If you told me 10 years ago I would be watching more of the UFC than the NBA or PBA, then I’d say you were crazy. If you told me 5 years ago the biggest star in Mixed Martial arts’ most prestigious league would be a woman, I’d also say you were crazy. But incredibly, I’m wrong on both counts. Barriers continue to be broken and could no longer be ignored…by the world. The lofty proclamation that MMA is the fastest growing sport was never an exaggeration.
NO sportswriter or pundit could anticipate how mixed martial arts have grown by leaps and bounds in the last several years. With Ronda Rousey’s win over Sara McMann last weekend Mandalay Bay Events Center (Feb 23, 2014 Mla Time) she has cemented her status as the UFC’s biggest star. Its not just marking up another ‘W’ but more of how she wins inside the cage. Rousey has also become a movie star having completed 2 blockbusters: EXPENDABLES 3 set for August 2014 release, FAST & THE FURIOUS 7 for release on April 2015.
UFC legend Randy Couture will be back and has already been in 2 previous sequels of the Expendables along with original members Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Action star icons such as Wesley Snipes, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford along with Antonio Banderas and Kelsey Grammer will also be in EXPENDABLES 3.
More than just acting gigs and magazine covers there are other factors that lead to the ‘biggest star’ title for Rousey. Long time MMA writer Jeremy Botter of Bleacher Report attributed this to recent developments. Two of the longest reigning champions in Georges St Pierre and Anderson Silva ended their dominance the past year. Silva was UFC middleweight champ for almost 8 years until Chris Weidman knocked him out.
GSP ruled the welterweight division just as long but retired after a controversial decision win over Johnny ‘Big Rig’ Hendricks. Hendricks vs Robbie Lawler will earn the vacated welterweight title on March 16 (Mla Time). Both have one punch KO power, so it’s going to be an explosive match up. Lawler is compared to a young Mike Tyson.
For a lot of sports, it’s the personalities that garner fans in the millions. Boxing was big in the Philippines way before Manny Pacquiao. We’ve had SO many champions like Pancho Villa, Gabriel Flash Elorde, Rolando Navarete, Dodie Peñalosa, Luisito Espinosa. But no one has captured the imagination of Filipinos the way that Pacquiao has. He’s already in training camp for his fight against Tim Bradley on April of this year.
Ronda Rousey is one such personality. When she won the STRIKEFORCE championship against Miesha Tate and later on defended it against Sarah Kaufmann, UFC President Dana White finally took notice. White initially vowed to exclude women in the UFC, but that was before meeting the charismatic champion. The decision proved to be a windfall. Every one of Rousey’s fights has been a huge hit ever since her first title defense against Liz ‘Girlrilla’ Carmouche and the much-anticipated rematch with Miesha Tate. Ryan McKinnel of the Examiner compares Ronda’s arm bar as a ‘fatality move’ in Mortal Kombat video game where opponents are helpless in stopping it.
Rousey has had consecutive 1st round submissions (due to arm bar) of all her opponents except against Tate, which lasted until the 2nd round (also ended in an arm bar). Neither Anderson Silva nor GSP could boast of similar consecutive 1st round finishes.
Sara McMann was touted to be a worthy challenge for Rousey. It was the first time that 2 Olympic medalists would meet in the octagon. McMann was a silver medalist for wrestling in the Athens Olympics in 2004. Ronda got a bronze medal in Beijing 2008. Rousey was the first American to win two gold medals at the Junior World Championships also for Judo.
Since both were adept at the takedowns, experts predicted that the ground game might cancel each other out and lead to a stand up battle. That was essentially what happened, a furious exchange of punches in the opening of round 1.
Sara was able to throw some blows to the head of the champion. If Ronda got hurt she didn’t show it but she did get hit. Ronda however was also quick to get into the clinch and force her up the cage. This was crucial because the clinch position allowed Ronda to land knees and elbows.
In the slow motion replays the total number of knees landed on the abdomen and liver was at least 4. By the 4th knee Sara just collapsed. And when she was on the ground that was when Ronda started raining punches on her face. This was enough for Referee Herb Dean to stop the fight- (66 second mark of the 1st rd).
For those who believe that it was a premature stoppage, they couldn’t be more wrong. Do they want Sara to get punched even more on the ground? That doesn’t make any sense. Dean saved her from needless punishment. When Rogan interviewed Sara she gave the best explanation, “its not like I can strengthen my liver.”
The win also proved that Rousey is not one-dimensional. The arm bar finishes have caused critics to claim that she could not win any other way. Rousey has shown that she has a variety of striking skills not least of which are her knees.
IF there’s anything that the UFC can improve on it is the salary of Ronda Rousey. In spite of being the main card, Rousey earned less ($110,000) than co-main event fighter Daniel Cormier ($160,000). Of course Pay per view shares, endorsements and other bonuses may or may not have Rousey earning more.
Even then there’s a stark discrepancy in paychecks. If Dana White sincerely believes that Ronda Rousey is the ‘biggest star’ of the UFC’s 20-year history as he himself said why can’t he give her the salary a champion deserves? Anderson Silva ($600,000) and GSP ($400,000) both had bigger pay checks as champions in their division, is Rousey any less of a champion? Not even half of a champion’s paycheck?