Rousey’s Sudden Fall From Grace

Dan Bisno, Columnist

“She’s the type of fighter that [will] … get me frustrated to the point that I’ll make a mistake, and she’ll try to kick me in the head. But it’s not going to go like that,” Ronda Rousey told Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show on Oct. 7 in anticipa­tion of her upcoming fight with Holly Holm. As fate would have it, 59 seconds into the second round at Ultimate Fighting Championship 193 this past Saturday, Holm’s foot connected with Rousey’s head for a knockout, the first of Rousey’s career.

What happened to Rousey? One month ago, fans were calling her the Greatest Of All Time, or “GOAT,” of mixed martial arts. Her 12–0 record seemed untouchable, and after five years on the job she had already begun to discuss retirement. The frequency with which she adds new weapons to her already dominant arsenal is spectacular to watch, and it is difficult not to wonder if she has become complacent in success.

After all, 2015 was no quiet year for Rousey. In addition to defending her title against Cat Zinga­no and Bethe Correia, Rousey also published her 320-page autobiography, My Fight / Your Fight, just a few months before her bout against the underdog Holm. Rousey also won the Best Female Athlete and Best Fighter awards at ESPN’s Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Awards, beating out retiring 49–0 boxer Floyd Mayweather for the latter. With the public’s increasing obsession with Rous­ey and the media framing her as invincible, was it reasonable to expect her reign to last forever? Did it all get to her head?

If there is one thing the public can be cer­tain of, it is that Rousey will be back. This past year she implied that she may need to leave the UFC to allow the other competi­tors to evolve, as if her talent was so supe­rior that she would humbly retire to spread the wealth. She suggested a career in boxing, with the goal of ultimately retiring with the WWE as her body deteriorates. While Rous­ey’s confidence is admirable, her latest de­feat suggests that it may be misplaced. Fans want to believe that the stern-faced fighter they see on fight night is Rousey’s alter ego, a goliath she unleashes on her opponents every few months — an unstoppable fury that garners knockouts before the fans even have a chance to eat their first slice of pizza. But the reality is that Rousey is human, not an infallible, laser-eyed fighting golem made for good television. Unfortunately, her postUFC career plans may now be on hold while Holm holds Rousey’s bantamweight belt.

Some famous fans offered some bizarre speculation as to why Rousey lost. Taz, former Extreme Championship Wrestling heavyweight champion, is convinced that the fight was fixed. “I’m telling you right now, that whole series was [rigged]. And I’m not sure who was in on it and who wasn’t, but I know this much: The ref probably wasn’t in on it, … Rousey was in on it — and again, this is all my opinion,” he said. He went on to say that this sort of ruse is com­mon in the wrestling industry as a way to give big athletes an excuse to take a break or tend to injuries.

While Taz is probably wrong, Rousey’s loss is more likely due to her lack of boxing experience. Holm is an accomplished boxer who held a 33–2 record before she joined UFC more recently, amassing a 10–0 record with her defeat against Rousey. Instead of playing to her strengths — takedowns and arm bars — Rousey chose to kickbox with Holm, perhaps the one form of combat in which she is less learned than Holm. Rous­ey chased after Holm, insisting on landing three punches rather than settling for one. The result: She exhausted herself in one round. Whether this was because Rousey wanted to beat Holm at her own sport, or because she unable to execute her game plan in the ring, one thing is clear: Rousey overestimated her kickboxing abilities.

Since Rousey’s shortcomings as a kick­boxer have surfaced, Mayweather has un­characteristically offered to help Rousey improve her boxing. Mayweather said, sup­posedly to commiserate with his fellow ath­lete, “People will love you on Friday, and then Sunday morning, it’s nothing but negative comments and people making jokes, and people making fun about you, which I don’t think is cool.” It is not expected that Rousey will accept Mayweather’s offer due to their former media beef, and while it could be a sign of an improvement in Mayweather’s behavior, it could also be a continuation of his condescending attitude towards Rousey. Just as people called Rousey the GOAT for two years, many fans and commentators have already begun to call Holm the poten­tial GOAT just 24 hours after the upset.

Overall, Rousey’s performance was a drool. She chose to strike as opposed to be­ing patient, tiring Holm out and taking the fight to the mat, where she excels. Strange theories aside, it seems as if Rousey may have bought in to her superhuman media image as much as her fans did, her overcon­fident move leaving her vulnerable to her lack of boxing experience. After her con­cussion test and plastic surgery on her lip, Rousey announced via Instagram, “I’ll be back.” This is a positive sign that she took this loss seriously, and that the euphoric vi­sions she has portrayed of her career of ex­celling in four sports can be put to rest for the time being. Rousey finally has an oppo­nent who can motivate her to be better and change expectations. As Anderson Silva, the longest consecutive titleholder in UFC history told Rousey after the fight, “To fall makes us stronger to stand up.” The fans will look to Rousey to stand up as she prepares for her biggest test yet: defeating Holm.