TUF 17 Finale Aftermath: Ronda Rousey vs. Cat Zingano will be a monster

Esther Lin

The UFC just landed other monster pay-per-view draw. By the time Ronda Rousey vs. Cat Zingano rolls around, it will be one of the biggest fights of the year.

Sure, I know some people are scoffing at those words. They're the same folks who have attempted to argue why women will fail in the UFC and have been wrong every step of the way.

But all the pieces are in place to launch a women's title fight into the A-list, pay-per-view stratosphere.

Consider:

*Last time around, Rousey was fighting a relative unknown to the general public in Liz Carmouche, and still managed to draw both an unprecedented level of attention and a solid PPV buy rate.

*This time, Rousey will be taking on an opponent the UFC can market as a killer. The national cable audience saw a furious fight between Zingano and Miesha Tate on Saturday night. Zingano rallied from 20-18 down on two scorecards against a former champion and mauled her in the final round with a series of standing knees.

You can be sure the company will show that finishing sequence over and over while they market Zingano, accurately, as an unbeaten finisher of a fighter. The promos pushing Zingano as Rousey's gravest challenge practically write themselves.

*Zuffa has an entire season of "The Ultimate Fighter" with Rousey and Zingano as coaches at their disposal. Rousey's obviously a ratings draw. Zingano, for her part, has a quirky sort of charisma that takes a little time to fully comprehend. I sat with Zingano for part of UFC 157. Once she opens up, she's a surprisingly interesting and quotable person. Right now she might just seem like the fighter who cries before her fights and then smashes faces, which is interesting enough in its own right. But with three months of camera time, the fans will become well acquainted with her.

*Finally, consider that the crowd of 5,549 at Mandalay Bay -- which is about 1,500 more than the capacity of the Joint at the Hard Rock, where the card was originally scheduled to take place -- treated Tate-Zingano as the evening's real main event, rocking and rolling from start to finish. Even without the benefit of the sort of promotional push Rousey-Carmouche received, Tate and Zingano were the stars of the show.

So far, at least, it seems like everything the UFC does with the women's bantamweight division turns to gold. With all the ingredients in place, and another round of Ronda Rousey media highlights heading up to the fight, well, let's put it this way: I won't go so far as to say that Rousey-Zingano will do Georges St-Pierre or Anderson Silva PPV numbers. But I won't rule it out, either.

TUF 17 Finale quotes

"It was really severe, definitely. I was overwhelmed by the opportunity and excited. I knew that it was going to be amazing but I didn't realize how much it was going to impact me from the inside out. It felt great, it felt really, really special." - Zingano, asked about her emotions coming into the Tate fight. Zingano was in tears as she made her way to the Octagon.

"I'm pissed to say the least. I'm definitely not happy. And, I mean, f---, I still feel like I was in the fight. I don't, for one second, feel like it should have been stopped. But I'm a fighter. I wanted to keep fighting." -- Tate, asked whether she thought the bout with Zingano was stopped too fast.

"I didn't think he showboated. I think he mentally broke. I think that you saw what he had this season. But when you find out what a guy really has is when he's under pressure. When you're under pressure, you find out who the Anderson Silva and the Georges St-Pierres are, those type of guys." -- Dana White's take on Uriah Hall's performance against Kelvin Gastelum.

Stock up: Kelvin Gastelum

I'll admit it: I didn't give Kelvin Gastelum a chance against Uriah Hall. I completely overlooked him. I assumed Hall would make Gastelum his latest highlight-reel KO (apparently Hall did too, which I'll get to in a bit). I'm not the first person to dismiss Gastelum, either, as the 21-year-old Arizonan was Team Sonnen's last pick at the start of the season.

Let's face it: All these TUF Finale championship fights tend to blur together after awhile. How many of them do you remember over the years? Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar, of course. Maybe some of the fights involving bigger names, like Rashad Evans and Michael Bisping's fights in seasons two and three, respectively. Maybe Roy Nelson's KO of Brendan Schaub. Many of the rest you can't name without checking Wikipedia.

But Gastelum-Hall will be long remembered for several reasons, one the biggest of which was Gastelum's heart. He surprised an overconfident Hall in round one, fended off his regrouped opponent in round two, and gutted things out in round three to seal the decision. During the fight, fellow TUF alum Joe Lauzon tweeted "Kelvin is my hero. This is so awesome." Praise doesn't come any more well-deserved.

Stock down: Uriah Hall

Then there's the flip side. Gastelum's victory was equal parts Gastelum's determination and Hall buying into his own hype. If you recall, it was only a few days ago that Hall, despite never having an official UFC fight, was proclaiming that he'd accept a fight with a top 10 middleweight. I was actually getting Fightweets questions asking me how Hall would do against Anderson Silva. This is a testament to the Fox corporation's ability to promote Hall and hype the show.

But in round one, it seemed apparent that Hall actually believed he was going to be able to just show up and register another flashy KO. Hall appeared to be clowning, Silva-style, fighting with his hands down and backing toward the cage. There's only one fighter who can get away with that, and his name isn't Uriah Hall. By the time Hall got his head back into the fight, rounds two and three made for an entertaining, back-and-forth affair. But Hall's round one antics cost him a narrow split decision. The DVD of this fight should be shown to aspiring fighters in gyms around the country, both as a how-to in Gastelum's case and a how-not-to for Hall.

Good call

Kim Winslow has replaced Steve Mazzagatti as the poster child for poor refereeing (or at least, they're sharing the poster). And not without reason: Among other things, her standup in the second round of the Bobby Green-Jacob Volkmann fight on Feb. 2 was among the worst standup calls in the history of the sport. But she doesn't deserve the criticism she's received for her handling of Tate-Zingano.

The first point of contention was whether the first of Zingano's series of knees which ended the fight occurred when Tate had a hand on the mat, making her technically grounded. I've watched it in slo-mo several times and it's inconclusive. The next point was whether the fight stoppage was premature. Maybe it was, at best, a tad quick. But Zingano was in the process of rearranging Tate's face. Tate's takedown attempt reminded me more of Frank Mir's desperate final lunge at Junior dos Santos late in their fight than anything that had a chance of landing.

Winslow had to make a snap judgment in real time and a fighter was in the process of taking a beating. She made the right call.

Bad call

This isn't necessarily a "bad call" per se, but I want to use this space to discuss a gray area in the rule book. The fact that there's sometimes a lag between a knockout and the referee calling off the fight can make for the occasional uncomfortable moment. Most famously this occurred when Dan Henderson gave Michael Bisping a little extra something after his famous UFC 100 knockout right hand.

It's not like Travis Browne deliberately went out of his way to drill Gabriel Gonzaga with a series of illegal elbows last night. It was one of those things that happen in the heat of the moment after Gonzaga's head turned in the wrong direction while Browne was delivering the series of strikes. I'm not accusing Browne of going out of his way to do anything wrong.

But when these situations occur, can we please stop using "the fighter was already out" as a rationalization to excuse what are clearly illegal strikes, intentional or not? What's the message here: That a fighter should be allowed to tee off on an unconscious opponent? Whether you consider such an illegal strike to occur during the fight (since the referee technically hasn't stopped it yet) or after (since the fighter on the receiving end was out) doesn't matter. There are rules on the book to handle illegal strikes in both situations, and they should be enforced.

Fight I want to see next: Dominick Cruz vs. Urijah Faber III

Sure, I'll go here. If you watched the TUF Finale post-fight show on Fuel TV, you saw one of the wittiest exchanges of banter between fighters in quite some time. Cruz, as a studio host, was given the duties of interviewing his rival after Faber's fourth-round submission win over Scotty Jorgensen. The two traded barbs on everything from their fighting style to their hairstyles, and both managed to keep smiles on their faces while ramping up the insults.

Granted, there's a ton standing between the trilogy fight, from uncertainty over Cruz's knee to the fact Faber needs a break after fighting twice in two months and, oh yeah, there's another guy running around with a bantamweight belt who is pretty formidable. But if Faber keeps knocking off all the other would-be contenders and Cruz defeats Renan Barao, Faber just might justify another title shot, and as last night proved, if nothing else, the buildup will be better than anything else that can go down at 135.

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