I had never been worried about Ronda Rousey until the Cat Zingano fight. Zingano was the most devestating and powerful striker Rousey had yet faced, but even more than physically I was worried about how Rousey would handle her opponent mentally. While the tragedy of Zingano’s husband and father of her young son committing suicide last year was explored in the pre-fight buld-up, what was never mentioned, likely at Rousey’s request, was her own father committing suicide when she was only eight. Rousey’s the most intimidating female fighter on the planet, one of the most fearsome in history of any gender, but how would she maintain that killer instinct when she looks out in the front row and sees Zingano’s son, fatherless as she was at that age? Not to mention how would she handle the Alpha Cat’s brutal clinch and Muay Thai game?
And then she tapped Zingano in fourteen seconds.
Zingano made a fatal error: she rushed the champion. For weeks, Zingano had been hearing about what a slow starter she is, and she is, and how detrimental it could be against Rousey, and it could. In an attempt to buck conventional wisdom, at the start of the bout Zingano immediately dashed across the octagon and grappled with Rousey. Rousey side-stepped to her left, later she said she had anticipated such a surprise strategy and wanted to catch the on-coming Zingano with a check left hook, but Zingano was immediately on top of her. As they wrestled to the ground, Rousey twice manipulated her legs in mid-air to skillfully gain top position and Zingano’s back moments into the fight. As soon as Ronda got her back, I said, “Uh oh.” Sure enough, Rousey snapped an armbar from an angle I had never even seen before and forced the tap. The blazing battle ended as abruptly as it had begun. Afterwards, Rousey explained that she had been working on that particular armbar in training, though not from that angle, but she improvised. Zingano colorfully explained her disappointment, dropping a string of F-bombs and praising Rousey, while expresing her desire for a re-match on the spot.
There’s been a lot of talk comparing Rousey and Mike Tyson in terms of the rapid and devastating fashion they dismantle opponents, but it’s not entirely accurate. Tyson had the most freakish combination of handspeed and power in history, and was as ferocious and fast a starter as the sport has ever known. Rousey is a supremely athletically-gifted judo expert with the best armbar in the business. Both quickly overwhelm opponents, but Tyson knocked people out whereas Rousey usually throws and submits them. The most striking similarity between the two fighters is actually the way they come to the ring.
Not since Tyson have I seen a fighter with a more intimidating ring-walk. If you’ve only seen Rousey in interviews, you would absolutely not recognize the crazed lioness that emerges from the dressing room every fight. The transformation is shocking. The beautiful smiling girl with the bubbly personality suddenly disappears so completely you forget she was ever there in the first place. Her eyes blaze, her entire face gets tightly locked in a frightening scowl. She looks ready to leap on her opponent before the bell. Like Tyson she never touches gloves before a fight. She’s not there for sportsmanship, she’s there to hurt somebody.
There’s been some news the last few days about Rousey stating her lack of willingness to fight a man. I don’t see what the controversy is. In a strict grappling match, I believe Rousey could take half the UFC roster, regardless of weight class. In an MMA bout however, the gender difference is far more striking because of just that—striking. If Rousey fought the male 135-lb champ T.J. Dillashaw, it would be the end of the sport forever because it would be a savage massacre. Everything Dillashaw would land, from a leg kick to a jab, would be the hardest such strike Rousey had ever taken. Conversely, Rousey would be hard-pressed to hurt Dillashaw with a punch, and with her unstoppable Judo base, I’ve never even seen her attempt a kick. Add the insane speed and athleticism advantage and it becomes ridiculous. Dillashaw moves around the cage like a waterbug; he throws a head kick off the one-two in an instant, and from either side. He could get off three and four shots before Ronda could get off one, and they’d all be the hardest blows she would have yet taken. Who wants to see that?
Newsflash shmucks, we’re mammals. The male is always going to be physically superior. Would Ronda clean out an entire bar filled with you and every guy you know, yes. Is she tougher than any guy on the planet, no. Christ, UFC heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez has literally a hundred pounds on her, and he’s not even considered big for the division. Let’s take it down a notch with the feminist hysteria. That’s another reason to love Rousey: she’s not a bull-shitter. She’s helping the world understand female athletics in a very unique way. When she says she’ll throw Floyd Mayweather on his head and submit him she’s being honest, and believe me in MMA she would. But when she says for example transgender MMA fighter Fallon Fox shouldn’t fight women because she has an unfair physiological advantage, she’s being honest too. Rousey doesn’t pretend that she can beat up the every guy in the world because she can’t.
And she doesn’t have to. Before we hyperbolize that Rousey should have to fight men because she’s so dominant against her own gender, first she needs to fight Cris Cyborg. Until then, Rousey’s claim as the Baddest Woman on the Planet still has at least one boisterous objection.