We've reached a point with Ronda Rousey where one mild distraction could cause you to miss the entirety of another brilliant UFC bantamweight title defense. Such was the case for Rousey's jiu-jitsu coach, Rener Gracie, on Saturday night. By the time Gracie tucked away Rousey's sponsor banner and settled into the blue corner, challenger Cat Zingano was already on the floor, frantically slapping her hand onto Rousey's left ankle and signaling the end of UFC 184's main event.
This time Rousey's throne took just 14 seconds to defend, cementing it as the fastest title fight in UFC history. Once again, just like her previous 16-second romp over Alexis Davis, the entire match could easily fit into the space of a small gif, or even an Instagram video. Zingano charged Rousey from the opening moments, only to get reversed to the floor and lose her arm in a wild scramble. And just like that, it was over -- Rousey's toughest test relegated to lifetime highlight-reel, and another dazzling sequence forever submitted to history's great finishes.
"Ronda Rousey's middle name should be improvisation," Gracie said of the scene on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "That's her adaptability. That's how she trains. When we're training in the academy here on a regular basis, literally every single day she's spinning and turning and landing in the craziest ways and catching techniques that are totally improvised -- but then, if they're that predictable and they're that regularly occurring, are they improvised or are they just part of the tornado?"
Hindsight will always be one of a professional athlete's greatest enemies, but whether fairly or unfairly, Zingano is destined to forever be questioned for her strategy at UFC 184 -- charging headfirst into the lion's den, closing the distance on a savant of the clinch.
Gracie admitted on Monday that he was caught off guard by Zingano's gameplan, though neither Rousey nor head coach Edmond Tarverdyan were as surprised. They actually expected it, Gracie said, and in turn, they prepared exactly for that moment.
"As soon as I turned and saw the scramble on the ground, chaos happening, I thought to myself, ‘Oh, Cat's in big trouble right now,'" Gracie said. "Because Ronda thrives in the chaos. She thrives in the confusion because of her extensive years in judo, and it's amazing what she's able to do. When other people would otherwise kinda clam up and just do what's safe, Ronda's always literally upside-down and twisting and elegantly looking for prime limbs to latch onto and take home and add to the collection."
Rousey said afterward at UFC 184's post-fight press conference that the finishing technique, an unusual but ultra-slick belly-down armlock, was one that she had never specifically practiced before in training.
Being able to improvise a brand new maneuver on such a massive stage against one of the unquestioned best fighters in the world is an astounding thought to consider, though when asked, Gracie clarified what Rousey meant.
"When Ronda says ‘I've never done that before,' what she means is from that exact angle of the hip and that exact entry from the failed throw to the cartwheel flip, she had never executed it like that exactly," Gracie said. "However every single day in practice, when we're training, Ronda is catching that behind-the-shoulder armbar belly up, belly down, from all different positions.
"And I've told people in the past, I've never felt armbars like hers in my life. The best armbars I've ever felt are Ryron's, my older brother's. Because Ryron's been doing armlocks and chokes and triangle and footlocks and everything else his entire life, he's good at all of them. But Ronda, because she spent so many years just breaking arms and focusing entirely on that submission, she actually is the best. She actually has the tightest armbars I've ever felt in my entire life."
At just 28 years old, Rousey is far from done. If she were to retire tomorrow though, her ridiculous list of accomplishments would already place her among the all-time greats of combat sports.
With an undefeated 11-0 record, seven finishes in under a minute, Strikeforce and UFC gold, and an Olympic bronze medal to boot, Rousey is incomparable to any fighter in women's mixed martial arts history. So as her accolades continue to pile up, Gracie can't help but marvel at the ability he witnesses from the champion on daily basis.
"I really think she's the most naturally gifted and talented athlete I've ever worked with in my life, ever," Gracie said. "And that's in any field or any endeavor. I've helped professional athletes of all different skills and sports and capabilities, certainly in martial arts and in jiu-jitsu in regards to combat sports, but I've never seen an athlete who hones her craft and is perfect for their sport like Ronda is for MMA."