Ronda Rousey is a different kind of athlete; a different kind of fighter.
Seven fights into her professional mixed martial arts career, the 2008 Olympic bronze medal-winning judoka is a perfect 7-0 with seven first-round submission wins, all by way of armbar.
When it was challenger Liz Carmouche, not Rousey, who threatened with to finish the fight with a neck crank in the early stages of the opening round, memories of Gina Carano’s first-round thrashing at the hands of Cristiane (Cyborg) Santos came to mind. After all, Carano was Rousey’s predecessor as the “Face of Women’s MMA,” only to come up short when the spotlight was at its brightest.
But not Rousey.
She endured the neck crank, shook Carmouche from her back, and went back to work, eventually landing in a side headlock (judo side control) where she proceeded to punish the challenger with punches. A scramble eventually ensued; Rousey invariably went for Carmouche’s arm, and despite the latter’s best efforts to defend, the champion still ended up prying away her arm, and the victory.
We have a tendency to downplay greatness in this sport sometimes — to wait until we’re absolutely, positively certain that what we’re seeing is really something special. I don’t think we have to wait any longer in Rousey’s case.
While some have questioned how elite the competition she’s faced truly is, the truth is that Rousey bested champions in her final two Strikeforce appearances, survived a brief scare against Carmouche, and came away with her unblemished record intact — and another arm to add to her collection. Whether you think her level of competition is elite or somewhere south of that, the results and how she achieves them are what show how special Rousey is already.
Saturday night, the finishing set-up was exquisite.
From rolling through and maintaining control when Carmouche tried to escape initially to pulling both arms away to finally secure the armbar in the end, this was a clinical performance on the canvas from Rousey. Even before the finishing sequence, her control and comfort level in judo side control is impressive, considering she’s only been in the cage 10 times between her amateur and pro careers, and has yet to see the second round.
There was no panic when Carmouche had her back early, and she showed poise to gather herself once free before entering back into the fray.
Here’s the thing with the “how” of all these wins too: everyone knows the armbar is coming; it’s the one thing they train for the most, and yet Rousey still catches it. Every. Single. Time.
This isn’t a wrestler grinding out takedowns or a jiu-jitsu ace hitting different submissions over several fights — this is Plan A being executed time and again, even though you know it’s coming. Rousey is currently operating with a finishing move as if she were a professional wrestler, except rather than her opponent being in on the way the bout is going to end, the UFC’s newest superstar champion is simply imposing her will each and every time she steps into the cage.
Rousey hasn’t needed a mulligan yet, and I don’t see her needing one in the future. I know that sounds premature with the unpredictable nature of this sport, but it’s not like Rousey is the only fighter we attach those kinds of expectations on.
Jon Jones appears to be in a similar position right now at light heavyweight; a disqualification loss the only blemish on his record, and no one having really pressed him too much to date. Anderson Silva has been next level at middleweight for some time — and occasionally light heavyweight as well — while Jose Aldo appears to be on that path at featherweight too. The same goes for Georges St-Pierre, post-Matt Serra hiccup.
That’s the company Rousey keeps, and deserves to keep. She’s been as dominant as all of those champions thus far, perhaps even more so on a fight-by-fight basis, and she’s only going to keep getting better. That’s the scary thing.
Less than three years into her career as a mixed martial artist, Rousey is already the undisputed best female fighter on the planet. With every six months of training, she’s going to get that much better — better conditioned, better strength, and better hands. Her arsenal is already formidable thanks to her lethal ground game, but in time, the rest of those elements will round into form as well, and Rousey will present even more challenges for her opponents.
Considering no one has been able to stop the one thing everyone knows is coming so far, I think it’s pretty safe to say that Rousey is already on another level, and there is no real ceiling to how good she could end up being by the time she decides to call it a career.