Last week, I asked Sarah Kaufman what has made Ronda Rousey's armbar so unstoppable so far. Kaufman didn't hesitate with her answer, which was not an explanation but a declaration. In her opinion, it wasn't unstoppable. Moreover, she wasn't particularly nervous to face it.
Kaufman had fought professionally 16 times, losing only once, so her word carried some weight with me. She had 10 knockouts on her ledger and boasted a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Her takedown defense had been fairly stellar. I ultimately picked Rousey to win but I thought it would be her first real challenge.
Instead, Kaufman couldn't last a single minute with Rousey. That's how good the bantamweight champion is right now. Filled with confidence and boasting the best combination of strength and grappling technique in women's MMA, Rousey and her armbar remain for now, unstoppable.
1. Rousey has the best killer instinct in MMA, period
There isn't a fighter alive who goes for the finish at every turn the way Rousey does. Every fight, she immediately closes the distance and initiates the clinch, and from there, the takedown is just a matter of time. Rousey doesn't worry much about positioning in her submissions, which makes her somewhat unique. When she feels the sub there, she goes for it, consequences be damned.
Against Kaufman, she quickly earned full mount and threw a few strikes. As soon as Kaufman put up her hands to defend the strikes, Rousey quickly secured Kaufman's right arm and with a lightning transition, rolled for the armbar. If Kaufman pulls out, she's on top and ready to rain blows. That's a risk most fighters aren't willing to take. But Rousey doesn't care. She goes for it every time, and that's why she's become MMA's consummate finisher.
2. Miesha Tate won and lost on the same night
Tate rode the emotional rollercoaster on Saturday night. Her performance against an inspired Julie Kedzie wasn't her best, but she still found a way to win. In sports, sometimes you don't have your A-game for whatever reason. You still have to find a way to dig deep and find the resolve to will out a win. That's exactly what Tate did. Not long after taking a hellacious headkick that would have knocked out many others, Tate turned the tide and check-mated Kedzie with a fight-ending armbar. It was a victory for which she should be proud.
But then Tate did something curious. In the post-fight press conference, when asked if she wanted a rematch with Ronda Rousey, she punted.
"I’m happy it was an entertaining bout," she said, "but I personally am not happy with my performance and I don't think it was contention-worthy performance. So I'm not going to ask for that at this point because I don't think I deserve it. I think that I need to take a couple fights and I need a better performance than that. I think the fans deserve something better and I know I can deliver something better, so I'm going to take it one step at a time and see where it goes from there.
While I can appreciate a nice moment of honesty, here's the thing: We don't know if Cris Cyborg is coming back or not, whether she'll want to move down to 135, if Ronda Rousey will want to move up to 145 or if they'll agree to a catchweight. A Tate rematch might offer Strikeforce it's best option. For God's sake, she lasted almost an entire round with Rousey, or nearly five times as long as the next closest foe. Don't give away potential main events. It's just not good business.
3. "Jacare's" hands are the key to his future
Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza finally added a knockout to his fight ledger, scoring his first fistic finish with a 41-second starching of Derek Brunson. The win should be enough to vault him into a rematch with Luke Rockhold. His improved hands are probably going to determine his future fate as a middleweight. Each time out, he seems to add some new wrinkle or increase his power.
Given his noted grappling game, his striking is going to be what keeps opponents honest. If he starts showing off meaningful combos with regularity, there is no safe harbor against him. And that's a scary proposition.
4. We need to "unify" the Unified Rules
If you saw the undercard, it featured a fight where Adlan Amagov kicked Keith Berry to the knee, knocking him down and leading to a bizarre finish. While some people think push kicks to the knee should be illegal because of the danger involved to the joint, I don't think they're any more dangerous than something like an armbar or heel hook. But regardless of that, the state of California's rules list as a foul in chapter 2, article 3, section 522, "linear kicks to the front or side of the knees."
This rule does not exist in Nevada, and it differs from place to place. Getting the rules standardized everywhere will go a long way in helping referees and judges properly officiate action. This is particularly important because many referees are licensed in multiple states, and it's really not fair to ask them to remember multiple rule sets. There should only be one.
Which brings us to this…
5. Referees need to know the basic rules
You almost can't blame a referee when there are different variations of rules from place to place, but when they are truly standardized, there is no excuse for getting them wrong.
During the second round of the Ovince St. Preux vs. T.J. Cook fight, St. Preux landed a low blow. Ref Mike Beltran called timeout, which was fine. But after checking on Cook, he seemed hellbent on restarting the action immediately. He told Cook that he needed to fight, even though the rules offer up to five minutes of recovery time for an unintentional foul. Anyone who's ever suffered that particular -- ahem -- issue knows that time is the only healer. Why Beltran rushed him -- giving him just over a minute -- I'll never know. In that situation, start the clock, let him know he has five minutes, and wait.