By Rafael Bandayrel
At one point in her career, Ronda Rousey was the face of the UFC, MMA as a whole, and women’s sports in general. Just two years after her last fight in the Octagon, Rousey called it a career and signed a contract in WWE where she now works as an in-ring talent.
It is bizarre, however, that dominant athlete would fall from the top as quickly as Rousey did. In a span of two years, Rousey came from the 12-0 juggernaut to a non-entity in the MMA circuit. This leaves fight fans questioning: What went wrong with Rousey?
Rise of an icon
In 2015, Sports Illustrated labelled Rousey the most dominant athlete of the year – with legends like LeBron James and Serena Williams just ranking below her.
Rousey won eight straight bouts with the armbar – a submission hold that her opponents know is coming, but could not stop anyway.
She then scored a couple consecutive knockouts against Sara McMann and Alexis Davis, which in hindsight might be the worst thing that happened to her career. It was at this time that Rousey – a grappling expert – had trusted her striking ability too much.
The then-bantamweight champion scored another two straight finishes; a submission against Cat Zingano and a KO against Bethe Correia. At this point, Rousey has reached the summit of her career. Little did she know that it would as well be her ceiling.
Death of a myth
In Nov. 2015, Rousey faced the toughest challenge of her career. She was matched-up against kickboxing world champion Holly Holm, the first elite striker that she had encountered.
Nobody believed that Holm stood a chance. Not the fans, not the experts, and certainly not the Vegas odds-makers who pegged Rousey as the seven-to-one favorite.
During round two, Holm shocked the world when she took away Rousey’s consciousness with a left head kick. And for the first time, the goddess of the Octagon was exposed as a mortal.
From there, Rousey never recovered. She fought for the last time in 2016 against Amanda Nunes, and got a similar result – a brutal knockout loss.
Smokes and mirrors
So what exactly happened to Rousey? That was the question that everybody was asking. The correct question to ask, however, is: Was Rousey that good at all?
At her peak, Rousey held an immaculate record of 12-0, with a finish rate of 100 percent. However, the women she was fighting were overmatched and outsized.
One of Rousey’s close friends Chael Sonnen explained how her hype was built during an episode of Chris Jericho’s Talk is Jericho podcast.
“That whole thing was smoke and mirrors. She was never very good to start with,” Sonnen said. “It was just a reality that the other girls were worse.”
According to Sonnen, Rousey also fell for her own illusion and believed that she was better than she was. The Bellator Heavyweight said, “I had no idea that this young gal fell for it. She marked out for her own gimmick. That’s not a criticism, that’s just what happened.”