Ronda Rousey the Destroyer – and Why We Should Watch Her at UFC 193
Ronda Rousey has become a really big deal, and there are a lot of reasons why. But for serious Mixed Martial Arts fans who have watched the sport grow from its sloppy, circus-like infancy, they see that Rousey has delivered the type of combative dominance rarely seen in modern MMA.
Not since Royce Gracie first shocked UFC fans by submitting one larger and more fearsome opponent after another has such an unsuspecting physical specimen belied such dangerous weapons. And over 20 years since UFC 1, this time around a much wider audience is prepared to see what a dominant fighter looks like against vulnerable prey. This weekend the largest live audience in UFC history, with an estimated attendance of over 53,000 fans in Melbourne Australia, will watch (and try not to blink) to see what a dominant fighter really looks like. Cagefighting records will likely be set, extended, and/or broken once again, all by a woman nearly unheard of in the sport just a few years ago.
Rousey has already generated massive ratings (and returns) for the UFC, and it’s not because of highly competitive matchups or razor thin outcomes. In fact, Rousey is the current record holder for biggest betting favorite in UFC history. And despite what bookmakers think are “squash matches” where Rousey is overwhelmingly the expected winner, she’s still drawing huge enormous crowds, thanks in part to her ferocious competitive nature.
So how dangerous is she? She’s literally the most efficient destroyer of opponents in UFC history, and it’s not even close. In MMA, finishing a fighter via strikes or submission is the ultimate demonstration of imposing your will over your opponent, compared to earning a victory by squeaking out a tossup decision on the judges’ cards. In the history of the UFC, no one has been better at winning and finishing opponents than Ronda Rousey.
Out of the top 25 most efficient winners on the list above it’s worth noting that nine of them are Heavyweights, the largest and most powerful fighters in the UFC, who as a rule are all capable of one-punch knockout power. Many of the names on the list are former champions or current contenders, and generally the list is over-represented in the higher weight classes. But the smallest fighter on the list, weighing in at just 135 pounds, and also the only woman, is the name at the very top. Ronda Rousey has defeated her six UFC opponents by submission or strikes in less than 18 total minutes of fight time. And again, second place isn’t even close.
Yet, despite Rousey’s dominance, she’ll be stepping into the cage against a fighter with credentials that she’s never faced before in former champion boxer Holly Holm. Holm’s long-range striking game has transitioned to an undefeated MMA record, and she represents the biggest stylistic mismatch that Rousey has ever competed against in the Octagon. It’s not that Rousey’s striking game is bad, it’s just very different, and not well suited to a highly technical boxer.
Rousey has actually been both accurate and powerful in her standup strikes to date, while the Southpaw Holm has demonstrated a high-paced attack utilizing multi-pinch combinations that are often punctuated with a high-kick (partially responsible for her lower accuracy). Rousey’s offensive metrics confirm that she’s a threat when attacking, but what’s not shown above is that her striking defense is poor to date, while Holm’s is excellent. That means on a per-exchange basis, it’s likely Holm who will finding her target more often, putting Rousey at real risk for the first time for as long as they remain standing.
Despite Rousey’s progress in power striking, this fight still boils down to a classic grappler-striker matchup. Rousey didn’t reach her elite levels of competition by employing suboptimal game plans, and it’s unlikely she’ll simply engage in a striking war with Holm. So fans will keep a close eye on the distance between the two fighters, because once Rousey closes the range on Holm, this will be an entirely different fight.
It may result in an obvious outcome, but we’re still going to watch!
Raw data is provided by Fight Metric, with analysis by the author of “Fightnomics: the Hidden Numbers and Science in Mixed Martial Arts.”