UFC 168 Preview, Part II
What a difference a year makes. Isn’t that the worst way to start an article? Well, yeah, sure, but really what a difference a year makes! This time last year the UFC officially announced the assimilation of the women’s bantamweight division, and anointed Rousey its champion. They scheduled her first defense against Liz Carmouche. The event was a success; Rousey retained her belt and drew 450,000 pay-per-view buys in the process.
Cat Zingano defeated Miesha Tate two months later, scuttling the latter’s potential rematch with Rousey. The UFC inserted Rousey and Zingano as coaches on the Ultimate Fighter (women coaching women…and men!), building up to a title fight this Saturday. The idea had two-pronged logic: 1) the shallow women’s division would have time to establish itself while 2) Rousey was given some thirteen hours of exposure on television. That came with the tradeoff of slowing the momentum Rousey and the UFC built up with her (and by extension women’s MMA’s) debut at UFC 157.
The Ferris Wheel came off its axle right at the start, though. Zingano Rose’d her knee, opening the door for Tate to step in as coach and challenger. (And gave us one of the most bizarre TUF moments ever when Rousey thought Tate had shown up on set to take HER place.) The women’s division still feels like a novelty. After Tate and Zingano (who will get the next title shot barring a rehab setback or Tate victory), the UFC rankings list Alexis Davis as the next challenger. And…is anyone clamoring for Rousey/Davis?
Yet, the thirteen hours of Rousey on TV ended up as the biggest disaster. Rousey went from smiley-blonde-Olympic-bronze-medalist-turned-MMA-champion-with-a-quirky-personality to frowny-blonde-Olympic-bronze-medalist-turned-MMA-champion-with-a-sick-obsession-with-competition-and-maybe-some-stunted-emotional-growth-too-but-hey-that’s-just-Ronda-being-Ronda-right? Part of the problem is that Rousey is a woman. Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Tiger Woods all share the same psychotic characteristic and are lauded for it. But those guys also have huge PR firms who would never allow a reality show to illuminate said psychosis.
That all leads to the million dollar question: How long does the ride last? Yes, Rousey drew nearly half a million PPV buys, but that came on the back of the novelty and history of the moment. “OMG! Ronda Rousey and women inside the Octagon!” is now “another Ronda Rousey fight.” If Rousey drew new fans from the soccer mom/girl power pool, how many are sticking around for fights two, three, and four? Does Rousey need a realistic threat? She was an 8-1 favorite against Carmouche and is a 7-1 favorite against Tate. Is Rousey armbarring a woman-of-the-week interesting enough to get people tuning in?
And then there’s the movie thing. Women’s MMA has already seen its face take off for Hollywood when Steven Soderbergh saw Gina Carano and thought, “Overdub.” Rousey’s already on tap for two major franchise releases with The Expendables 3 and Fast & Furious 7. God forbid she shows any sort of acting talent and Hollywood starts handing out cash the UFC can’t match.
-I asked the Twitter how much interested it had in Rousey vs. Tate II on a scale of 1-10. The responses were mixed.
“7 , just for the drama and hoping rousey somehow screws up and Tate gets the w” – @daselmojo
“10/10 probably. Two good fighters. Interested to see if there’s anything Tate can do to avoid the armbar this time.” – @mbish86
“1” – @ButtJardine
“8 I think Tate is better than Rousey in most areas of mma and I’m interested to see if she can do anything to stop the armbar” – @bradl83
“a 5 and that’s generous.” – @goatcheese_nips
“3-4. Rematch is unwarranted & uninteresting from a sport perspective and the buildup for their 1st fight made me dislike both” – @dynamic_jonas
“4 I guess” – @rianscalia
“4, only because they seem to hate each other.” – @DorianGNP
-OK, I’m sorry, but Travis Browne is still just a guy to me. Yeah, he’s 15-1-1 and he deserves his spot in the top ten in a top-heavy division (ah haha!) and everything, but man. He’s just a guy.
-He’s just a guy fighting Josh Barnett. Barnett’s a 2-1 favorite going in, and he should win unless he shows up old (he is 36 to Browne’s 31) or fights like a dummy.
A win may back Barnett into a title shot. With Cain Velasquez out with an injury, Fabricio Werdum, who was waiting on the winner of Velasquez-dos Santos III, is probably going to have to/want to take a fight in the interim. That leaves Barnett (or Browne) in perfect position to step in to a title eliminator.
Mike Fagan is a weekly contributor to MMA Owl. He also hosts Untethered MMA every Thursday at 7 p.m. ET. Follow him on Twitter.