Ronda Rousey is from De Mars, women are from Venus. There’s a distinction to be made there, because at this time in the fight game it’s Rousey and the rest of the gender. It’s to the point that when Rousey said her mother, AnnMarie De Mars, once submitted somebody with an armbar in a single second, the inclination wasn’t to say that’s impossible, but to wonder what sector of Hell this band of marauders crawled out from.
Rousey needed only 14 seconds to tap out Cat Zingano on Saturday night at UFC 184, which was a UFC record for fastest finish in a title fight. Zingano was supposed to be "a real challenge." Her motivation to beat Rousey required nine harrowing pages in ESPN The Magazine, and the promos were suggesting that Zingano might have better striking and could very possibly have more strength than the Original Mean. Some gullibles took the bait, but how many Mike Tyson comparisons do we need to realize that Rousey fights don’t need to sell challengers at all?
(Credit: Equipoise Design)
Marketing her merely requires victims in the abstract. Fresh meat to slide under the door. Sacrifices. Volunteers for ass kickings. Just like back in Tyson’s day, when the idea that he was the scariest man alive was more than enough to tune in.
Only, the thing is -- although I suppose you could make a case that De Mars and Tyson’s old trainer Cus D’Amato do share a near mystical ability to instill their charges with total and complete self-belief -- those comparisons are a little off, too. Even for as ferocious (and impetuous) as Tyson was, he was the continuation of something long in place. He was a revival -- a savage revival, to be sure, but a revival -- for a new generation of boxing fans. Not to mention he was a he in the unbending world of traditional fight game givens.
Rousey’s the first in her generation (or any) to not only construct the walls, but to tear them down. She single-handedly created a women’s division in the UFC, then smashed through whatever reservations were out there. It’s almost like we don’t know how to deal with her at all. We’re still in the process of figuring it out. In MMA, there’s rarely a case where somebody is so far ahead of the competitive curve that you just sort of marvel at the curve itself. And after 11 pro fights, there are more stories to be found in her wake than there are on her horizon.
Because, what is her horizon? Is it a fight with Bethe Correia? Cyborg? Holly Holm? Arianny Celeste? Bryan Caraway? Michael Spinks? In the post-fight wrap-up show on Fox Sports 1, Miesha Tate was being hoisted back up the flagpole as a possibility because she "lasted longest in the cage" than anybody else with Rousey. That’s where we’re at. "Who can last longest" is the new game within the game. Just to stand in the Octagon with Rousey becomes its own historic occurrence. Everybody in her weight class wants nothing more than to be the one to beat her. But at some point, once she’s inspired a generation of young girls to come and take her place, you get a sense that all the Tates and Zinganos and Liz Carmouches will be proud of the fact that they, way back when, stood across from "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey.
She’s that kind of game-changer.
The more we see of her, the more it seems like Rousey’s horizon is to be the standard by which women in this sport measure greatness. It’s undeniably true that she came along at the right time and place, but what makes her transcendent is that she created her time and place…that she forced the time to be now, and the place to be within those eight walls. In the simplest terms possible, she’s taken a male-dominated sport by the balls. And now she’s rearranging the culture.
Saturday night in Los Angeles was another reminder of the gap between Rousey and everyone else in the basic area of simply competing. Zingano waited more than a year to finally get in there with Rousey, only to last 14 seconds. She came flying across the cage at the opening bell. Then chaos. After a manic sequence, she found herself on her stomach with her arm being torn from the shoulder joints. It was fast, furious, and vicious, but it wasn’t anticlimactic. There was reassurance that all the hype landed somewhere so crazy. You saw everything you needed to in those few seconds.
Namely, that Ronda Rousey mercilessly destroyed another opponent and, in so doing, left the playing field that much farther behind.