Ronda Rousey has made a highlight reel out of every UFC contender to come her way — the smack-talking Pitbull, an Alpha Cat, the Canadian Swiss Army knife, a former Olympian, an arch-nemesis and the military muscle.
The UFC women’s bantamweight champion is so dominant that wagers are being placed on how long an opponent will actually survive in the cage with her. Losing isn’t even a foreseeable option. The buildup surrounding a Rousey fight is like a throwback to Mike Tyson’s savagery in the ring in the ‘80s, and every bit of it is well-deserved.
Rousey, who has yet to even be tested in her MMA career, has finished her last four opponents in less than three minutes combined. She defeated four of the baddest women at 135 pounds faster than the time it takes to make a sandwich.
Let that thought sink in for a moment.
The general consensus is that it will be business as usual when Rousey steps into the cage on Saturday night against undefeated former boxing world champion Holly Holm. It would take the presence of a Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino to even have a chance of swaying public opinion at this point. The beaten path of mangled arms and broken dreams left in Rousey’s wake has already been imprinted into our minds.
It would take divine intervention or perhaps The Preacher’s Daughter to stop Rousey now.
Holm hasn’t taken the bait of adding to Rousey’s bulletin board material with aimless verbal shots in the media. She has come off as reserved and unassuming in the spotlight. Nothing ever seems forced or rehearsed, which is typically a sign of experience competing in big fights. Make no mistake, this is the biggest fight of Holm’s career, but years competing in world title fights reflect the emotions of a fighter at peace in the spotlight.
Not to mention, Holm has a stable of world-class talent behind her. With Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn at the centerpiece, Jackson’s MMA has fighters like Jon Jones, Carlos Condit, Donald Cerrone, Alistair Overeem, Frank Mir and Andrei Arlovski.
Jones, who many still believe to be the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet, has been especially instrumental in the preparation for Rousey, according to Holm on the UFC 193 media conference call:
“Obviously, he’s not going to be sparring with me the way he would with the big heavyweights. But we have the same coaches, we have the same team and I love to hear his input, because he’s obviously been able to take what our coaches teach and put it together perfectly. So I love to hear his input on it and he has been very helpful and very instrumental in this fight camp.”
Rousey hasn’t faced a striker anywhere near Holm’s level. The technical aptitude shown by Holm in the striking department is rarely seen in women’s MMA. While Rousey has shown improvements, her striking is still the weakest aspect of her overall fight game. Knocking out an overmatched Bethe Correia, whose opponents combined for a 1-7 UFC record, doesn’t turn someone into an elite striker overnight.
Rousey has real knockout power, but she also lacks fluidity in her strikes and rarely moves her head from the centerline, which makes her easily hittable. If the fight stays standing, Holm should have a field day as long as she hits angles and avoids getting stuck in the middle.
With that said, Rousey is one of the best judo practitioners — male or female — in MMA history. Couple her world-class judo with an ever-evolving ground game, and you have serious problems for any contender.
This will be a cat and mouse struggle with Rousey trying to cut off the cage and work from the clinch, while Holm attempts to stay outside and work her striking in the open. Probably one of the most underappreciated aspects for Holm is the brilliance of her footwork. If anyone can keep Rousey reaching in the wind, Holm is the fighter to do it.
One could argue that this fight is a bit too soon for Holm, who has yet to even fight a top-10 bantamweight. But we all knew this bout was in the works the second Holm signed on the dotted line of her UFC contract.
Rousey will enter the cage on Saturday night as a heavy favorite, but this is far from the cakewalk opponent casual fans are expecting. If Holm can manage to stay upright long enough, Rousey will be in serious trouble.