If Ronda Rousey has a weakness, she hasn’t shown it. The Olympic silver medalist’s ground game is impenetrable and her takedown defense remains unmatched in the UFC women’s bantamweight division. However, opponents haven’t challenged Rousey’s striking enough to hand her the title of WMMA’s best.
“I’ve reached a certain level of competition where what’s required out of striking to come into the clinch to grapple is a lot more complicated than at the lower levels,” Rousey (8-0) said in an interview with USA TODAY Sports. “It requires much more high-level footwork and striking to be able to use grappling at all.” She goes on to say that striking will better her chances of taking a fight to the ground.
The 27-year-old has pummelled opponents to the tune of eight consecutive victories, each coming via armbar submission. As impressive is that fact that only one fight lasted beyond the first round. Rousey’s extensive judo background prepared her to take down a fighter, but getting to that point is still a work in progress.
“It definitely is a challenge,” she said. “With judo I spend so many years with a certain posture that the hardest thing was adjusting it.” Rousey hasn’t needed a potent striking game to this point. But as competitors catch on to her style, and find holes in her game plan, she will need to prove that armbars aren’t the only way to win a fight.
On Saturday, Rousey faces Sara McMann (7-0) at UFC 170 with the UFC women’s bantamweight title at stake. It’s a clash of women utilizing their judo and wrestling training, respectively, to find a comfort zone on the Octagon floor. McMann’s road is similar to Rousey’s in that they entered MMA around the same time and remain undefeated. Contrarily, McMann has proven she can deliver a knockout blow, defeating Sheila Gaff via TKO at UFC 159.
Nevertheless, the champion’s record speaks for itself. Victories over Liz Carmouche, Sarah Kaufman and Miesha Tate attest to Rousey’s knack for exposing a fighter’s faults and making them look like an amateur. Striking is one of multiple elements that makes a fighter complete and Rousey nears that goal with every jab she takes.
When asked how her skills compare to her peers, Rousey simply said “My MMA striking is the best in the game.”
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