LAS VEGAS – In the end, Ronda Rousey got her 50 wings. Chris Weidman got his recognition as a real champion. And the "guy in the truck" -- the one who doubles as the voice in Joe Rogan’s head -- got his answer as to whether or not Rousey would be up for fighting again in a few weeks at UFC 176 in Los Angeles.
That answer, to paraphrase Dana White, was, "you’re dead to me you f---cking buffoon." In other words, no, but even that "greatest f--- up ever" that played out in public couldn’t take away from his general good mood on Saturday night. White was beaming after UFC 175, even when one of those "Internet guys" got to acting up in the post-fight scrum, asking all kind of questions about all kind of things that ordinary people simply can’t fathom.
And why shouldn’t he have been beaming?
Rousey, the promotion’s single brightest star, treated Alexis Davis like a dog does a chew toy in the co-main event. She cracked her, threw her, then proceeded to drop elbows through her skull for what amounted to a 16-second demonstration of combined techniques. Sixteen seconds. Davis was single-legging poor Yves Lavigne for a full uncomfortable minute afterwards, trying to climb an Everest that had long vanished as a mirage. That lasting image could carry a caption that reads: This is where an encounter with Ronda Rousey ends you up. Davis never had a chance.
The scary truth is, Rousey looks better every time out. She’s now become a blend of Mike Tyson’s primal violence and a Royce Gracie game-changer’s think piece…only she has effervescent blonde hair and radical red headphones. She has very active middle fingers, too, but that didn’t stop the fans at Mandalay Bay from cheering for the UFC’s rock star. The cult of Rousey is expanding. The fans hate her. The fans love her. The fans love to hate her.
She doesn’t give a damn about her bad reputation.
Weidman, on the other hand, dispelled a few notions in his main event fight with Lyoto Machida. For one, his victories over Anderson Silva weren’t the flukes some people wanted to believe they were. Those? Those were real. For another, Weidman actually can draw a fight out of Machida, the sphinx of the fight game who at times fights (seemingly) from a plane of meditation.
In fact, Machida-Weidman ended up being one of the best fights of the year. It was all Weidman early, which was telling of just how good he really is. It was Machida late, which dug into the realm of heart. The tables were turning fast and unbelievable. Even when he had stretched his lead into the championship rounds, Weidman didn’t glide. His trainer Ray Longo was telling him he was stashing rounds in the bank, and still Weidman pressed on…even when things got a little southbound. He engaged Machida, who was growing more aggressive towards the end in ways that made you wonder how great Machida really is. The fans were living and dying with every punch Machida landed in the championship rounds.
The fight lost its certainty.
The whole thing unfolded like a compelling story (as great fights do). Even though Machida’s rally came up short, it made him a bigger star. And Weidman emerged as a true champion, a harrowing champion, one who has far outgrown our fixation on his wrestling and strength. He has stand-up, reach, smarts, geometry…he was cutting Machida’s angles all night, and Machida is a master of space. He made the action undeniable, but with cold poise. White fished for a word to describe his style afterwards, and the one he came up with was "deceiving."
If we’re not there already, Weidman’s deceptiveness will soon just take the form of his own brand of dominance. And what glee came of it.
White was in such a good mood after the event that he said he didn’t care about UFC 176, which lost its main event when Jose Aldo got injured in training. He said he’d leave those pending hells to be dealt with on Monday.
And there are always new hells in the loom. There’s the stickiness of Weidman’s next challenge, presumably Vitor Belfort, who has a long strand of red tape around him and will need to be licensed by the Nevada Athletic Commission to compete. At this point all things involving Belfort are strictly hypothetical.
And Rousey, whose trainer Edmond Tarverdyan said he’d prefer fight in December or January next after her knee surgery/relaxation, needs an opponent. The one people are clamoring for is Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino. But she, too, comes with red tape. She needs to cut down from 145 to 135. She needs to be clean. She needs to be signed by the UFC, which at this point still feels as hypothetical as Belfort’s next Vegas fight.
If that fight does get made, it’ll be the biggest women’s MMA bout in history. Only, it’s no longer Rousey being fed to Cyborg, as it was discussed when they were both champions in Strikeforce. At this point it might be the other way around.
So what happens next? That’s for the "guy in the truck" to ask, and for the rest of us to find out. Whatever it is, the things that went down on Fourth of July weekend made it that much bigger.