Sarah Kaufman (blue shirt) and Ronda Rousey (black shirt) during their Strikeforce MMA women’s bantamweight title bout at the Valley View Casino Center. Rousey won in 54 seconds of the first round. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE
Before people start busting out the pitchforks and torches, I would like to state unequivocally that I’m a pretty big Ronda Rousey fan. That said, it’s kind of looking like Rousey might not really be able to push/pull/drag women’s MMA into some sort of golden era by herself.
One of the main problems people have with WMMA is the perceived lack of competition. Honestly it isn’t an unfair criticism to make. There are so few people who are complete well-rounded fighters with only minor flaws. The men’s side of the ledger has fighters in every division that one could argue for fabled pound-for-pound awesomeness or are even just legit contenders to the belt. Dos Santos, Overeem, Velasquez, Jones, Silva, St. Pierre, Condit, Henderson, Edgar, Aldo, Cruz, Barao, etc. This dozen isn’t even counting the second tier of veteran names who’ve had stellar careers and have the stellar records to match. Machida, Evans, Henderson, Koscheck, Shields, Fitch… outside of ‘Reem, there isn’t a man listed with double digit losses and most of those guys have been fighting for a decade or more.
When we get to the women, that top of the mountain is soooo much smaller. Rousey is the Royce Gracie of WMMA, and while there’s a couple of other people we think might make it competitive, the only serious other person on the map right now is still suspended for steroids. Outside of Santos and Rousey… what do you have? People like Fujii and Tate and Kaufman do fall into that second tier, but as for challengers to the throne? It’s a pretty sparse grouping of talent.
Marloes Coenen is the best looking match to make right now at 135, and Sara McMann is a decent enough prospect waiting in the wings, but after that… it’s looking as barren as men’s Light Heavyweight. It isn’t like the other divisions are brimming to the top, either. 145 got decimated by a similar dominant champion, who was also the most obvious steroid user since Mark McGwire. 125 has some talent in Tara La Rosa and Rosi Sexton (plus Zoila Gurgel is she unretires) and 115 has Jessica Aguilar and Megumi Fujii, but shoot… not a one of them outside of maybe Fujii and La Rosa really move the needle a lick.
As my fellow Guider, Donna Hurrle wrote just earlier this week,
In my book, that’s pretty much it in a nutshell. The good, even the great thing about this past weekend was watching a fantastic athlete steamroll another opponent, despite the opponent knowing almost to the letter what was coming. It’s like watching Babe Ruth call his home run, but it happens every time Ronda steps out there. In reality, the comparison to Ruth is a pretty apt analogy. Assuming WMMA sticks around, Rousey will probably get looked at as the Ruth or Ty Cobb of the era – a superlative player that was just so far ahead of everyone else that they go down as part myth, part legend.
The bad and the ugly are also the same thing. Where are the great female athletes that can foist a challenge here? WMMA can’t make it as a series of squash matches. Hopefully the growing popularity of Ronda can inspire more women, but that’s a long ways away – there has to be someone, and someone soon, or this will just wither on the vine.