Ronda Rousey makes her long-awaited return when she challenges UFC women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes in the main event of UFC 207 on December 30 – but will the former title-holder regain her crown?
When Rousey got on the plane to Australia in November 2015 she had the world at a feet. With a perfect record of 12-0 and a blossoming Hollywood career, the 29-year-old had established herself as not only the biggest female fighter on the planet, but the most popular fighter the UFC had on its books. Then on one stunning night in Melbourne, it all came crashing down at the hands – and feet – of Holly Holm.
Holly Holm lands a kick that drops Ronda Rousey. (Photo by PAUL CROCK/AFP/Getty Images)
The former kickboxer and boxing world champion had failed to make much of an impression during her first two fights in the UFC, and many predicted win number 13 for Rousey when it was announced that the pair would main event UFC 193. However, those predictions turned out to be wrong as Holm brutalised Rousey
on the feet before a head-kick and some follow-up strikes put the fight to bed in the second round.
What would Rousey’s next step be? Aside from filming a movie, the answer was nothing. She did not even ditch her coach Edmond Tarverdyan – who many consider to be the worst coach in the UFC
and a major reason behind that devastating loss. Instead of fighting smart, he had his fighter charging at the skilled counter-striker and then told a bloodied and battered Rousey that she was “doing a good job” as she staggered back to her corner. No change in approach was made when it was desperately needed and moments later her reign was over and that air of invincibility had been destroyed.
While Rousey sat on the shelf waiting to make her return, Amanda Nunes emerged as the new number one bantamweight fighter in the women’s game. The 28-year-old Brazilian had rebounded from the TKO loss to Cat Zingano by stopping the likes of Shayna Baszler and Sara McMann in a three-fight win streak that earned her a shot at the woman who had dethroned Holm, Miesha Tate. And she took her chance in violent fashion by decimating ‘Cupcake’ in just over three minutes. Tate may have had one more fight before retiring, but that was the bout that ended here career.
It was a truly devastating performance from Nunes and the big question is can she do what Holm and Tate failed to do, successfully defend in the UFC women’s bantamweight championship? The bookmakers’ answer to that is no, with bet365
pricing Rousey as a 10/17 favourite while going 7/5 about Nunes inflicting back-to-back defeats on the former champion.
Ronda Rousey. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
It is certainly a tough fight to call because we do not know what Rousey is going to turn up. ‘Rowdy’ Ronda was living a hectic lifestyle when she stepped into the Octagon to face Holm, so perhaps a year out of the game had given her chance to slow down and rest up. However, ring rust could turn out to be a massive factor when she steps into the Octagon with Nunes because the champion’s aggressive approach will not give the challenger the chance to find her groove in the opening round.
And of course, where is Rousey’s head at? In the wake of that loss to Holm she admitted to having suicidal thoughts and just recently she revealed that this will be one her last fights, telling Ellen DeGeneres that she is “wrapping it up”. When a fighter is talking about retirement they have no business stepping inside the Octagon – just look at Miesha Tate’s last performance. She was not 100% and she put up a poor display against Raquel Pennington. If Rousey is not 100% committed then it could be another brutal night for her. And if she is gun-shy from that knockout loss to Holm – some fighters are never the same after brutal stoppage – then that spells trouble to.
So would it shock me to see Rousey regain her place at the top of the women’s bantamweight division? Absolutely not. But for me there are far too many question marks hanging over her going into this title fight and that decision to keep Tarverdyan was baffling. The guy is absolutely dreadful when you compare him to other coaches in the game and I have a hard time believing that he will have helped Rousey iron out the chinks in her game.
Amanda Nunes celebrates her victory over Miesha Tate. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
Some will point to the fact that three of the women Nunes has lost to were stopped by Rousey, but MMA maths is nonsense. It is all about these two women on the night and not those nights that have come before. And on this night, I expect Nunes to be victorious.
With a black belt in jiu jitsu, a brown belt in judo and devastating punching power, she is a threat in all areas. But it is that brutal striking power – especially the heavy right – that stands out the most and I believe that will be the decisive factor here. Nunes will keep the fight on the feet, where she has a major advantage, and she will land those bombs to put away the former champion.
Back Amanda Nunes to win @ 7/5 bet365
Back Amanda Nunes to win by KO, TKO or DQ @ 3/1 Paddy Power