Ronda Rousey can’t be real. Outside of the cage, nothing about her surprises me. She dates questionable men, she somehow both supports Bernie Sanders and thinks Sandy Hook was a government conspiracy to … I don’t know, I guess get rid of guns. None of these things are unique. There are millions, ok, maybe hundreds of thousands who lead similar lives. Obviously, like most, it’s her in-cage performance that baffles me.
I’ve been watching this sport a long time. A long, long time. And I don’t mean that in a “I liked the band before it was cool to like them way” just more of a, “I remember waiting for VHS – not DVD, but VHS – copies of shows to arrive because you couldn’t get them on PPV” way. I like to think, in my most immodest of ways, that I’ve seen a lot of fighting. From the early brutal (yet kind of boring at times) bareknuckle vale tudo days of Brazil to shows from Russia that couldn’t have been anything more than mob fronts. And yet, Rousey is just a freak.
It isn’t that she’s undefeated – Chris Weidman has that going for him. Or that she has an Olympic pedigree – Matt Lindland of all people had that going for him (ok, lots of fighters have that one). It isn’t even that she’s beating everyone quickly. It’s that she’s tapping people. I can accept a guy who is simply so good with his hands that no one can match his speed and power and so he blitzes them. And I can accept that someone is so good at submissions that they can tap most everyone they face. But Ronda has nine submissions, eight in the first round, six in less than a minute. This just doesn’t happen. Ever.
I come from a BJJ background, which is no secret. Oh, I’m hardly good, but I’ve been around the block. I’ve rolled with literally some of the greatest on earth in both sport BJJ and MMA. They all tap me. With ease. But if I wanted to, really, really wanted to, I could probably avoid a submission for a minute. At the very least, I could make it more than a minute without being submitted at least two or three times out of ten. And I’m a 32 year old lawyer by day, not a trained professional fighter like the women Rousey is submitting.
Yes, she absolutely has some advantages. She’s a world-class athlete and female MMArts hasn’t really seen to many of those (except for Sara McMann, who Ronda KOd with a body shot in 66 seconds). And so physically, she’s simply superior to most of the women she faces. But it isn’t as if Cat Zingano or Sarah Kaufman are glorified amateurs. Zingano had never lost before Rousey and Kaufman was a former world champion who had six years worth of experience when she lost to Rousey in 54 seconds.
Moreover, Rousey comes from a Judo background. Judo is wonderful for impressive throws, but as a general rule hasn’t shown as much crossover success in MMA as wrestling (if for no other reason than Judo without a Gi is essentially Greco-Roman wrestling). And, true, Judo has groundwork and submissions but the technique and skill of your average judoka on the mat is – as a rule – years behind a jiu-jitsu practitioner. (Which isn’t a huge knock on Judo – BJJ guys can’t do throws for shit. Different sports breed different skills is all.) So while I’d expect her to have submissions, what she’s demonstrated is astonishing for a jiu-jitsu ace, let alone a judoka.
It’s the grappler in me though that can’t believe what I see, that says Ronda Rousey can’t be real. Submissions tend to be works of art. You set your opponent up, thinking three or four steps ahead, catching them when they’re off balance or distracted. In other words: they require patience. Every grappler knows this. You try to force things and it can bite you on the ass.
To put this in further perspective, go way, way back to UFC 1. (You’ll see it again this February, at Bellator!) Royce Gracie, as we know, shows up and submits everyone, wowing the world, and showing to the masses what submissions can do. He won eleven times in two years, all by submission. With hindsight we know he was playing with a rigged deck: he knew something that they didn’t. The skinny Brazilian brought a gun to a knife fight. And yet, of those eleven wins, facing people who had never head of jiu-jitsu, who hadn’t trained in real fighting, well, ever, Gracie had one win in under a minute. And in a nice little twist, the only submission he had in under a minute was against Ken Shamrock – the only other guy back then who probably had any clue about how the ground worked!
So, if Royce Gracie, literally using techniques no one else even knew, could only muster 1/11 submission in under a minute, how in the hell has Ronda managed 6 of 9? (note, the number becomes 9 of 12 if you add in her three amateur fights) When she fights tomorrow night, my brain tells me she can’t win in under a minute. Or even in less than a round. That just doesn’t happen. Most fights take time, and championship fights tend to take longer.
Rousey has a world of flaws, she’s overexposed, her Metro PCS commercials make me vow to never use that product. But forget all that because it doesn’t matter inside the cage. Fifteen total fights, with 14 not lasting longer than 5 minutes; 12 lasting no longer than 66 seconds. She can’t beat Holm that quickly. She can’t keep beating one girl after another after another that quickly. But she does. She defies logic. Despite what my brain says, my eyes don’t lie: Ronda Rousey is real.