On Friday night, Ronda Rousey returns to pay-per-view. The former UFC bantamweight champion is stepping into the octagon for the first time in over 13 months, hoping to reclaim the title from Amanda Nunes.
The Brazilian champion is a destructive wrecking ball, not that you would know it from the UFC’s pre-fight promotion, which has focused almost exclusively on Rousey. With her mythological invincibility destroyed by Holly Holm in 2015, Rousey is facing her toughest challenge to date.
Only one fighter in UFC history has dominated their division, lost their title in the cage, and come back to win it a second time — Matt Hughes all the way back at UFC 50 in 2004. On top of that, as the UFC have been so quick to point out, Rousey faces a fight against herself. The shift in confidence, doubts not so much creeping in, as forced into Rousey’s conscious by Holly Holm’s left shin.
Then there is Nunes, who has been disappointingly overlooked both as a threat, and as a fighter of the year contender — should she defeat Rousey — in the build up to the pay-per-view headliner. The champion has next-level ability on the feet, with legitimate fight altering power in her hands. An accomplished grappler capable of submitting even the best fighters in the division. Nunes excels everywhere that Rousey fails, and holds her own everywhere else.
A win for Rousey on December 30 might not be considered by everyone to be the biggest of her career, but if it is achieved it should be. No challenge Rousey has had to overcome thus far stands up against defeating Nunes at UFC 207.
DEVELOPING AT THE HIGHEST LEVEL IS NEVER EASY
Following the loss to Holm at UFC 193, Rousey’s in-cage ability was simplified to the point of caricature. Lambasted for her lack of striking fundamentals by anyone who had time to discuss her performance, Rousey was labelled a one-trick, armbar wielding pony. As our lead fight-analyst Dan Tom points out, that doesn’t tell the whole story.
“What is unique about the narrative of Ronda Rousey’s striking following her Holly Holm loss, is that her criticisms have been somewhat unfair, yet they’re not necessarily inaccurate. Although it may be easy to point to her fundamental shortcomings striking, these issues have been apparent for Ronda since she started her professional career.
That said, we were not concerned with that aspect as we were told that this was the 2nd-coming of Tyson. And just as there are no biological free rides in life, there are no stylistic free rides in MMA as we laid witness to at UFC 193 last year. We saw the same aggressive fighter with a focus that was straight forward, however, this time she would pay for her upright head and posture as she came in swinging.
Now, in hindsight, it is not hard to find clips or gifs of Rousey that should have served as tells to potential disasters ahead. But that is the power of perspective, especially in a sport that is inherently fickle by nature. The truth is, Rousey has shown tangible improvements from fight-to-fight since entering the UFC. Even though these improvements to her clinch striking and boxing may not be the most potent or promising, they are particularly impressive when you consider that she had to develop these skills at the highest available level.
Rare then, and especially rare now, there are very few fighters who have found themselves having to do the bulk of their developing under the UFC spotlight. Although there have been a successful few such as Matt Mitrione or Amir Sadollah, none have had the success of Ronda Rousey as I feel her potential to improve should not be overlooked for UFC 207.”
That improvement from outstanding judoka, to best-in-the-world mixed martial artist is something Rousey’s detractors rarely acknowledge.
There once was a time where we assumed Rousey would win any fight. Holm changed that, but what gets lost in the shift in reasoning is that Rousey still can win any fight. Time has altered perception, as has the stunning image of Holm dropping Rousey with that headkick when barely anyone had given her a chance of winning. If you were to ask most people at this point, what happened when she stepped into the cage against Holly Holm was a one-sided beating.
Except that only tells a part of the story. Rousey did take Holm down in the first round, and who knows what would have happened if she had secured position before aggressively working for an armbar which Holm was able to escape. Rousey also connected with power later in the first round, forcing Holm to lose her legs for the briefest of moments. What if Rousey had stepped anywhere but forward into a takedown that gave Holm the time she needed to regain her composure. What if.
THE WEEK ROUSEY’s WORLD CAME CRASHING DOWN AROUND HER
Fight News Australia’s Emma Challands was in Melbourne, Australia throughout fight week. A passionate, unapologetic Rousey fan, Challands recounts the week that led us to this point. Where we now wonder what the next chapter in Rousey’s MMA story will bring.
“Fight Week for UFC 193 was like nothing I had ever experienced before. Melbourne is considered to be one of the sporting capitals of the world, and despite having never hosted a UFC event before, fans turned out in droves to get a glimpse of Ronda Rousey at every available opportunity. And she did not disappoint – signing autographs and taking photos with people for hours, well after she was expected to.
It created a buzz and energy around the city that rolled into Fight Night like a tidal wave. Would Rousey continue her reign over the bantamweight division or would she finally meet her match in Holly Holm?
Etihad Stadium was filled to the brim on November 15 – breaking every record in the book. People came from all over the country and overseas to be a part of UFC history. Men, women and children were decked out head-to-toe in Rousey merchandise. If there were other fighters on the card it was an afterthought. That day was all about her.
When the main event finally hit the Octagon the stadium erupted. It was the moment we had all been waiting for. Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” filtered through the speakers and the crowd went berserk. I remember in that moment, sitting cage side, feeling equal amounts of excitement and nerves. This was my favourite fighter in the world, in my hometown and just weeks earlier I had written about how the distractions she was facing outside of the cage, and the formidable opponent in Holly Holm, might very well be her undoing.
I wanted to be wrong so badly.
After the first round I knew I was right.
Watching Rousey that day…I will never forget it. It was upsetting to say the least. Where was the cool, calm, calculated fighter I was so used to seeing? She had been replaced with a woman chasing down her opponent, swinging wildly and with reckless abandon – completely on autopilot. The empire was crumbling right before my eyes.
I felt sick to my stomach when that head kick connected. I had tears in my eyes sitting there as the crowd stared in disbelief and then rejoiced at having witnessed one of the biggest upsets in the history of mixed martial arts. How quickly people turn. How quickly they forget the tireless efforts of a woman who put MMA on the map. And I’m not talking about women’s MMA.
Before Conor McGregor there was Ronda Rousey. She didn’t open the door for him and other athletes to get mainstream exposure, more money, endorsements – you name it – she kicked it down. Because of her there is a path well paved to the top.
It’s been more than 12 months since that fateful day and plenty has transpired. The belt itself has changed hands three times – first to Holm, then to Miesha Tate before resting with the current champ in Amanda Nunes. But regardless the talk of Rousey’s return and her legacy has never waned. There’s not a week that goes by without her name being mentioned.
For me, UFC207 is the first step in the closing of one of the greatest chapters in MMA history. Will Rousey retire undefeated in the literal sense? No. But she has the opportunity to write an even better story now. She gets to prove the haters wrong. She gets to prove her fans, her family, her friends…herself right. That she is the greatest fighter in the world and that a single loss can’t change that.
Ronda Rousey is the reason I fell in love with this sport. I didn’t even know women’s MMA existed before her. She created a narrative that captivated me from the moment I saw her step inside the Strikeforce cage and slap an armbar on Miesha Tate. I became obsessed and I’ve never looked back.
As for everyone else? Well, it’s often said that we don’t appreciate what we’ve got until it’s gone. I feel that may just be the case with Ronda Rousey.”
And gone Rousey will be. The fighter has made it clear many times that she has no more than a few fights left. There are those who think this next one could even be her last.
Such was the paradigm shift following Rousey’s loss to Holm, that the incredible, unbelievable things she achieved before losing her title became fading memories. Victor Vargas of MMA Wreckage and the MMA UK Podcast, was there on one of those special nights. In February 2015, Rousey took only 14 seconds to submit Cat Zingano, who was widely considered to be the strongest threat to Rousey’s dominance at the time.
A REMINDER OF WHAT ROUSEY IS REALLY CAPABLE OF
That night, and what has transpired since, led Vargas to question public perception of Rousey, and the bantamweight division as a whole.
“Injuries plagued UFC 184 and people wrote it off as a failure, even starting a #BoycottUFC184 hashtag on Twitter, but despite all the negative press, this was the moment where Rousey proved she was a draw all on her own.
Very little name value and a co-headliner between a debuting Holly Holm and .500 TUF alum Raquel Pennington weren’t ingredients that were prime for a sell out or a pay-per-view blockbuster. Yet, the Staples Center was sold out and UFC 184 got over half a million pay-per-view buys.
A thunderous roar accompanied by equal exclamations of “What the fuck?!” rattled Staples when Ronda stood up skipping around the Octagon after her 14 second armbar victory. Possibly the loudest crowd reaction I may have ever heard in my life and I’ve been to many concerts.
Skip forward nine months and Rousey did not possess the same pep in her step when walking out of the tunnels of the Etihad Stadium. The track was the same, the walk was the same, the signature black shorts and top were the same but something was amiss. Holly Holm, the same woman who narrowly escaped a split decision loss to Raquel Pennington at UFC 184, would challenge Rousey and knock her into LaLa Land via spectacular head kick. UFC 193 was a historic event but for me, a guy who saw both women compete earlier in the year to extreme varying degrees of success, it was unbelievable.
The division went haywire since Rousey lost and some of the casual public believes that this is evidence that Rousey’s hiccup proves that these other girls “don’t have what it takes” to be champion as the Olympian once famously said. The truth is, female bantamweights have upped their game significantly in the past few years and Rousey has been on the sidelines recovering from a severe concussion, but also remaining stagnant. Edmond Taverdyan, Rousey’s head coach may never get a break, but thus far he has shown nothing to excuse himself of the criticisms
There is no substantial evidence that Taverdyan is capable enough to improve Rousey’s weaknesses. Rousey fans feel more confident in a Nunes showdown because the Brazilian is more aggressive and not as counter oriented or as mobile as Holm, the problem with this notion is that this is ignoring a huge element of the fight; Nunes is still a much better striker than Rousey.
Can she throw a head kick as effortlessly as Holm? No. Are her counters as sharp? Not even close. However, Nunes is powerful and the strikes she throws are thrown with bad intent and sound technique. The gassing issue for Nunes shouldn’t matter here because both women employ a sprinting style that makes it difficult to keep up a pace and will most likely not require 25 minutes anyway.
Rousey will step into a zone and mindset that she hasn’t had to in almost a decade, having not lost a match since her departure from the Olympic games. She lost her opportunity to win gold in Beijing in 2008. A bronze medal is nothing to sneeze at and it is a nice consolation prize; but this isn’t the Olympics. There are no medals, no participation ribbons, there is one belt, it is all or nothing. If Ronda Jean Rousey is intent on reclaiming glory, that needs to be her approach. Do or die, go all in and hope “The Lioness” succumbs.
It’s not unlikely that Rousey can reclaim her spot with a quick armbar finish, it’s also possible that she might be timid or her own aggression can play against her, in which case Nunes will pick her to pieces and leave some scars for Rousey to look at every day she looks in the mirror. Given the factors surrounding both athletes, I side with Nunes. She’s better schooled, more explosive and seems to be brimming with the confidence a champion should possess.”
DECEMBER 30, ROUSEY FILLS IN ALL THE BLANKS
That is what makes this fight so intriguing. The two most likely outcomes are clearly set, whether Rousey is able to recapture what she once had with another stunning armbar finish, or Nunes breaks her opponent’s face with the sort of force we saw unleashed on Sara McMann and Miesha Tate in the past, picking any sort of winner here involves a lot of guesswork and filling in of blank spaces.
As Paarth Pande, a staff writer of Pro MMA Now and contributor at Cage Pages, pointed out when I asked him recently, this is a return that will answer all the questions and tell us everything we want to know.
“Ronda’s return is just way more than her fighting for the UFC belt, she fights for her legacy, her sayings, her fans and much more. On December 30, Ronda will actually go through the toughest test of her career, not only because she meets an almost unbeatable champion, but because for the first time she will fight a battle both in her head and in the cage.
For the first time she will get in as a challenger who faces the Queen, and most importantly she will enter the cage knowing that this is arguably her first and last chance for redemption. At UFC 207 we can either see the strongest version of Ronda Rousey who is ready to claim the throne, or the weakest version of Ronda Rousey who has lost a battle inside her head. And that will determine her future journey with the sport.”
Stephen Thompson wants Rafael dos Anjos in contender eliminator bout
Over the weekend, Rafael dos Anjos defeated Robbie Lawler at UFC Fight Night: Winnipeg, in dominant fashion via unanimous decision. The main event of the Canadian event was Dos Anjos’ third victory in as many fights at welterweight. The former UFC lightweight champion moved up in weight after suffering two consecutive losses. First, relinquishing his championship title to Eddie Alvarez, then falling to current interim lightweight champion, Tony Ferguson. Although the Brazilian had fought at the 155-pound weight limit exclusively in his career, his weight cut in order to reach the lightweight limit is admittedly brutal.
When talking with FloCombat, the top welterweight contender claimed, “It is not worth it [the weight cut] considering the amount I’m earning today. This was one of my motivations to change to welterweight. I don’t need to kill myself and earn this salary.” He further explained the agony of making the weight limit, “I want to avoid those last 15 pounds. That is terror and panic. It’s almost death. I don’t need to face that anymore. I want to fight well and happy, get in there strong and in good shape”.
Now that Dos Anjos has arrived at welterweight with such success, he believes he deserves a shot at Tyron Woodley and the 170-pound belt.
Am'I the only one that thinks that this fight should be for a interim title? Since the champ is out until next year?
— Rafael dos Anjos (@RdosAnjosMMA) October 12, 2017
This is a sentiment that UFC president Dana White seems to agree with. At the Toronto press conference, White fielded a question on whether or not the winner of the Lawler vs. Dos Anjos match-up would yield a title contender, “Yup,” he responded. Later in the press event, White further clarified Dos Anjos’ position in the welterweight ranks, “(RDA) just had a great win to get himself back into contention and a win over Robbie Lawler obviously would do it”.
Yet, another top-ranked welterweight does not agree. Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson wants a third crack at welterweight gold, and he believes Dos Anjos is his ticket back to title contention.
That was a WAR! Hats off to both RDA and Robbie for that effort! I can be back in the Octagon this March. @RdosAnjosMMA , let’s give the fans another treat. We both want gold, it’s only fitting we battle for it! @ufc #UFCWinnipeg @danawhite
— Stephen Thompson (@WonderboyMMA) December 17, 2017
What makes this challenge intriguing? The status of current welterweight champion, Tyron Woodley. Last week, Woodley announced on his TMZ show, The Hollywood Beatdown, he would be having surgery. The champion stated, “I’m going to go ahead and get this shoulder repaired. I’ve been saying, ‘You know what, I don’t want to get it cut on, I don’t want to get it repaired.’ But if there’s no fight that really makes a ton of sense for me to take the risk, to not be 100 percent with my shoulder, then I’m going to go ahead and have it repaired. They’re not going to do a full orthopedic rehabilitation, but they’re going to do a scope and they’re going to anchor down some sides. Then I’m going to get some PRP (platelet-rich plasma), some stem cells.” A timetable for his return is not readily available.
As the division stands, the truly deserving of the next welterweight title shot would be either Thompson or Dos Anjos. The recent credentials of both garner such status. Thompson most recently defeated rising contender, Jorge Masvidal at UFC 217. Before his early November victory over Masvidal, the undefeated kick-boxer challenged for the belt twice, consecutively. While he was unsuccessful in both attempts to earn the belt, each fight was extremely close. The first of which, scored a majority draw.
*Live Updates* UFC Winnipeg Official Results
The UFC returns to Canada for the final Fight Night card of 2017. In the cold of Winnipeg, Manitoba, the UFC will host eleven of the originally twelve scheduled fights. Unfortunately, Tim Elliot will not fight in the north country. His scheduled opponent, Pietro Menga, a newcomer to the promotions roster, failed to make weight after taking the bout with just over a weeks notice.
An exciting main card will be capped off with a potential contender eliminator bout featuring, Robbie Lawler and Rafael Dos Anjos. The former champions (Lawler at welterweight, Dos Anjos at lightweight) both put together impressive win streaks which dispatched top contenders in their respective divisions. Elsewhere on the main card, Santiago Ponzinibbio takes on the outspoken Mike Perry.
The card begins on UFC Fight Pass at 4:30/1:30 ETPT.
UFC Winnipeg Official Results:
MAIN CARD – FOX – 8PM/5PM ETPT
- #2 Robbie Lawler (28-11) vs. #4 Rafael Dos Anjos (27-9) – Welterweight bout
- Result: Rafael Dos Anjos def. Robbie Lawler via unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 50-45)
- #3 Ricardo Lamas (18-5) vs. Josh Emmett (12-1) – Catchweight bout (148.5 lbs)
- Result: Josh Emmett def. Ricardo Lamas via KO (punch) 4:33 round 1
- #10 Santiago Ponzinibbio (25-3) vs. Mike Perry (11-1) – Welterweight bout
- Result: Santiago Ponzinibbio def. Mike Perry via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- #3 Glover Teixeira (26-6) vs. #7 Misha Cirkunov (13-3) – Light Heavyweight bout
- Result: Glover Teixeira def. Misha Cirkunov via TKO (punches) 2:45 round 1
PRELIMINARY CARD – FS1 – 5PM/2PM ETPT
- #14 Jared Cannonier (10-2) vs #15 Jan Blachowicz (20-7) – Light Heavyweight bout
- Result: Jan Blachowicz def. Jared Cannonier via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Julian Marquez (6-1) vs. Darren Stewart (7-2) – Middleweight bout
- Result: Julian Marquez def. Darren Stewart via submission (standing guillotine) 2:42 round 2
- Chad Laprise (13-2) vs. Galore Bofando (5-2) – Welterweight bout
- Result: Chad Laprise def. Galore Bofando via TKO (punches) 4:10 round 1
- Nordine Taleb (13-4) vs Danny Roberts (14-2) – Welterweight bout
- Result: Nordine Taleb def. Danny Roberts via KO (head kick and punch) :59 round 1
- John Makdessi (14-6) vs Abel Trujillo (15-7) – Lightweight bout
- Result: John Makdessi def. Abel Trujillo via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Alessio Di Chirico (10-2) vs Oluwale Bamgbose (6-3) – Middleweight bout
- Result: Alessio Di Chirico def. Oluwale Bamgbose via KO (knee) 2:14 round 2
EARLY PRELIMINARY CARD – UFC FIGHT PASS – 4:30PM/1:30PM ETPT
- Jordan Mein (29-12) vs. Erick Silva (19-8) – Welterweight bout
- Result: Jordan Mein def. Erick Silva via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-26)
Gilbert Burns vs. Olivier Aubin-Mercier Added to UFC Orlando
The UFC has now added more bouts to the front end of their 2018 schedule. Gilbert Burns (13-2, 5-2 UFC) will face Olivier Aubin-Mercier (10-2, 6-2 UFC) in Orlando, Florida on February 24th, 2018.
— UFC Canada (@UFC_CA) December 14, 2017
Alongside a few other high-profile fight announcements, is the addition to the UFC Orlando, Florida card. The two lightweights will join Jake Collier and Marcin Prachnio, as the second fight set for the event.
It has been a while since the UFC hosted an event in the state of Florida. Last seen by the Floridians was UFC on Fox: Texeira vs. Evans, on April 16, 2016 in Tampa Bay. The card was a success, despite the cancellation of its planned main event between Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov. Drawing a gate of $1.05 million and 2.13 million viewers.
Gilbert Burns signed with the UFC after accumulating an undefeated record of 8-0. His first loss came in his home country of Brazil, as Rashid Magomedov defeated him via unanimous decision at UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Henderson 3, in November of 2015.
In his most recent bout, Burns defeated Jason Saggo by KO with five seconds remaining in the second round at UFC Fight Night: Rockhold vs. Branch.
Aubin-Mercier will come into the contest as a winner in his last three bouts. The Canadian fighter trains out of the Tristar gym, alongside legends such as Georges St. Pierre and head coach, Firas Zahabi.
In 2011, Aubin-Mercier was chosen to compete on The Ultimate Fighter: Nations. Competing in the welterweight bracket, he became a finalist by defeating both, Jake Mathews (unanimous decision) and Richard Walsh (rear naked choke). In the finale, Aubin-Mercier lost to Chad Laprise by split decision.
UFC Orlando will take place at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida on February 24th, 2018.
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