‘Undisputed’, ‘Pound for Pound’, ‘Best Female Athlete Ever’; these are just a few of the accolades that ‘Rowdy’ Ronda Rousey has had bestowed upon her in recent times.
And with good reason, too - but as she prepares for her 13th professional MMA bout (her eighth UFC title defence) against compatriot Holly ‘The Preacher’s Daughter’ Holm, there is an all-too-obvious evolution of style in her attack that could well lead to her undoing – Ronda has started to ‘stand and bang’.
Over the past 15 years, the Californian has gained 40 different medals as a competitive Judoka, including a bronze medal at the 2008 Olympic Games, and she has used this base to devastate 11 of her 14 mixed martial arts opponents across both her amateur and professional career – ten of whom she defeated with a first round armbar.
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It has always been a case of routine for Ronda, grab your opponent – throw them to the mat – lock in an armbar – win.
However, three of the ‘2015 ESPY Best Fighter’ winners last four title defences have come via way of knockout as Ronda has opted to stand and trade shots instead of look for the takedown and submission, so here’s the thing - like a lot of fighters that begin to experiment with new styles - she enjoys it. When this happens, discipline can be sacrificed for desire, and here lies the danger.
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Enter Holly Holm - 33-year-old New Mexico native, 19 time world boxing champion and the UFC’s currently undefeated number one contender.
Holm’s accomplishments in boxing somewhat echo Rousey’s in judo and she is by far the most capable striker that the champion has ever faced. This bout is the ultimate example of the classic ‘striker versus grappler’ matchup in the UFC’s women’s division and if Rousey continues to test herself on the feet and looks to quench her newfound thirst for the knockout, then she may well find herself out of her depth.
‘Rowdy’ herself has worked diligently on her stand up game at the Glendale Fighting Club with coach Edmond Tarverdyan (a decorated kickboxer) but now, as she grows more confident in the ability of her hands, the desire to test herself by going toe to toe with her opponents is becoming more and more apparent, much to the disdain of those who know her best.
During a recent interview on LatiNation, as reported by MMAfighting.com, Ronda’s mother and life-long judo mentor AnnMaria DeMars had some choice words about Tarverdyan’s training:
"I think Edmond is a terrible coach and I will say it publicly - I think he hit the lottery when Ronda walked in there. She was winning before she ever met him. She probably won 99 percent of the judo matches she ever fought in.”
Another who agrees with DeMars is Rousey’s old training partner, ex-UFC competitor and fellow Judoka, Karo Parisyan. Mixedmartialarts.com reports on the interview he gave when speaking to MMAJunkie radio about similarities between Ronda and his combatant cousin Manvel Gamburyan after they both joined Tarverdyan’s Gym:
“Manny went there, these guys said, ‘You don’t need grappling, you don’t need judo, you’re already a master at that, so come train with us’. Manny went there and trained, and he forgot that he’s a grappler and a judo guy. He forgot [his style of fighting], that’s not supposed to happen - You can’t forget what your strength is.”
It remains to be seen if the current focus on striking in Rousey’s camp is beginning to override her ‘bread and butter’ judo approach, but when she and Holm meet at UFC 193 in Melbourne, Australia on November 15, we will all find out just how far into open water the champion has waded.