Sunday, August 19, 2012

Reflections of... Rousey's ownage and Women's MMA

I went into Saturday's fight between Ronda Rousey and Sarah Kaufman curious as to how Rousey planned to match herself in the stand-up game against a veteran striker like Kaufman.

The answer: She completely avoided the issue.

Rousey got Kaufman into a clinch against the cage almost immediately, swept her legs out when it was clear Kaufman had prepared to defend Rousey's throws, and locked in the armbar after about 30 seconds of relentless, high-class submission defense gave way to Rousey's sheer strength.

To this point, Rousey's abilities as a complete fighter have not really been tested, similar to how Royce Gracie's game outside Brazilian Jiu Jitsu really didn't face a test in early UFC days.

In many ways, Rousey's climb to the top of women's MMA is much like Gracie's: showing how useful a style (in her case, Judo) can be in a fight. It's also like Brock Lesnar's in that she gained prominence in another competition (WWE and NCAA wrestling for Lesnar, Olympics for Rousey), and it's like Mike Tyson in that both have become seen as unstoppable forces of nature with big mouths and no real equal to this point in their respective careers.

I'm torn as to whether this is good or bad for women's MMA. On one hand, it's certainly going to draw interest. Olympic competitors in judo, boxing and tae kwon do may very well make a push to try their hands at this sport, and that will certainly increase viability and depth for the sport.

Where I am nervous for is what could be called a "reverse-Anderson Silva syndrome." Silva has effectively cleaned out the middleweight division, it's not seen as a knock on the 185-pound fighters. Rather it is a mark as to how great Silva is - that he could take out a division like this.

Rousey seems to be causing an opposite reaction. Having seen Miesha Tate and Sarah Kaufman fight before Rousey's arrival, I know how good these women are and how huge it is that she could finish them with the same move inside of a round. I also believe them when they say that if given another shot, the outcome will not come as easily.

But casual fans may look at Rousey as an Olympian beating on inferior fighters, which is absolutely not the case. Rousey is beating well-rounded fighters who simply have no way of training against a strong judo practitioner, as so few are in women's MMA fighting at a high level to spar with.

My concern is that this accomplishment may give credence to Dana White's lack of depth argument in the eyes of fans. However, given how good Tate's fight was in the undercard main event, with Alexis Davis, Gina Carano and Cyborg Santos as untapped challengers, and with Invicta FC producing deep, strong women's cards in five weight classes, this concern may be unwarranted.

I certainly hope it is. I want these divisions on my TV for a long time.

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