It was just about four and half years ago when UFC president Dana White stated women would never be allowed to fight in the UFC. And here we are in 2015, with a pay per view headlined by not just one “girlfight”, but two.
How times have changed.
Undefeated Bantamweight champ Ronda Rousey is now considered the top draw in the company. Her last appearance, her title defense against the previously unbeaten Bethe Correia in UFC 190, pulled just under 1 million buys. That was the best moneymaker for the company since UFC 168, which featured a rematch between middleweight champ Chris Weidman and former titleholder and MMA legend Anderson Silva. And Rousey was competing with her own history to some extent, as her bout against Miesha Tate was co-featured that night with the main event. More on that match later. The point here is, Rousey is a breakout star, and will only get bigger. And Dana White has been happily eating solid gold crow ever since he signed her.
So lets get to the title fights themselves, shall we? First, the strawweight (115 lb) title fight matches the challenger, Valerie “Trouble” Leourneau against the champ, Joanna “My Name’s Already Too Damn Long” Jedrzejczyk. By the way, the proper pronunciation of the champ’s last name is “Badass”. Jedrzejczyk is an excellent striker, boasting better accuracy than the challenger (43% to 38%), better striking defense measured by strikes absorbed per minute (1.38 to 3.73), and is even a little busier than Letourneau, throwing 4.90 to 4.69 strikes per minute. She throws more, she hits a higher percentage of those busy hands, and she gets hit less as well. Looking at the actual percentage of strikes defensed shows a much smaller advantage for the champ, 71% defensed to 68%. That illustrates that Jedrzejczyk’s opponents are often too busy getting their faces rearranged to throw as often as they need to.
If the Muay Thai specialist Jedrzejczyk has a weakness, it might be her ground game. Getting the champ to the ground hasn’t been too easy, though. In her last fight before taking the title, she defended 9 of 16 takedown attempts, and in the title fight, in which she badly outclassed the UFC’s first strawweight champ Carla Esparza, she defended an outstanding 16 of 17 attempts. In her first title defense, she stuffed all 11 takedown attempts by challenger Jessica Penne. So her takedown defense has improved tremendously.
By the way, “Trouble” Latourneau has only attempted five takedowns in her three UFC matches, landing three of them. She’d rather stand and trade. And no one wins that game against the champ. She’s got good power, nasty elbows, and of course is brutal in the clinch. All of this is why Jedrzejczyk is going off as the 16-1 favorite. Yes, she’s an even bigger favorite than Rousey. The champ retains via KO in the second.
Speaking of the Rowdy one – okay, she’s only a 15-1 favorite. Old news for the champ who has only been extended past the first round once in her MMA career. Her last three title defenses have lasted a combined 1:04. That’s one minute and four seconds, folks.
Another sidebar (not literally, because you’re reading it right here) – a lot has been made of the fact that she “only” won bronze in the 2008 Olympics, so she’s beatable. Well of course she’s beatable; she’s human. I think. But I will point out that she won gold in the World Junior Judo Championships and the Pan Am games, and later twice defeated Edith Bosch, the judoka who sent her to the losers bracket in those 2008 Games. In mixed martial arts, Rousey is undefeated, going 3-0 as an amateur before submitting almost every opponent in first Strikeforce, then the UFC, with an armbar in the first round, often in less than one minute. Except that time she didn’t. But we’ll get back to that.
Rousey’s opponent is Holly “The Preacher’s Daughter” Holm, Holly was both the WBF Light Welterweight and Welterweight champion, and defended various titles a total of 16 times. Her overall record was 33-2-3, with 9 wins by KO or TKO. She was 2-1 in kickboxing, both wins by TKO. In MMA, Holms won her first five fights via TKO or KO, winning six of her seven MMA matches prior to the move to the UFC via strikes. Her two matches in the UFC have both gone the distance, winning both via decision.
And that’s the monumental problem facing Holms. She’s a challenging striker, but her last
three boxing matches went to the scorecards. Of her 38 fights in the ring, 71% were in the hands of the judges. Both UFC fights were decisions as well. And no one is going to beat Ronda Rousey via decision.
Instead of the hype about The Preacher’s Daughter’s skill, let’s look at the reality. In her two UFC matches, Holms has landed just 28% of her significant strikes. Now she throws a lot, so she is landing an average of 3.63 strikes per minute, but that’s actually far fewer than the champ. Rousey doesn’t throw nearly as many strikes on average, but when she throws, she connects. Rousey’s striking accuracy is a whopping 63%, landing an average of 4.35 significant strikes per minute. Advantage, Rousey.
Everyone fears that brutal, unstoppable armbar of course. But it’s the champ who has the KO/TKO stoppages, not the allegedly dangerous boxer. Rousey has won three of her twelve fights via strikes, three of the last four, in fact. Again, Holms has no stoppages in the UFC, even though she in theory should be a much better striker than her opponents. And remember, as a boxer, she only scored 9 KO/TKOs out of 33 victories. That’s 27%, barely above Ronda’s KO percentage. And Ronda dislocates every one else’s elbows.
Ronda has stated Holms presents a unique challenge for her, and she expects this fight to last much longer. That’s Ronda selling tickets and PPV buys. Ronda is a more effective standup fighter than Holms, and after she trades a few shots to let the former boxing champ know who owns the Octagon, she’ll sing her a lullaby and keep that belt once more. The champ retains via TKO in 1:32 of the first round.
Oh yeah, about that one match that went past the first round. Miesha Tate. Mmm mmm mmm. Tate has a legitimate beef with Dana and the UFC in her complaint that she’s been passed over for a title shot. Yes, she’s 0-2 against the champ, there is no disputing that. There is also no way to dispute that she’s the only fighter to ever take Ronda past the first round. The champ has spent a total of 25 minutes and 38 seconds in mixed martial arts, and has faced ten opponents in her professional career. 15 minutes and 25 seconds of that time in the Octagon has been battling Miesha. That’s right, 60 percent of Rousey’s career has been spent fighting Tate. No wonder she hates her, right?
So while on the surface matching Rousey against a woman she’s already beaten twice is a tough sell, Tate is the only fighter (outside of Godzilla) who has any chance against her. Tate not only has the longest match against the champ, she has the third longest as well. She’s proven she’s Rousey’s only competition in the Octagon, and she’s on a four match win streak. The heat they’d generate would guarantee breaking that million buy barrier. After Ronda sends the Preacher’s Daughter back to papa (maybe with her arm in a sling, not a cracked jaw), she needs to take on Tate, one more time.