire for a title shot. She is the most popular fighter in the UFC, sorry Conor McGregor. Rousey is the only fighter competing in MMA that you could go to a local grocery store and hear a group of soccer moms talking about. My 55-year-old mother, God rest her soul, would plop down on the sofa and watch the UFC every time Rousey competed. Let’s also not forget that Rousey had defended her title six times before losing to Holly Holm last year. It isn’t like she won the title and lost in her first defense. She deserves an immediate title shot.

Kristian Ibarra: Not one bit. Ronda Rousey is arguably the biggest star in the sport, and she dominated the division for years before Holly Holm came in and knocked her off her feet. You can certainly feel for somebody like Julianna Pena, but it’s also a little surprising to see her take such a strong stance in seeing Rousey get her title shot. Dana White had been saying Rousey was going to be first in line upon her return; Pena literally had a year to get comfortable with the idea. Giving Rousey a title shot over Pena is likely one of the easiest business decisions this company has ever had to make.

Nunes vs. Rousey… Who ya got? 

Amanda Nunes, right, hits Miesha Tate during their women's bantamweight championship mixed martial arts bout at UFC 200, Saturday, July 9, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

(AP Photo/John Locher)

DD: I’ve got to go with Ronda Rousey here. I have to look at this matchup like Rousey’s loss was a mixture of a bad night and bad matchup. Sure, Nunes looked like a monster against Miesha Tate, but Nunes has also shown us she is not the most consistent. Nunes’ cardio has proven an issue several times in the past, not to mention having front-runner performances where her opponent was able to take over later in the bout. I would not necessarily blame someone for favoring Nunes here, because the argument can certainly be made why she should be the favorite, but I just cannot bring myself to believe Rousey is not as good as we remember her before UFC 193.

RK: Despite Amanda Nunes’ recent surge and improvements that led her to being the champion, I still have Rousey winning this fight. Nunes has the better striking, but Rousey will close the distance fast and ground Nunes. From there, she will manhandle Nunes on the mat and score a stoppage win to become the two-time women’s bantamweight champ.

TW: Give me Rousey. I can’t imagine she’s willing to come back unless she feels she can win this fight and Rousey at her best beats Nunes at her best every day, in my opinion. Nunes surprised a lot of people when she walked through Tate to win the title and as talented as she is, I can’t see her doing that to Rousey. As long as Rousey doesn’t beat herself mentally, if she’s 100 percent focused on winning, I think she makes an example of Nunes and announces her return to the top of the division with authority.

JM: I believe Amanda Nunes is a stiff test for anyone in the women’s bantamweight division. She is a dangerous striker with a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, This is no cake walk return for Rousey by any stretch of the imagination, and anyone not taking her loss to Holm seriously is fooling themselves. Rousey has some serious deficiencies in her striking, and they aren’t likely to go away this quickly, especially since she has chosen to stay with the same striking coach. I still believe Holly Holm’s footwork as well as her striking played a big part in her beating Rousey, and while Nunes has a definitive edge on the feet, I do believe she will leave openings for Rousey to move inside and work her Judo. I’ll side with Rousey for now, but my mind may change when we revisit this fight a little closer to UFC 207.

KI: I’ll take Rousey here, but not with the same sort of confidence I’d picked her in fights against Bethe Correia, Miesha Tate or Alexis Davis. We’ve seen what a quality striker can do against Rousey, but I have a hard time believing Nunes — a vicious first-round fighter always looking for the finish — will follow the patient Holly Holm game-plan to a tee. Her skill-set, elite as it may be, isn’t quite built to stick and move like Holm’s was back at UFC 193.

Fact or fiction: UFC 207 will be the biggest UFC PPV of all time.

Ronda Rousey gets ready to fight Cat Zingano in a UFC 184 mixed martial arts bantamweight title bout, Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015, in Los Angeles. Rousey won after Zingano tapped out 14 seconds into the first round. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

DD: Fiction.

It will be up there; no doubt about it. I suppose if UFC builds a mega-card like UFC 205, the chances are much more likely. But to do so, so soon after UFC 205, seems highly unlikely. I would guess UFC 207 does around 1.3-1.4 million buys — higher than Rousey’s best PPV numbers yet, but not so high as to beat out the record-holders (plus, we do not know if UFC 205 is going to set the bar even higher). Regardless, capping off the year in that fashion would be unreal. This year has truly seen MMA reach a new level. Good luck, 2017; you have quite a year to follow up on.

RK: Fiction. It will be a very big pay-per-view, but there are others that will beat it. Off the top of my head, UFC 200 and one of the McGregor pay-per-views with Nate Diaz will have better numbers. Depending on what fights the UFC puts around Rousey and Nunes could help push those numbers even higher. Right now, it’s rumored Fabricio Werdum and Cain Velasquez will meet. That’s a good start.

TW: That’s a tough question. Mike Pyle vs. Alex Garcia is the only other fight confirmed for the event, but a rematch between Cain Velasquez and Fabricio Werdum is rumored. It could end up being a fact depending on what else is added, but for now I’ll say fiction because I believe the UFC 205 card looks way too good to pass up right now and I can see it being the biggest of all-time. That said, Rousey is a spectacle. She demands attention. So yes, it easily could be, but it depends on what else we get.

JM: Fiction, for now at least.

I think we need to see what the entire card looks like before making that kind of proclamation. Ronda Rousey is the biggest star in MMA, and her comeback will certainly push UFC 207 to ridiculous numbers. If the UFC stacks the rest of the main card, which they probably will, this event will likely end with some historic merit.

KI: Fact. I don’t need to see the rest of the card to make such a bold statement; I just need to have a firm understanding of how much this world loves and hates Ronda Rousey.

We forget that Rousey vs. Correia at UFC 190 did just under a million buys and that card was about as abysmal a pay-per-view as they come — including Rousey vs. Correia. Sure, it had the bad blood narrative between Rousey and Correia to carry it along, but Nunes vs. Rousey has a narrative built for the silver screen, the sort of Rocky Balboa story the world craves when diving into the world of combat sports. Rousey will have been absent of the cage for more than a year by the time the fight rolls around; I’d bet a good portion of the world would be interested to see what comes out of the extended hiatus.

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