Can Rousey be MMA's poster child?
When Ronda Rousey beat Meisha Tate in March, I was so taken with her performance that I suggested she could end up on pound-for-pound lists alongside the men of MMA. Well, after another stellar effort I see no reason to back away from that.
Most UFC/Strikeforce Wins by Armbar Submission
|*Won by armbar at 0:54 of 1st-round|
This is a special fighter, a terrific athlete, someone with all the intangibles. She's super-competitive. She's mean. She's honest and cocky and everything great fighters should be.
After the Tate fight, I wrote that Rousey is living a Jon Jones situation: "atop the world with a ton of room to improve." That still rings true -- a scary proposition for other women out there. Rousey's competitors need to find an answer for her intensity, her combination of power and speed, and, perhaps most pressing, her ability to dictate the course of action in a fight. Rousey will sit back and relax for no one. She's no counter fighter, but she's also not reckless.
While on some level it feels foolish and premature to gush over a mixed martial artist with only six fights to her name, I'll admit that she does her job so impressively it's difficult to contain myself. She needs help from other women and help from her promoter. If she gets it, Rousey is on course to becoming one of the most recognizable figures in MMA.
Ronda Rousey in a word: perfect. The 25-year-old Strikeforce queen has handled duties of being a champion, of being the heiress apparent to Gina Carano, of all the attention women can muster in MMA, and thrived. She's captivating in and out of the cage. Rousey brings the whole package, making her among the most promotable fighters in Zuffa's stable. Most important among her many qualities is competitiveness. She's brought an edge to her division that is exciting and genuine, and she showed it all in the cage. First by bullying Sarah Kaufman and pulling her sixth armbar win in six pro fights -- then afterward by owning the camera while calling out disgraced 145-pound champion Cris "Cyborg" Santos.
The 32-year-old former Strikeforce middleweight champion made quick work of Derek Brunson, scoring the first clean knockout of his career in just 41 seconds. Ronaldo Souza (16-3) is both talented and dedicated enough that the notion of him rising to the top of the middleweight class some day isn't so crazy. Soon enough, a rematch against Luke Rockhold will come, and that fight should provide plenty of answers about Jacare's future in this sport.
Anthony Smith, 24, is one of these guys that could make an impression later in his career. A bumpy start has been cast aside the last two years, as he's compiled an 8-1 record against a mixed bag of competitors. In defeating Lumumba Sayers on Saturday, Smith (17-8) looked in control, competent and ready to advance to the next stage of his career. At least that's how he sees things. Smith's triangle choke finish of Sayers was perfect, which should boost his confidence.
Resilience and determination. Those traits run deep in Meisha Tate (13-3), and the former Strikeforce bantamweight champion was forced to exhibit both against Julie Kedzie. Tate's win sealed her status as a premiere fighter at 135. She can walk through fire and come out on the other side eating cupcakes, wearing slinky dresses and having a great time at her birthday party. All things considered, even if the bruises are bad and the aches are especially achy, it was a banner evening for this 26-year-old fighter.
Ovince St. Preux
I keep waiting for Ovince St. Preux (12-5) to unveil a breakthrough performance. Even with his vicious third-round knockout of T.J. Cook, St. Preux remains an inconsistent fighter (dangerous in spurts, fatiguing too easily, goes from knowing what he's doing to having little clue). And for that reason the 29-year-old Tennessean is far from making good on his potential in the light heavyweight division. This may come off as nit-picky considering the result, but beating a fighter of Cook's caliber doesn't say much about the state of St. Preux's game other than there's plenty of room for refinement.
The 25-year-old Belgian welterweight won his third straight decision, shutting out Roger Bowling over three rounds. He did so with relative ease, but the performance wasn't overly impressive from what I saw. Tarec Saffiedine is accurate and clinical, yet with each fight he seems less willing to strike to finish. With a limited pool of talent at 170 pounds in Strikeforce, Saffiedine might be set up for a title shot against Nathan Marquardt -- it's not a fight people are clamoring for.
She didn't have a chance. That's how it came off, at least, after Rousey steamrolled Sarah Kaufman (15-2) in less than a minute. The former bantamweight champion is used to being the bully. She's at her best when she's the one calling the shots. But from the opening bell Kaufman was put on the defensive. The 26-year-old Canadian didn't have a suitable answer, and was abused on the floor until she finally tapped. Kaufman's strong, but not nearly as athletic as the likes of Rousey. Despite her youth and seriousness, I have a hard time seeing Kaufman regaining her status so long as Rousey is in the picture.
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