When an athlete reaches the pinnacle of their sport in a short amount of time, there’s no better word to describe them than “phenom.” Strikeforce women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey certainly fits the bill.
At just 5-0 as a professional, the former Olympic judo bronze medalist has armbarred her way to the top of the MMA world. Combined with her amateur career, she has won all eight career fights with the submission, and only her March outing against Miesha Tate went beyond a minute.
On Aug. 18, the woman known as “Rowdy” will face a significant standup test in former champion Sarah Kaufman. The pair headlines the San Diego event and presents fans with a traditional striker vs. grappler match-up.
Kaufman’s striking accolades are far better than anyone Rousey has faced to date. Of Kaufman’s 15 career wins, 10 have come by way of KO or TKO. But what should be a concern for the Canadian is the fact that her only career loss came by way of armbar and cost her the Strikeforce belt in the process.
Even with Kaufman’s experience advantage and solid resume, oddsmakers have Rousey as a heavy favorite, -600 on some internet sites. Barring a major upset by Kaufman, it’s likely that the California native Rousey will leave the Valley View Casino Center with her belt come Saturday night.
If that’s the outcome, the question has to be posed, now what?
Despite Rousey’s early-career domination, it’s not quite time to put her in the same conversation as champions Anderson Silva or Georges St-Pierre. While it would be easy to look at Rousey’s young career and think she’s unbeatable, the 25-year-old has only been competing in MMA for two years. The fight with Kaufman is merely the first defense of her title and because she’s yet to be tested in the other aspects of the sport, it’s too early to say she has cleaned out her division.
However, Rousey’s lethal submission attack was something that even a seasoned veteran like Tate could not overcome and after Kaufman there may not be many fighters left that can present a challenge for her. Certainly there are talented 135-pound women like Marloes Coenen, Sara McMann and Liz Carmouche, but can any of them prevent Rousey’s go-to move?
One name remains as a clear-cut problem for Rousey, Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos. The Brazilian wrecking machine and former Strikeforce featherweight champion will return in January from a suspension handed out by the California State Athletic Commission for a failed drug test.
Santos has recently made it known on various social media outlets that she wants a crack at Rousey and is willing to drop in weight to do so. The problem for Strikeforce is how do you justify giving a title shot to a fighter returning from suspension? The UFC faces the same dilemma with another former Strikeforce champ in Alistair Overeem, but it remains to be seen what their course of action will be.
One major force in the industry that backs a fight between “Cyborg” and Rousey is Dana White. The UFC President went so far to say that he envisions the fight as a candidate for the first women’s bout inside the UFC Octagon. Although at this point in time, there’s still a lot that would need to happen first.
Yet, if Rousey dismantles Kaufman and retains her belt on Aug. 18, there may not be any fights left that make sense for the rising superstar. A fight with “Cyborg” may be exactly what Rousey and the sport of women’s MMA need to truly take them to the next level and further into the mainstream.