After a hiatus of more than a year, the most well-known women’s mixed martial arts fighter will help the UFC ring in the new year at UFC 207 on Friday, Dec. 30. Former bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey has the opportunity to finally win back her title from current champion Amanda Nunes. Since Rousey first lost the title to Holly Holm last year, the belt has engaged in a game of hot potato. Holm lost her first title defense to Miesha Tate at UFC 196, who turned around and lost it to Nunes in her first title defense at UFC 200. Can Nunes buck that trend and possibly send Rousey into permanent early retirement?
Strengths: Nunes is one of the more well-rounded fighters in all of the UFC. She’s a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, a brown belt in judo (Rousey’s specialty, coincidentally enough) and has become one of the better strikers in the UFC. “The Lioness” battered Tate into submission, literally, at UFC 200, bombarding Tate with strikes before securing a rear-naked choke for the win. Joining American Top Team has done wonders for Nunes, as she has won four in a row and is constantly improving. Among her improvements is her 73 percent takedown defense rate. So if Rousey tries to take her down for an armbar, that may just turn out to be not a great idea.
Only one of Nunes’ 13 total victories have come via decision – her recent victory over Valentina Shevchenko. So it’s basically guaranteed that Nunes’ fight with Rousey ends early, and most likely violently.
Weaknesses: Although Nunes is currently on an impressive win streak, she has struggled and lost in the past against fighters Rousey previously dominated, such as Cat Zingano and Sarah D’Alelio. While Nunes’ move to ATT has seemingly made her a greatly improved fighter, she still isn’t unbeatable. Rousey has mowed down some of the best female fighters in MMA, and if Nunes takes her lightly and thinks her year-plus layoff diminished her skills, Nunes might be in for a surprise.
Strengths: Everyone should know by now what Rousey’s strengths are. She wants to rip your arm off, take it home with her and do it quickly. She has 12 total wins, nine by submission (and armbar) and eight of those submission victories were in the first round. Rousey’s run of dominance in the UFC was basically unparalleled; what made it all the more remarkable is that those fighters knew what she wanted to do going into the fight, and still couldn’t stop her. That’s how good Rousey is at judo and at submissions. That bronze medal she won for judo in the Olympics had to be good for something, after all. If Rousey grabs a hold of Nunes’ arm, Rousey’s redemption story will be complete.
Weaknesses: But as good as Rousey is with submissions, her striking game leaves a lot to be desired, and that’s being generous. It was never more obvious just how far behind Rousey’s striking game was than when she lost the bantamweight title to Holm last year. Holm is an elite striker and multiple titleholder as a pro boxer, and it was glaringly obvious when she knocked Rousey cold and won the title. Why Rousey insisted on standing and striking with someone that has the pedigree of Holm in that department still boggles many a mind to this day. If Rousey stubbornly sticks to that game plan against Nunes, well, we all saw what Nunes did to Tate earlier this year.
I’m not sure what to make of Rousey right now. She disappeared for a year after being knocked out for the first time. She briefly resurfaced to do an interview where she expressed suicidal thoughts. Most, if not all, of her Hollywood are on hold or scrapped altogether. Plus, she’s absolutely refusing to do any media whatsoever to promote her comeback fight with Nunes. I think it’s entirely fair to question Rousey’s mindset and attitude as she makes her return.
Nunes really impressed me when she defeated Tate for the title. Tate is one of the very best female MMA fighters ever, and Nunes made her look like an amateur, frankly. I think the best of Nunes is yet to come, and I think she adds another legendary name to her mantle as we enter 2017.
Winner: Nunes by TKO