That was something, wasn’t it? Uber dominant world-champion Ronda Rousey exposed like a rank amateur. That shouldn’t happen. Ever. A world-champion can lose but not like that. The excuses will be a plenty because they always are in these type of situations. And it won’t just be die-hard Rousey fans, it’ll be commentators and experts and so on. (Hey, we’re even kinda doing it right now!) It’s gonna be hot take central for a while.
Ronda Rousey Exposed: This wasn’t totally unforeseen
Rousey losing was not expected. Rousey losing, however, was not impossible. I shall now direct one and all to a paragraph written by yours truly on Thursday:
Holly Holm. World Champion boxer. And while basically anyone who ever boxed in their life is a world champion of some organization, she was also voted female fighter of the year on multiple occasions by Ring Magazine. In short: she’s legit. But her style is a passive one. She frequently uses her reach and only her reach. She doesn’t have true punching power, and so she rarely sits down and lets loose. Instead, she’s content to jab and front kick her way to victory. Note: it leads to victory. She’s never lost in MMA and has less than a handful of losses in boxing. She is an interesting test for Rousey. Rousey is good but she thrives – obviously – in the clinch. Holm is someone who purposely keeps herself out of even regular punching distance, let alone allows herself to get clinched up. Mind you, this isn’t to say that she’s guaranteed to win but she has physical skills and a style that Rousey has yet to face.
Looks familiar, doesn’t it? Either I’m a genius – fair – or this was always a possibility. Holm used her reach and kept away from Ronda. And that’s why she won. From a purely physical and technical perspective, Holm used boxing 101 to beat Rousey.
The flaw with that is that this is MMA, not boxing. Rousey should’ve adjusted, done something different, and so on. Why didn’t she? No one is going to know until she admits it publicly. It’s pure speculation. It could be anything from she just couldn’t, because Holm followed the advise of mastermind Greg Jackson, to she wouldn’t because she’s a stubborn bully. Or a combination of the two. Or maybe Rousey was injured. Or tired. Who knows.
Let’s All Do Excuses for why we now say Ronda Rousey Exposed
I’m guessing someone will point to the weigh-ins as the first evidence that something was off about Rousey but: she’s always nuts. She thrives on making it personal and until last night it really had made her otherworldly. I had no reason to write that she defied reality other than I simply saw it. But, I’ll still guess away because it’s Sunday and what else are we all going to do but speculate over a female cage fight?
Blame it on Edmond. I’m sure Rousey’s mom will. Too much time spent training her hands, pumping her up, with Ronda now believing she could box. You’d hear her talk – and others – about how maybe she’d do pro boxing, etc… And then destruction of Bethe Correia in August certainly added fuel to the fire. After that, Rousey could tell herself, “Shit, I really can beat people in 30 seconds with nothing but my hands.” Oops.
This resulted in Rousey running around the cage, flailing, throwing punches like an amateur. It was embarrassing. And then she kept doing it. Move forward, CRACK. Shake your head, step, swing, miss, CRACK. It’s fine to be beaten, to not have an answer to what your opponent is doing – ok, maybe not fine – but Rousey seemed to determined to not even acknowledge that there was a question. She looked unprepared for what was happening and that falls on the shoulders of her trainers.
If you handed me the raw Rousey of several years ago, I would’ve told her to focus 90% of her time on training her hands. It’s only natural. But then you’d start to adjust towards fight time and gameplan around her strengths. Her mom, during one of her amazing rants about Edmond, flat said that Rousey would be where she is without the soon to be bankrupt Armenian’s help. Mom knows best.
All week, when talking to people, I kept joking that it would be hilarious to see Holm employ her same strategy as always – keep on your heels, counter with long strikes, circle – and to see a frustrated Rousey. I figured Rousey would break down, cry, and stamp her feet like a spoiled brat. Honestly, last night was the fighting version of that.
She isn’t the first champion to lose like this
Rousey isn’t the first dominant world champion to lose a fight when she was heavily favored. What might always go down as the most famous example was Matt Serra blitzing Georges St. Pierre. But that was basically a “lucky punch.” That was Serra landing a huge shot and GSP getting hurt. What Holm did was different. It was precision come to life. An expert surgeon – one at the top of his game, doing what he does best, before he decided that pyramids were grain silos.
The closest analog I can draw to a champion losing to a challenger so thoroughly was when Anderson Silva beat Rich Franklin. Franklin had held the title for a while, firmly established himself, and then was outclassed to such a degree that it almost wiped away everything he had done up to that point. Except that while Franklin was good, he was never Rousey-level dominant.
From a technical standpoint, it was most reminiscent of Brock Lesnar. A pure physical beast who could do whatever he wanted with people, threw them around, showed never-before-seen athleticism, but was a pure grappler at heart. And when he finally couldn’t impose his will, he flailed around:
Look a little familiar? The difference there is I don’t think Brock ever believed he could really strike (oh, and he may have been fighting with a crippling disease the entire time). Pop psychology 101 here, where I try to boil down the complexities of a human being based on a little over 5 minutes of fighting: Ronda bought into her own shit and paid for it. She had a camp of Yes Men, a trainer who wasn’t at the world-class level of trainers you see behind most other champions, and she ran into an opponent who wouldn’t buy into her hype.
At the post-fight press conference, Holm talked about how she’d been nervous, she’d had moments of doubt where during training she wondered if she could win. Bless her for being honest. I think most folks who’ve trained have had those feelings, a day or two where you sit in your car and go, “What the hell is going on? What am I doing?” I mean, Ronda doesn’t, of course. Her public stance was always every day of her training and life was perfect because to even envision losing is weakness. Right.
The contrast of honesty about doubt and someone unwilling acknowledge that she could ever be beat is stark. MMA is a sport that will teach you humility.
All of this is natural after something weird happens. Our brains see something that doesn’t make sense and so we try to figure out ways to keep our preconceived notions in tact – so we aren’t wrong – while incorporating the reality of what we just saw. This is textbook cognitive dissonance.
But don’t ignore Holm. Ronda can make mistakes all day but Holm still took advantage. She fought perfectly. She fought like a world-champion. She played to her strengths, kept a cool head, and flat out won. It sure as hell didn’t look like a fluke; it looked like reality finally ripping apart the comic book fantasy that had been built up. No, I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I would’ve predicted her winning. Despite the above paragraph, I still figured Rousey would eat a shot, wake up, and impose her Judo and submission skills. Maybe those first few punches did more damage that we know and Rousey was on autopilot. Doesn’t matter. Holm still had to do her job and she did it.
Ronda Rousey was exposed by Holly Holm. A rematch might be different. Maybe Rousey drops her 500 commitments, finds a trainer who knows how to balance a checkbook, and locks herself inside a training room 24/7 for the next six months. And with UFC 200 taking place in July, it sure does look like they’ve got a huge, huge, huuuuuuuuuge fight to sell. But even if Rousey does, the style of Holm will still be there. Simple boxing against someone who fights like a street fighting bully.
Holly Holm is the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion. The Queen is dead; long live the New Queen.