Ronda Rousey is the biggest star in mixed martial arts today and she is on the fast track back to the UFC Octagon. The former UFC champion will make her return to the cage at UFC 207 this December opposite current women’s bantamweight titleholder Amanda Nunes. It will mark the most anticipated comeback in promotional history following Rousey’s knockout loss to Holly Holm at UFC 193 in November of 2015.
Hot on Rousey’s trail is the impenetrable Cris Cyborg. The current Invicta FC featherweight queen has brutalized opponents for over a decade and is finally beginning to cement her role in UFC as a catchweight attraction. In two Octagon appearances, Cyborg has shown why her Mike Tyson-like striking is worthy of universal attention. Casual fight fans may not know who she is just yet and what she has accomplished in her career, but she is as dominate in her craft as Rousey was, is and ever will be.
With both women finally competing under the same roof, fight fans have drooled over the idea of Rousey and Cyborg meeting inside of the cage in some sort of 140-pound superfight. While Rousey has unfinished business to attend to in the women’s bantamweight class before she does any out-of-division gallivanting like a distorted Conor McGregor, UFC president Dana White recently stated that the two international superstars will one day meet in the biggest pay-per-view (PPV) event of all time.
White has built up fights for his entire adult life and would do almost anything to assure fight fans that Rousey may actually continue fighting after UFC 207, but are we to believe that the former UFC champion still possesses the immaculate allure that can take a matchup opposite Cyborg and transform it into the most iconic fight card ever?
While Rousey was able to get Bethe Correia booed by her own home crowd at UFC 190, Cyborg is the last Brazilian star “Rowdy” would be able to outshine moving forward. That means Rousey’s appeal for “the biggest event ever” will fall completely on her resume. And while Rousey’s track record suggests she can rack off another incredible win streak inside the Octagon, the fact remains that she is no longer undefeated.
In today’s MMA, possessing a sense of invincibility is almost as important as having a gold belt strapped around your waist. Not every move around these parts is dictated by championship records and pure fighting ability. Instead, figures like Rousey and McGregor use their unique sense of immortality to sell fights and strike fear into the hearts of their opponents.
While McGregor gained a little bit of that back after defeating Nate Diaz at UFC 202 following a loss to the Stockton native at UFC 196, Rousey has yet to avenge her loss to Holm in Australia. Unlike McGregor, Rousey is still remembered as a fallen champion. One who was knocked out more viciously than any other titleholder in UFC history in front of 900,000 PPV buyers.
She will be fortunate enough to test the waters against Nunes this December before she ever has to exchange leather with a ruthless combat killer like Cyborg, but does it really matter if “Rowdy” reclaims her bantamweight title? Will that ease our assumptions that she may be way in over her head against a fighter in Cyborg who walks around at 170 pounds? Is Rousey’s sense of invincibility so depleted since getting stiffened by “The Preacher’s Daughter” that a bout opposite Cyborg should no longer be considered a superfight?
It’s difficult to gauge. McGregor was able to increase his PPV numbers after losing to Diaz back in March, so why can’t Rousey? After all, White considers her a bigger star than “Notorious” to begin with. But despite her available PPV draw, it would be difficult to peg a Rousey vs. Cyborg superfight as the biggest contest in MMA history.
We all now know that Rousey’s standup is average on her best day, and that her grappling may never work against a stronger adversary like Cyborg, so it’d be foolish to turn a blind eye to her fading potential to actually win the superfight.
Once exposed, always held suspect. That is a key component to Rousey’s appeal moving forward and one she must attempt to shatter at UFC 207, at the expense of Nunes, if she wants to regain the promise in a potential clash with the baddest woman on the planet.