Rousey the greatest? Give it some time

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ronda

Ronda Rousey

If you shelled out the $59.99 pay-per-view fee to watch UFC 190 in HD, it likely wasn’t for the less-than-enthralling Stefan Struve decision victory over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.

UFC 190 was a must-watch for MMA fans because Ronda Rousey was headlining the card. It didn’t matter that she was such a prohibitive favorite that everyone with a pulse was looking ahead to Rousey’s next opponent. Pundits were preemptively asking: Will Miesha Tate try her luck a third time against Rousey, or will the long-awaited pairing with Cris Justino come to fruition?

For her part, Rousey’s UFC 190 opponent, Bethe Correia, promoted the fight well. Her performance out of the ring, though, far outweighed her performance in it. Rousey plowed forward, absorbed a couple of punches from the backpedaling Correia, then clubbed the Brazilian with an overhand right that landed on the right temple just above the ear.

Correia fell flat, the fight was over.

Another challenger fell by the wayside as well. Rousey has just about made her first lap through the UFC’s bantamweight division, and she’s plumb out of fresh challenges. Tate, already a two-time loser to Rousey, has inched back into the number one contender’s spot.

Does anyone doubt the third time will not be the charm for Tate?

Not too long ago, the prevailing sentiment was that Cain Velasquez was the top heavyweight in the world, Junior Dos Santos was a distant second, and no one else was remotely close. Fabricio Werdum dispelled that line of thinking with a resounding third-round stoppage of Velasquez.

The men’s side of the game, no matter how dominant the champion, presents the oft-repeated phrase: “anything can happen.”

Could anything happen in a Rousey fight?

In the women’s bantamweight division, a Rousey victory is about as sure an eventuality in MMA as Mike Goldberg uttering a clichĂ© or Joe Rogan effusively praising a winning fighter.

So to answer that question: “No.”

As dominant as Rousey has been – and there really isn’t any fighter who compares – to hoist her up to the lofty pedestal of “greatest of all-time” is a tad premature. She is the greatest women’s MMA fighter right now, and has arguably been the best since she first reigned in the defunct Strikeforce promotion some years ago.

Overcoming adversity and digging deep to defeat a weighty challenge truly mark a fighter’s greatness. Ali had those seminal moments in fights against Frazier and Foreman. More recently – and specifically in MMA – Jon Jones edged out Alexander Gustaffson, Georges St. Pierre nudged past Jonny Hendricks, and Anderson Silva pulled off the ultimate comeback with a late-fight submission over Chael Sonnen.

Who has dragged Rousey into deep water? No one. Rousey has barely toe-dipped into a shallow puddle with the only instance in which she really broke a sweat coming over two years ago against Tate. Rousey dominated her second fight with Tate from start to finish, but needed a third round before sending Tate home a loser.

That fight was more a testament to Tate’s cavernous resolve and perseverance, than a crack in Rousey’s wall of toughness.

What we do know, based the relative brief history of the sport, is that someone is out there – right now – who is already training in MMA (or may soon take up the sport) who will present Rousey with the challenge every great champion needs.

Maybe this challenger will be the one who dethrones Rousey, but maybe Rousey will meet the challenge and turn it away.

Maybe Rousey will retire undefeated, a goal she has stated many times.

And maybe there will come a time when Rousey becomes the unquestioned “greatest MMA champion of all time.”

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