Ulitmate Fighting and Dana White had lots riding this weekend with their first women’s Pay-Per-View main event. The investment paid off because Saturday night in Anaheim, a major star was born.
It was hard to get away from UFC’s hype machine pushing the Ronda Rousey story in the past two weeks. Between a great “Real Sports” profile on HBO and cover stories on some of the biggest online sports sites, I couldn’t stop keeping tabs on her. When Rousey dismantled her opponent Liz Carmouche before the end of the first round Saturday, she did something rarely seen in today’s world–she managed to exceed the build-up around her.
Rousey’s backstory is so rich that it almost feels like it was created in a sports narrative lab. Her mother was the first American to win a World Judo Championship, and Ronda won a Judo bronze medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics. Her legitimacy as a pedigreed fighter is beyond reproach. That fact is key because Rousey doesn’t come off as a world champion fighter. It’s an unfair double standard to discuss an athlete’s looks, but the UFC is clocking mileage off the blonde, girl-next-door looks Ronda brings to the ring. Even her in ring attire featured a strappy backed top instead of the utilitarian nylon sports bra look sported by her opponent Carmouche. By the time Rousey enters the ring to “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett, her suburban minimally tattooed happy warrior persona is ironclad.
And now we can all afford to spend as much time discussing Rousey’s looks and style because she is just that good in the Octagon. It isn’t uncommon for big-time MMA fighters to have signature moves in the same way that WWE stars do. What is different, however, is that Rousey has finished all of her major fights with her trademark arm bar. UFC fighting at its most basic involves stand up or ground attacks. No one is in the same league as Rousey when it comes to the ground game. Once she clasped Carmouche it was just a matter of time before she stretched out her arm. It’s the equivalent of Hulk Hogan dropping his leg before winning. It’s amazing to watch a fighter so in control of a match that she can use a move everyone knows is coming, and that no one can work around. It makes each of her fights special because we are now waiting for the first female fighter to successfully fight out of a Rousey arm bar. Might be waiting a long time.
Don’t be surprised in a few months when Rousey is sitting next to Kelly Ripa discussing her favorite reality show before she visits the ladies of “The View” to banter about women in the workplace. Rousey is a trump card for UF because she expands the definition of what type of people can claim UFC fanhood. By employing her perfect mix of arm bar and sex appeal she’s broken through. Rousey can claim to be the top female athlete on the planet now, and the best thing about it is that she actually deserves it.