Ronda Rousey is the next big thing in women's mixed martial arts.
The undefeated Rousey, who beat Julia Budd on the Nov. 18 Strikeforce Challengers card, has been running through her competition like few fighters, male or female, we've ever seen: Rousey is 4-0, and incredibly all four of her wins have come in less than a minute, all by armbar. Before turning pro she had three amateur fights, and she won all three of those by armbar in less than a minute, too.
And so, although she's still new to the sport and still hasn't been tested against the best women Strikeforce has to offer, Rousey makes my Top 5 as we rank the top pound-for-pound fighters in women's MMA. She looks that good.
What we don't know yet is whether Rousey is more than just a one-trick pony: If she faces an opponent who's able to keep the fight standing, will she be able to hold her own exchanging punches? And although she's not going to face anyone who's on her level as a judo player, will she be able to execute more than just her go-to arm bar if she faces an opponent who's sophisticated enough on the ground not to let Rousey get her arm?
It remains to be seen. But I think she's a future champion, and I think she deserves her place on the list of the top women in the sport, which is below.
Top 10 pound-for-pound women in MMA
(Editor's note: The ranking from the last time we ranked women are in parentheses)
1. Cris Cyborg (1): After more than a year away, Cyborg returns to defend her women's 145-pound title against Hiroko Yamanaka. That's an interesting matchup; Yamanaka has a 12-1 record and will have a height and reach advantage over Cyborg. But Yamanaka has never fought outside Japan before, and Cyborg has been so dominant that at this point it's very tough to see anyone beating her.
2. Zoila Gurgel (2): It's unfortunate that after Gurgel's huge win over Megumi Fujii, she's only been able to fight once. She's currently nursing a torn ACL and won't be back any time soon. It would make sense for Bellator to arrange another women's tournament for the right to take on Gurgel, although it's not clear whether that's in the promotion's plans.
3. Miesha Tate (7): Tate turned in a great performance against Marloes Coenen to win the Strikeforce 135-pound women's championship. What really worked for her in the Coenen fight was her superior wrestling, and it's her wrestling that would make her a favorite to beat almost any female fighter in the world.
4. Megumi Fujii (3): In the year since suffering her one and only loss to Gurgel, Fujii has gone back to Japan and won a couple of unanimous decisions. I'd like to see her back in the Bellator cage in 2012, and a rematch with Gurgel would be the biggest women's fight Bellator could make.
5. Ronda Rousey (NR): Rousey has been calling out Tate, and although the next shot at Tate's 135-pound title was supposed to go to Sarah Kaufman, Zuffa may decide that Rousey is too hot to hold off on right now. Rousey is an easy sell for promoters because she's smart and articulate and an Olympic bronze medalist in judo, and putting her in the cage with Tate would be one of the most marketable female fights that Strikeforce could arrange.
6. Marloes Coenen (4): First Coenen lost her Strikeforce title to Tate, then she lost her contract when her management at Golden Glory feuded with Zuffa. Now it's anyone's guess when or where she might fight next; she's with an organization called BlackEye Promotions, which has no events scheduled.
7. Sarah Kaufman (5): Kaufman's only loss was to Coenen, and since then she's won two in a row, supposedly earning a title shot against Tate, whom Kaufman beat in 2009. The question is whether Strikeforce will push Kaufman aside to put Rousey in the cage with Tate.
8. Jessica Aguilar (8): Aguilar looked great in her unanimous decision win over Lisa Ellis-Ward at Bellator 58. Aguilar has now won seven of her last eight fights, with the only loss coming by split decision to Gurgel.
9. Tara LaRosa (6): LaRosa has been inactive since her great heel-hook submission of Carina Damm in March, and as a result a couple of more active fighters have leapfrogged her in the rankings. LaRosa is one of the real pioneers for women's MMA. Let's hope she's back in the cage soon.
10. Alexis Davis (NR): Davis has had a couple big wins since we last updated our women's rankings, beating Julie Kedzie by unanimous decision in July and then beating Amanda Nunes by TKO in September. I hope Zuffa keeps Strikeforce's 135-pound women's division alive, because Davis could be a great opponent for Tate, Kaufman or Rousey.
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