Showtime for Rousey

GLENDALE — In front of a cable audience and a live Las Vegas crowd, former two-time United States Olympian Ronda Rousey will make her big-time mixed-martial-arts debut with plenty of hype to live up to and plenty of potential to fulfill.

"She's a top prospect and that's what we're looking for," Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker said. "I think she's got tremendous potential and that's why we're excited to have her."

Of course, when the cage door shuts, all the buzz surrounding the Glendale-trained Rousey will come down to the fight itself.

And, at first glance of the resumes of Rousey and Sarah D'Alelio, viewers could well be in store for a grappling match when they tune in to Friday night's "Strikeforce Challengers 18" card on Showtime.

The two mixed martial artists have seven combined fights and five combined submissions as they enter their three-round featherweight matchup at The Palms in Las Vegas.

But when asked about the topic, it's clear that Rousey, who won a bronze in judo at the 2008 Olympics, would welcome a ground battle, while D'Alelio might have other plans.

"I'd be stoked if she wants to go to the ground with me," said Rousey, 24. "But I don't think she will."

Rousey (2-0) will be making her Strikeforce debut after a dominant run of three amateur MMA wins that took less than two minutes combined and two professional fights this year that have taken a combined 74 seconds. All five victories have come via armbar submission and none lasted longer than a minute.

"She's obviously good at armbars," D'Alelio, 30, said. "That's kinda impressive. Intimidating? No. Impressive? Yes."

D'Alelio is 4-1 with three submission wins to her credit, but said there is no real game plan for Friday.

"I'm pretty excited to show off some stand-up in this fight," D'Alelio said. "I'm not planning anything out specifically. My main goal is just to fight."

There are definite differences between the two fighters, but with Rousey as an overwhelming favorite, it appears that the aspirations are clearly worlds apart.

"She's a weight class above me," said D'Alelio, who has fought in the 135-pound bantamweight division, but will jump up to 145 to take on Rousey after she was originally scheduled to fight Gina Carano. "I don't really have any pressure. I'm fighting a girl who's bigger than me. If I lose, I lose to a bigger girl. If I win, hey, that's great, too."

While there's likely some pressure for Rousey and her camp, confidence and expectations are high.

"There are very few things you're ever 100% sure of," said Rousey's manager, Darin Harvey, "but I'm 100% sure she'll finish this girl off in the first round."

D'Alelio was originally scheduled to face the popular Carano on June 18. But after Carano was not cleared medically, Strikeforce attempted to bring in Rousey. A previously scheduled bout for Rousey and a problem with her opponent's manager prevented that, however. The two were then given a slot on the prelims of the July 30 "Fedor vs. Henderson" card, but were then switched to Friday's event — a change believed by most to bestow guaranteed TV time on the debuting Rousey.

"I think this is a really good pick for me," Rousey said. "I think they're trying to build me up."

Thus, it seems Rousey is on the right path to establish herself as the MMA star most believe she can become. Of course, in the crazy world of MMA that can all change in one night, but that's not something those around her think is in the cards.

"She's destined to be a champion — that's her destiny," Harvey said. "She has no fear, she knows one thing: Get in there and do her job."

Copyright © 2019, Glendale News-Press
EDITION: California | U.S. & World