Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) bantamweights Ronda Rousey and Cat Zingano will scrap over the right to carry the women's 135-pound title TONIGHT (Feb. 28, 2015) in the main event of UFC 184 inside Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.
Rousey has torn apart each opponent willing to step into the cage. Originally, she simply snapped the arms of each woman opposite her, but now she's also knocking them out within two minutes.
Therefore, Zingano has quite a task ahead of her. Luckily, she's well-prepared to endure some tough times early, as she showed in comeback victories over Miesha Tate and Amanda Nunes.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for each woman:
Key Wins: Miesha Tate (UFC 168, Strikeforce: Tate vs Rousey), Sara McMann (UFC 170), Alexis Davis (UFC 175)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Rousey earned a bronze medal in Judo in 2008, and both the takedown and submission skills of that art have transitioned into the cage wonderfully. In addition, she's clearly been putting in the hours hitting mitts, as her boxing skills are constantly improving.
Another invaluable skill Rousey possesses is her relentless aggression. The undefeated champion never lets up, which is why she's finished each and every one of her opponents. Rousey immediately starts the fight with her mind focused on securing the finish, and she maintains that mentality until she achieves it.
It's important in this bout that Rousey doesn't look to showcase her boxing against Zingano. It's risky and unnecessary; Rousey's focus should be on disposing of Zingano as quickly as possible.
Which leaves her arm bar assault.
Rather than bum-rush her opponent into the clinch and impose her will -- which is always an option -- Rousey should instead allow Zingano to lead. Zingano commonly takes long steps as she punches, which would leave her off-balance in Rousey slips a punch and grabs the clinch.
From there, it's elementary. If Zingano doesn't start in great position, she's almost certain to end up on her back. Then, Rousey attack the arm and secure yet another title defense.
Key Wins: Miesha Tate (TUF 17 Finale), Amanda Nunes (UFC 178), Raquel Pennington (Invicta FC 3)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Like her opponent, Zingano has a penchant for finishing fights. She's finished five of her opponents via knockout and submitted another three, allowing just one to make to the scorecards.
However, Zingano has not been quite as dominant in those victories. In fact, she has a reputation for toughness and grit, as she's comeback from rough starts in her last to bouts to secure victory late.
Zingano also has another trait that separates her from most of the division: excellent conditioning. As she proved in consecutive third round finishes, Zingano can continuously pore on heavy strikes deep into the fight.
In order to defeat Rousey, Zingano needs to be doing damage whenever possible. It's very unlikely that she scores an early first round knockout, but if Zingano can whether bad positions and land heavy shots when opportunities present themselves, it will build up.
If Rousey wants the fight in the clinch, it's going to end up there one way or another. Instead of attempting to flee the clinch at all costs -- which would just lead to her getting tripped anyway -- Zingano should look to punish Rousey as she closes the distance and then batter her with knees and elbows while inside the clinch.
It may sound risky, but there's no way for Zingano to fight conservatively and win. She needs to damage whenever possible, which will not only slow Rousey down over time, but if she's throwing lots of heat, it's more likely that Zingano can connect with something that hurts the champion.
Bottom Line: Zingano is seen as one of the last remaining threats to Rousey's title, and this match is two years in the making.
At this point, it's basically expected that "Rowdy" will smash her opponent in quick and violent fashion. If Rousey goes out and demolishes Zingano like her last 10 opponents, then the biggest problem she'll be facing is a general lack of contenders.
It would be fairly shocking to see Rousey lose. Not only would Rousey's grip on the division be taken from here, but she also might lose some confidence. Regardless, it would result in a marquee rematch before long.
In the minds of both the majority of fans and the odds makers, Zingano is expected to lose. That's not the worst thing in the world, as it leaves Zingano with very little pressure weighing her down. She can go into the Octagon with the sole purpose of performing her best.
Should Zingano pull off the victory here, it would be monumental for both the division and Zingano's legacy. It doesn't matter what happens for the rest of her career, Zingano would be remembered as the woman who overcame odds and adversity to dethrone Ronda Rousey.
At UFC 184, Ronda Rousey will aim to defend her belt from the hands, elbows, and knees of Cat ZIngano. Which woman will leave the Octagon strapped with gold?