Former women’s Bantamweight champion, Ronda Rousey, took 13 months away from mixed martial arts (MMA) after her mouth-breaking knockout loss to Holly Holm back in Nov. 2015. The physical pain, though, did not seemingly out-strip the emotional torture, as Rousey later revealed that thoughts of suicide crept into her mind during those dark UFC 193 post-fight days, weeks and months.
Nevertheless, her personal odyssey outside the sport was shrouded in mystery. Of course, she made a few public appearances and even landed a role as spokesperson for Pantene’s “Strong is Beautiful” campaign, among other things. She built up walls, though, big beautiful walls — the most beautiful walls imaginable — and hid behind them with her boyfriend, Travis Browne, and her doting entourage.
Rousey insisted that she wasn’t just sitting around getting pampered in the lead up to her comeback fight against women’s Bantamweight champion, Amanda Nunes, at UFC 207 last night (Dec. 30, 2016) in Las Vegas Nevada. A comeback that was also shrouded in secrecy and frequent social media warnings to #FearTheReturn. Indeed, Rousey was going to do it her way, whether company president Dana White — or the hundreds of others fighters on the roster — liked it or not, because she earned special treatment. That’s hard to argue — Rousey is a trailblazer, a once-in-a-generation fighter who elevated women’s MMA — and UFC’s brand — to soaring (and lucrative) new heights.
Even Nunes was well aware of her significance; however, that didn’t stop the Brazilian from smashing an unprepared Rousey from pillar to post en route to another “devastating” knockout loss that took just 48 brutal seconds to complete. It wasn’t as stunning as her loss to Holm, but it was shocking — and tragic — to watch the Olympic Judo bronze medal winner (Beijing, 2008) — a heretofore unstoppable submission machine — trot out to the center of the Octagon once again, thinking that she is a superior striking specialist.
Not even Nunes could believe it.
“I know she was going to strike with me because her boxing coach [Edmond Tarverdyan] told her she has good striking,” Nunes revealed during UFC 207’s post-fight press conference (watch replay here). “I knew she was going to strike a little bit with me, but when I started to connect with some punches, I knew she would want to start to clinch with me.
“She thinks she’s a boxer,” Nunes continued incredulously. “[Tarverdyan] put this thing in her head to make this girl believe that [she’s a boxer]. I don’t know why he did that — she has great judo and she can go [further] in this division, but he put some crazy thing about her boxing and then her career started going down. I’m the real striker here.”
It’s clear that Tarverdyan must shoulder a lot of the blame for Rousey’s second straight defeat. He can help get her in fantastic shape, be a good friend or cheerleader or whatever, but he continues to try and force a square peg through a round hole. The gameplan should have been to avoid Nunes’ hands at all costs, figure out a semi-safe way to close distance and turn the fight into a grappling match, where her strength and skill could wear down “The Lioness.” Instead, she walked head first into an overhand right because she still lacks head movement despite him pleading (read corner transcript here) with her to do things she’s not good at.
Her former rival, Miesha Tate, broke it down on FOX Sports 1:
“I told you guys, Amanda hits hard. I thought Ronda would know not to sit still on those punches. Amanda has such long range. She’s deceptively long. I thought Ronda looked good and focused going into the fight, but she didn’t move her head. That first jab hit and that was the difference. I had a feeling that would be too much for her. I think there were two things against Ronda. First, the ring rust: she hasn’t fought in over a year. And second, Amanda is just on a roll and is unstoppable now.”
This isn’t rocket science. Of course, it’s a cage fight and things can and will go wrong. Perhaps Rousey was nervous, perhaps she went into full panic mode after absorbing the first shot — perhaps she didn’t even want to be in there in the first place. Regardless, she should have been prepared for all possible scenarios. And she definitely should have worked her ass off during her self-imposed hiatus to go back to what got her to the top of the mountaintop. But, she was too head strong, too superstitious, to make meaningful changes within her camp — even a fresh voice — that would have given her the best chance for success.
Indeed, nothing will change for her inside the Octagon until that time comes ... or the level of competition drops off significantly, which is not happening anytime soon if ever.
“That’s it for her,” Nunes predicted. “For sure, she’s going to retire. She can’t take it anymore. If she wants a rematch, I’m going to do the same thing because she can’t take my punches.”