A flurry of punches, a lightening fast victory, and much discussion after the final bell.
Those are traits of a Ronda Rousey bout, but she wasn't victorious in her return to the octagon after a year absence. Ironically, "Rowdy" Ronda looked similar to some of her previous opponents when she squared off with Bantamweight champion, Amanda Nunes. During the first exchange, Nunes landed a stiff jab, and the Judo bronze medalist looked lost in the cage. It was almost as though the former champion froze after she was surprised with a punch and landed only one punch after Nunes swarmed toward her, landing vicious combinations.
In just 48 seconds, all the speculation of the past year was answered and Amanda Nunes retained the championship after the referee halted the action to rescue Rousey from any further damage. Post-fight, Ronda was still standing, but looked as though she wasn't sure where she was. The replay showed a dozen unanswered punches before the contest was halted so it was certainly a justified stoppage.
Ronda exited the octagon immediately after the result was announced and didn't take part in an interview with Joe Rogan before the conclusion of the pay-per-view or the press conference that followed it. Since that time, she released a brief statement to ESPN to say thank you to the fans and explain that she needs time to consider what to do next in her career.
Prior to the fight, I penned an article that emphasized that Rousey's mentality toward combat sports would be the key to the bout. Clearly, Ronda's head wasn't in the game because she generated virtually no offense after she was clipped with a punch and appeared not to know how to react. It's very possible that the KO loss to Holly Holm in November of 2015 took away her desire to fight, and considering that she knew nothing but success before the championship lost, it's possible that she didn't know how to handle the defeat.
If Rousey is done, what does this mean for her legacy?
One of the common measures of a champion is how they handle adversity, both during a fight and in their overall career. If Rousey retires at this point, what does it say about how she handled setbacks in her career? She's unquestionably the best female fighter in the history of the sport, but let's not overestimate that evaluation. Women's MMA has existed on a notable platform for about a decade, a relatively small sample size so while her profile is topical now, it might be another decade before her accomplishments can truly be put in context of the history of the sport. For example, Gina Carano, the first face of women's MMA, retired after one loss and a brief career, which led to a decline in her main stream popularity. Granted, Ronda is much more dynamic in the cage and much more charismatic outside of it, but the point being, the totality of her career could be taken down a few notches if other competitors surpass her in terms of title defenses. As much as Rousey accomplished, she only started fighting in 2011 and that's a relatively short career so if she retires directly after two losses, it might take away from the notion that she somehow already reached "legendary status."
Just my two cents, Ronda Rousey is mentally done as an MMA fighter. If she took over a year away from the octagon and looked like a deer in the headlights after the first punch she took then chances are that the KO loss changed her mindset as a fighter.
That said, for anyone that wants to criticize her, their hostility is misguided. While she might not exactly be a "legend," she unquestionably took female fighting to an entirely different level, and historically, she will be considered a pioneer. She wasn't as dominate for as long as some of the other champions in the UFC, but she became a major star, something that she can use going forward if she decides to hang up the gloves. It's well known that Ronda is a pro wrestling fan so the WWE is an option for her. I don't think that Rousey as a full-time sports entertainer would translate, but the occasional special appearance could generate major money for everyone involved. She also has film work already scheduled and there's always the possibility of full-time acting, similar to The Rock after he went to Hollywood.
Again, those that want to criticize her are misguided. For an athlete to reach the level of popularity that "Rowdy" Ronda achieved, it takes a tremendous amount of dedication and skill. If she decides to read a movie script instead of the grueling training sessions for 2-3 months before a bout, who can blame her? Quite frankly, there's easier money in film roles than combat sports. She had a notable career and if she decides that getting punched in the face as an occupation hazard isn't the direction she wants to continue to go, who can blame her? The bottom line is, Ronda Rousey became a mega star that transcended the sport so an early retirement doesn't erase her accomplishments. If she retires remains to be seen, but I would guess that it would probably be the right decision for her.
As for Amanda Nunes, the Brazilian champion proved that she was overlooked before the bout and now has the spotlight on her for the next title defense. However, simply because fans will recognize her as a legitimate champion doesn't mean that she will automatically become the next face of women's mixed martial arts. Holly Holm had the notoriety for a few months, but become just another fight after she lost the belt because she didn't build upon the KO victory. It will be interesting to see if Nunes continues to win and the direction of the Bantamweight division in the future.
Until next week
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