Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight roost-ruler, Ronda Rousey, is set to defend her title opposite former professional boxing champion, Holly Holm, this Saturday (Nov. 14, 2015) at UFC 193 inside Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Australia.
At this point, it's stupid to argue that Rousey is not the most dominant champion in UFC. Say what you will about her competition -- and those criticisms are not totally unfounded -- but there has never been a fighter so far ahead of the rest of her division.
Rousey isn't just beating her opponents. She's not even just dominating them. Rousey is embarrassing her opponents, and they're the best her division has to offer.
Let's take a closer look at the skills Rousey utilizes to produce such incredible victories:
Rousey has finished three of her last four opponents via knockout, and those fights lasted a grand total 116 seconds. There are numerous technical issues with how Rousey punches and, in general, strikes, but her aggression and power make her a force on her feet for her division.
On the outside, Rousey's combinations are far smoother than they once were. Rousey has natural speed, making her jab and cross two of her best weapons, cutting through her opponents' looping shots. In particular, Rousey's cross packs some serious wallop, as it has now put two of Rousey's opponents on Queer Street.
However, Rousey does her best work on the inside, as one would expect of a Judo Olympian. Once Rousey closes the distance, she's actually quite dangerous with her dirty boxing. While looking for her usual clinch throws, Rousey batters her opponent with small punches and elbows, creating openings.
In addition, Rousey's knee strikes have quickly become very dangerous. She digs into her opponent's liver sharply, which is one of the most painful blows to receive. Against Sara McMann, Rousey's knee was so devastating to the wrestler's bent-over posture that it sent her crumbling to the mat, resulting in Rousey's first finish via strikes.
More recently, Rousey worked over Bethe Correia in about 30 seconds, and she did much of her damage in the clinch. First, she latched onto a single-collar tie and smashed Correia with right uppercuts, a technique which Daniel Cormier has been using to great success lately. Then, once Correia was against the fence, Rousey ripped into her body with a knee, causing the Brazilian to drop her hands and absorb the knockout punch.
The most important criticism of Rousey's boxing -- which can be laid at the feet of her controversial coach, Edmond Tarverdyan -- is that it hasn't been built to fit her Judo game. The first thing an excellent clinch fighter should be taught is how to safely enter the clinch, yet Rousey rarely shows any set ups. Instead, she rushes forward with her face, which is perhaps her biggest vulnerability.
Beyond that, Rousey's entire striking game lacks a focus on defense. She doesn't often move her head at any point, and on the unusual occasion in which she's not going full bore on offense, Rousey will back straight up. To put it simply, she's very hittable.
Despite all that, no one except Miesha Tate -- who for some inexplicable reason insisted on shooting takedowns -- have had any success with Rousey on the feet.
Rousey earned a bronze medal in Judo in the Olympics, and her ability to throw people through the air has transitioned into MMA brilliantly. "Rowdy" adores hip tossing her opponents through the air, though she'll also chain together trips and other throws as necessary.
Generally, Rousey has no trouble throwing her opponents through the air. However, earlier in her career, Rousey did have to switch off from her usual hip throw and build up to other takedowns.
This is only the case when Rousey's opponent remains composed and doesn't give up an immediate takedown. In that situation, Rousey has to work a bit harder and rely on her transitional ability. Chaining together inside and outside trips, Russian arm drags, and other throws, Rousey rarely fails to drag her opponent to the mat.
She simply doesn't stop working until her opponent is on the mat.
However, many of Rousey's opponents essentially give her the takedown. Either by rushing forward in an attempt to land a big punch -- despite not being knockout artists in any way -- or hastily retreating away from the clinch, her opponents are well off-balance in poor position to defend any takedown, yet Rousey has yet to touch her foe. Then, depending on which extreme her opponent is reacting with, Rousey simply chooses a trip or throw that capitalizes on her foe's misplaced momentum.
For example, Miesha Tate is perhaps the second best wrestler to Rousey in their division, and she did a nice job nullifying Rousey's trips and throws in their second fight when she slowed down and defended. However, whenever she committed to charging in, Tate would end up flying through the air.
Since most fighters are absolutely terrified of locking up with the champion, Rousey has rarely had to prove her takedown defense. Again, "Cupcake" Tate is the exception. There were a number of times where Tate looked for a shot, but Rousey defended masterfully with her Judo. Usually, Rousey simply overhooked Tate's arm and tossed her to her back.
In fact, Rousey's use of Judo to counter takedowns, along with Tate's insistence on shooting in, were a big part of her success in the second bout with "Cupcake."
I'd be doing a truly terrible job if I didn't have a detailed section dedicated to Rousey's armbar. Outside of her famous finisher, Rousey has developed the rest of her submission game alongside the highly talented Cesar Gracie team.
There's no accident that Rousey finds herself in position to attack with the armbar so often, as she's always baiting the submission. Her beloved hip toss gives up the far side underhook, which is usually a very bad thing. Against fighters who are not named Rousey, that usually allows the bottom person to scramble into a better position if not reverse entirely.
Simply watch Rousey's fellow "Horsewoman," Jessamyn Duke, give up top position after landing a nice hip toss repeatedly as a good example. This is how the vast majority of grappling exchanges tend to go, as the underhook is normally a tremendous advantage.
However, as I mentioned in the breakdown of Holly Holm, using a deep underhook against Ronda Rousey is a fool's errand, and the quickest way to give up a limb.
Once her opponent begins to rely on the underhook, Rousey will clamp down with an overhook and throw her legs over for the arm. Again, the threat of an armbar is usually a fair trade for top position -- seriously, how often are armbars finished in MMA by people other than Rousey? -- but it's the most dangerous position in the world when facing Rousey.
If Rousey doesn't immediately fall into a position where she can attack the arm, she'll begin working her way towards the mount. Rousey cuts her knee through any type of guard her opponent and then will look to slide into the mount. While doing this, Rousey keeps heavy pressure on her opponents upper body throughout. While it's not the sharpest aspect of her game, Rousey's aggression often allows her to work through her opponent's guard.
While transitioning through dominant positions, it's fairly common for her opponent to give up her back in an attempt to stand or escape the constant ground strikes. Once more, Rousey's raw aggression shines through, as she immediately jumps on her opponent's arm.
Again, most fighters -- male or female -- simply lose top position when trying techniques like this, but Rousey is a master of her craft.
Like all parts of her armbar game, Rousey's approach to breaking the grip is technical and quick. Instead of pulling through the elbow, which is fairly easy to defend even with a strength disadvantage, she wraps her arms around the wrist. The wrist is much weaker than the elbow joint, meaning it's easier to break the grip from there. Plus, the wrist can get twisted on its own and cause pain, which is further incentive to release the grip.
Rather than pulling straight back, she leans to her side, which really allows her to extend her hips and create even more leverage. The most important part is her grip. Rousey threads her outside arm around her opponent's trapped arm and locks it in a rear-naked choke grip, before yanking to the side, which really cranks both the wrist and elbow joint when finished properly.
To use this grip, it's important that the attacking fighter controls her opponent long enough to set it up. Rousey controls her opponent by squeezing her thighs together, gripping her opponent's arm by the tricep/shoulder joint. To increase the pressure, she crosses her ankles, which ensures Rousey has a tight squeeze with her thighs but makes it easier for her opponent to roll up.
Rousey is more than prepared for that situation.
First, Rousey will attempt to simply rip through her opponent's grip with pure force. If that fails, she'll reach under her opponent's opposite leg and spin outside their legs. From there, her opponents cannot stack her up, and she likes to grab their leg and sweep them back to the top position armbar before attempting to break the grip once more. Since she's so excellent with her squeeze, Rousey is unconcerned that her opponent may momentarily roll into top position. She's able to get back to top position easily, and she's willing to go through this cycle until her opponent's grip breaks.
In her most recent battle with Tate, Rousey brought out some non-armbar related jiu-jitsu. After Tate's sole takedown, Rousey pushed Tate's arm through her legs and managed to lock up a triangle. Though Tate's hand position prevented a finish, it didn't stop Rousey from battering Tate within the hold.
Defensively, Rousey appears to be in complete control on the mat. However, as mentioned, she commonly uses Judo throws that give up an underhook when she lands. Usually, that leads to an armbar for "Rowdy," but it can also allow her opponent to escape out the back door. Both Tate and Liz Carmouche managed to secure Rousey's back briefly. Rousey defended without much issue, but it's a risky part of her game, and one that's unlikely to change due to its integral nature.
Best Chance For Success
Rousey's best chance for success will -- 100 percent of the time -- break down like this: Get the clinch, throw opponent through the air, and rip her arm off.
This scrap with Holm is no exception. However, in this bout, a bit of extra focus needs to be applied on the get in the clinch aspect. Holm is a talented boxer with slick footwork who will undoubtedly make it more difficult than most to get a hold on her.
To that end, Rousey needs to do her best to cut off the cage. She has decent power in both her left hook and cross, which is a solid start. If she can use those threats to make circling awkward for Holm, she's well on her way to securing the clinch.
Really, Rousey doesn't even need to do it (cutting off the cage) well, as she only needs to lock a grip on Holm once.
Basically, if Rousey can do something other than the standard face-first charge, she's bound to succeed eventually. Then, Rousey's incredible Judo skill should handle the rest.
Will Ronda Rousey deliver another quick finish, or can Holly Holm resist her grappling and demonstrate her own boxing?