The Ronda Rousey era is here and it does matter whether you like it or not. In less than a year she has taken the UFC over, and it only took two fights and one season coaching TUF to do so. She has also gone from everybody’s little sweetheart to the badass of WMMA. It was fitting that Charles Barkley was in attendance, because Ronda combines the fuck you honesty of Barkley, with the fierce cut your heart out competitiveness of Michael Jordan. Or, in MMA terms, when the year started people thought they were getting an outgoing, gregarious GSP. Instead, they found out that she really is the Diaz sister from another mister. Oh yeah, she also might be the most dominant fighter in MMA today.
Here is a scary thought for the rest of the women in the bantamweight division, we have not even seen the best version of her as a fighter. She is barely three years into her MMA career and she has destroyed everybody. There are certainly challenges facing her. The very next one is Sara McMann. Which people are going to hype this fight up, but I think it is a bunch of wolf-tickets. McMann is a very good and possibly great fighter and many people are going to point out all of the similarities to Ronda. Before we get to that lets take a look at this fight. Then we will take a quick look at the McMann fight and why it is still a healthy Cat Zingano who is the only real threat to Ronda right now.
To start the fight Ronda looked like the big sister, who was pissed off at her little step-sister she does not like in the first place, for tattling on her. Miesha looked like the little sister who did tattle and was proud and happy about it.
Several people including current UFC fighters (Cub Swanson) and former UFC champions (Matt Hughes) have criticized Miesha’s game plan for this fight. The knee jerk reaction is to agree with them. It was my first reaction when she kept initiating the grappling and then said afterwards that it was part of her plan. This is part of the reason Ronda is a bad matchup for her. Wrestling is Miesha’s core and it is what she instinctually falls back on when she gets in trouble. The problem is that Ronda’s Judo is better than Miesha’s wrestling. Here is the other problem and it is also the problem with the criticism of Miesha’s game plan, Ronda’s striking was also better. So, the question to the critics is what was she supposed to do? What is the game plan against someone who is better than you everywhere?
That is the problem with this rivalry, is it is not much of one at all. It is more like the Washington Generals and the Harlem Globetrotters than it is Lakers and Celtics. If Miesha was a different fighter and had better striking then a different game plan would make sense. She was dominated by Ronda in both the striking and grappling departments.
The numbers give an idea of Ronda’s domination before she locked up the armbar to end the fight. She landed 134 of 161 overall strikes to Miesha’s 28 of 54. Things get interesting when you look at significant strikes, for Miesha, she landed 24 of 50. Ronda was 40 of 63. In the grappling area Ronda was just as impressive. She was credited with 7:17 time of control to Miesha’s 1:54. Factor in Ronda’s 6 takedowns to Miesha’s 1 and you have a pretty lopsided and uncompetitive fight. The one area that Miesha did compete was in toughness and heart. She fought hard but was in against an opponent that could match her in that area.
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A couple of things that standout about these numbers are exactly why you will not hear anyone put forth a better game plan. If you want to beat Ronda you will need to out strike her, control the distance and not allow yourself to get thrown to the ground. You will need good footwork and head movement to pull this off. Miesha is not good in either area, she tends to not use a lot of head movement and she is predictable with her footwork. She comes straight forward and backward most of the time. This leads to Ronda landing 84% of her strikes to Miesha’s 52%. The other number that are interesting is Miesha only threw 4 jabs all night. That is one of the other weapons she would have needed to control the distance and keep away from clinches. It is one she usually does not use much in her fights. She would essentially have to be a different fighter.
Miesha is aggressive and likes to get in your face and with her strong wrestling it usually works for her. She can land a couple as she eats a couple herself on the way in. Once she gets in close she is able to get the takedown, which was her nickname before cupcake. That game plan has worked for her during most of her career.
So, really the only different game plan for Miesha was to be a different and better fighter. In that case Cub had a horrible game plan against Jose Aldo as did Matt Hughes in his last two GSP fights. It makes sense that they could ferret out the holes in Miesha’s game plan in a fight like this one. It bears a strong resemblance to their losses to better fighters, and that is the issue for Miesha, Ronda is at another level.
Ronda is so good that she had people excited because this fight went past the first round, and that made it her most competitive fight in her short career. It was not close and Ronda was never hurt or in trouble. Even when Miesha did end up on top, Ronda reversed it quickly or had her tied up fighting off submission attempts and elbows from the bottom. Ronda has talked in interviews, and again after the fight, about her training in difficult and bad positions. When they happen in the fight she does not panic or make mistakes because she has worked on them during her training. She trains for the best version of her opponent and every possible outcome. This has left her sitting on top of the women’s division. This is why she’s the first female fighter to crack the top ten pound-for-pound rankings.
So, what is next for these two crazy kids? We already Ronda’s next victim, and with Miesha we will wait to see what she wants to do. She is in a similar situation to Rich Franklin after his second loss to Anderson Silva. Miesha is still a great fighter but there is a definite gap between her and Ronda, and Zingano. Whatever she chooses to do it will be nice to see her and everybody move on from this rivalry. She did a great job commentating the Invicta FC 7 event earlier in the month. She certainly has a career waiting for her on that side of the sport if she wants it. There are a lot of great fights out there for her as well. Right now she seemed like a little time off is what she needs.
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As for Ronda, she will be taking on fellow Olympian McMann, and get used to hearing the word Olympian. People are going to bring that up as a reason that McMann can match Ronda. They also point out that McMann is also undefeated so this will be an epic battle. I am here to tell you to not fall for it. Yes, at a quick glance they are similar but once you look close you see there is a big difference in their MMA careers to date.
While they both are undefeated, Ronda’s wins are all finishes, and Miesha is the first fighter to get out of the first round. Ronda has dominated her opponents completely and McMann has four finishes to go with three decisions. One of McMann’s finishes was in her UFC debut against Sheila Gaff who is undefeated at flyweight and just above five hundred as a bantamweight. Ronda has also faced better competition while be completely dominant. I think that any game plan for Ronda that is centered around getting the fight to the ground is going to fail. She is at another level there. I also do not see how McMann wins this on her feet as Ronda has looked better in the standup than her. This is just a bad matchup for McMann as her strengths play right into Ronda’s.
The threat to Ronda’s rule over the division right now is still Zingano. If you are going to beat Ronda it will have to start on the feet and Zingano is a Muay Thai machine. She also has very strong jiu-jitsu defense. Zingano is not an Olympian but she is undefeated and like Ronda she is a finisher. The only fighter she did not stop was current Invicta FC flyweight champion Barb Honchak who is a beast in her own right. Zingano has enough power to hurt Ronda with one strike and I think that is a key to defeating her. Miesha did not have enough power to do that to Ronda, but Zingano can if she gets healthy. Until then we will get the UFC hype machine selling us two Olympians meeting inside the octagon for an epic clash. Just do not be surprised to see Ronda collect another arm in February.
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