“I try to act with humility and stay humble. I mean listen, one day you’re a hero and the next you’re trending all over Twitter as the biggest loser in the world.”
Stephen Gostkowski, all world kicker for the 9-0 New England Patriots
Having kicked the game winning field goal in last Sunday’s dramatic 27-26 victory over their pesky arch-nemesis New York Giants, Gostkowski was treated like a rock star on the field, after nailing a 54 yard thing of beauty through what seemed like yellow open arms. It was euphoric moment for the him and his team; one anticipated to be felt again by then defending UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey (12-1, 3KO/9 Submission).
I couldn’t help but think of Rousey while listening to Gostkowski, for who else has her type of magnetic star power and appeal in all of MMA? She hasn’t actually been kicked out of the MMA in a literal sense; but after literally being kicked in the face and flattened by new bantamweight champion Holly Holm (10-0, 7KO/3 Decisions), it somehow feels like it.
Heading into her match-up with what had to be the most unassuming 9-0 fighter of all-time in new champion Holly Holm, Ronda was seen as some sort of goddess in an octagon. Over a three year span, she massacred eight elite women of the sport, and was so dominant it lead to speculation over what she would do to Floyd Mayweather in a street fight (something she ate up with pride).
Its not like it wasn’t somewhat warranted either. Her training exploits had become the stuff of brewing legend; for there were reports of pro middleweight male fighters being mauled by Rousey– who developed a Tyson-esque aura and mystique, while managing to juxtaposition herself from darkly sexy to menace in a nanosecond. Still, there were whispers. Not loud ones- just the type you hear in the distance that suggest the opposition she’s facing is inferior. And that like Tyson, a bully, perhaps she could be undone by someone not beaten by her before the bell, along with being skilled enough to matador and kill her.
Holly Holm looks decidedly better than the dreadful Buster Douglas, but did manage to look a lot like him opposite a female MMA version of Mike Tyson. Only this version exploded on the big screen in blockbusters “The Fast and Furious” and “The Expendables”. Her appeal grew beyond that of former MMA/screen vixen Gina Carano, as she sold MetroPCS to pop culture or provided allure through the pages of Sports Illustrated. Bethea Correa, Cat Zingano, Alexis Davis, Sara McMann, Miesha Tate, Liz Carmouche and Sarah Kaufman were all very accomplished in their own rights and formidable. The only other badass on the planet thought to rival Rousey in the ring, Cristiane “Cyborg”, was getting close to inking a contract to fight her.
All of it played a major role in her unraveling against Holm; a fighter she clearly wasn’t ready for, and something that had everything to do with Holm. Rousey had grown accustomed to s similar pattern in all of hwe
It was very evident during fight week that Holm was not intimidated by Rousey at all. She wore the same stoic confidence in every appearance in front of a camera or a microphone, and it seemed to bother Rousey, as she was forced to study the granite conditioning and composure of Holm, a seasoned practitioner of the sweet science. Rousey failed to move Holm with drama at the weigh-in, and couldn’t piss her off after not touching gloves before the bell.
Holm went Larry Holmes on Rousey in round one, offering deft and subtle movement, while making Rousey pay for crude aggression and bad footwork. When she wasn’t letting Ronda get a comfortable position to advance and force a ground game, she was allowing her to fatigue. With all of the excitement of a librarian, Holm calmly gave Rousey a massive beating physically, mentally and emotionally.
It was the kind of defeat that will reveal whether or not Rousey is a truly great fighter from here on out. She appeared confused and amateurish against the tactical ring polish of Holm and failed to make any adjustment whatsoever to change the outcome. Perhaps this was Lennox Lewis fresh off the movie set of “Ocean’s 11” against Hasim Rahman. We won’t know until Rousey’s next outing- which should be against Holm. But she would need to make clear adjustments following this performance, the first of which should be a complete reversal of strategy.
Ronda was beaten in the fashion she was, primarily, because of a brawling and one-dimensional approach. She knew Holm wasn’t intimidated (which intimidated her) and had no other battle plan beyond that of a forward stalker. Holm’s excellent use of distance control and rangy length – coupled with pinpoint timing and accuracy – softened up Ronda for baking. She treated an elite conditioned, highly trained professional boxer with years of experience, as if she were a budding amateur playing the role of a pro in a film. In many ways, Ronda Rousey became a caricature of herself and enveloped in a super-sized persona.
That over-the-top mindset is the foremost reason she got beat up “Down Under”.
Had she fought a fight more reminiscent of the one fought by Nick Diaz against Anderson “The Spider” Silva, a much more tactical and methodical one, the result could’ve been different. Then again, its possible that she just can’t. Rousey is a woman of extreme passion and lives like it. She’s been vocal about having a lot of sex while preparing for a fight, and who knows how much of a distraction Hollywood could be at this stage of her life or career?
Critics and detractors may now use this as ammunition to fuel suspicion of Rousey being a talentless thug of a woman. An overrated athlete who became of a cult of personality with limited skill; and someone who would be exposed by a “real fighter”. The flawed logic behind that of course, is if Rousey had defeated Holm as expected, she still would not have been challenged- by those committed to finding fault. Rousey’s resume has been solid – as was that of Holm – and it does not diminish who she was (or is). It is also a massive discredit to Holm, a very physically strong and distinguished champion.
Holm fought tall and calm the entire fight and remained dominant right up to the moment she struck Rousey with a lethal kick to the mouth, followed by a series of shots to the head to end things in the 2nd round. When Rousey’s head does truly clear, she’ll have a much better understanding of who her friends really are and what she needs to change in approach to regain her championship.
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