Strikeforce fight card: Is Ronda Rousey the fighter to take women's MMA to the next level?

May 5, 2012; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; UFC president Dana White (right) poses with Strikeforce MMA female champion Ronda Rousey during a bout between Johny Hendricks and Josh Koscheck during UFC on Fox 3 at the Izod Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-US PRESSWIRE

On August 13, 2008, Ronda Rousey was in Beijing for the 29th Olympic Games. In the 70kg competition, the American placed third, earning herself a bronze medal. The year prior, a silver medal hung from her neck at the World Championships in Rio de Janeiro.

But on a world level, gold eluded her.

That is, until she stepped into the Strikeforce cage opposite Miesha Tate this past March.

Much like Rousey's previous four opponents, Tate fell victim to a first round armbar. While the Alpha Male product lasted significantly longer than the judoka's other victims -- "Rowdy" had never left the first minute before her title bout -- the ending was nonetheless the same.

And just like that, Rousey was a mixed martial arts (MMA) superstar.

She become Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana White's new best friend, a cover girl for the ESPN Magazine Body Issue and got her own Showtime special while also being invited on Conan, TBS' late night talk show.

There's no denying "Rowdy" is talented. And there's very little denying she isn't hard to look at either.

But, hours before she's set to defend her Bantamweight Championship against Sarah Kaufman, is she the fighter who can take women's MMA to the next level?

Part of Rousey's appeal is her no-nonsense approach to the sport. It's also somewhat of a detriment.

Two days ago, she bluntly stated she wouldn't mind choking her opponent tonight to death.

One of the main reasons her and White have gotten so buddy-buddy lately is because the UFC President can parade the beautiful, Olympic athlete as proof MMA isn't all skinheads and thugs to anyone -- namely New York State politicians -- who will listen.

So when she's openly threatening to kill her opponent, no dazzling smile in the world can clean that mess up.

And yes, I understand there is a double standard between a fighter like Rousey saying, "I'm going to kill her!" and someone on the Dallas Cowboys saying the same about the Philadelphia Eagles.

Unfortunately for MMA, it's still very much considered a barbaric bloodsport by many so verbiage like Rousey's -- and Frank Mir's from 2010 -- should be avoided since the sport is under a much stronger microscope.

In the public realm, Rousey is rough around the edges. She speaks candidly and is often brutally honest, likely a result of being a woman competing in combat sports, a male dominated field, her whole life and dealing with the hardships that come with that.

It's part of her charm but it can also hold her back from being akin to the Randy Couture, a UFC veteran who has transcended the sport, for her gender.

If women's MMA wants to thrive -- or even survive -- it needs someone it can latch onto, someone who can represent the sport in a positive light.

Is Ronda Rousey that women?

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