Ronda Rousey's road to UFC 168

In the aftermath of just two minutes and 18 seconds of a professional mixed martial arts career, “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey proclaimed herself ready, willing, able and destined to be the next Strikeforce women’s bantamweight champion.

Miesha Tate, the reigning champion and a veteran of 14 pro fights, didn’t see things in quite the same light.

If Rousey’s Olympic judo pedigree, utter domination of four opponents and cover girl beauty wasn’t enough to make some noise, her equally brash and eloquent words very well would.

“I knew that I could win the title the day that I started and the quickest I could get it, the better,” Rousey told the Glendale News-Press before the fight, “and if getting a couple more entertaining interviews than some of the other girls helps me out, then I want to do that.”

Tate argued that Rousey hadn’t done enough to warrant a title shot and was talking her way into one when former champion Sarah Kaufman, or even contender Alexis Davis, were more worthy of the opportunity.

“At this point this is the biggest, the best fight, the biggest selling point, the most draw, everything else you know in the big picture that is better for women's mixed martial arts in the sense of attention that it's getting,” Tate said on a conference call prior to their first bout.”So you know I can appreciate that fact, you know, but I'm still not budging on who I really feel earned what, I don't feel that Ronda has really earned her position. You can come in and even if you are one of the best of the sport, it doesn't matter until you really prove it and I don't feel that she's proved that yet.”

But the Strikeforce powers that be decided otherwise and the seeds were planted for a build-up and a bout on March 3, 2012 that would forever alter women’s MMA.

Tate would be the first to extend Rousey’s reign of destruction past a minute. But she would be the fifth to succumb to an armbar and the fifth not to last past the first round, as she begrudgingly tapped out at the 4:27 mark of the opening stanza.

Now, the rolls have reversed.

Rousey is the champion, still unblemished two bouts later at 7-0 with none of her bouts yet to extend past the first round and nary an opponent able to withstand her armbar without submitting.

Tate meanwhile enters the rematch as the challenger, having lost two of her last three bouts, with the loss to Rousey and a defeat to Cat Zingano in her UFC debut sandwiched around a hard-fought stoppage win over Julie Kedzie.

Thus, one could argue it’s Tate whose opportunity to challenge for the title is in question.

“I would say that the factors considered in giving her the title shot were definitely outside of her recent athletic performances,” Rousey said Thursday at a UFC media luncheon in Los Angeles. “Which is why it’s so important to really play up the rivalry part and play up the whole looks part, because, athletically, I mean look at the Vegas odds, they’re 10-1. It’s hard to sell that, it’s hard to sell a 10-1 fight. So you have to look outside the box.”

What follows is a fight by fight look at Rousey’s path of destruction — one that’s as extraordinary as it is redundant in its dominance — leading up to Saturday’s rematch with Tate.

Amateur career

Having already at one time represented former UFC champion Bas Rutten, along with Glendale fighters such as Alberto Crane and Karen Darabedyan, fight manager Darin Harvey liked the potential he saw in a young female fighter.

“I believe she has the potential to be the best in the world,” Harvey wrote in an email to the Glendale News-Press on Aug. 5, 2010.

A day later, Ronda Rousey made her mixed martial arts amateur debut at a Combat Fight League event in Oxnard. In just 23 seconds, she submitted Hayden Munoz via armbar.

To say the end result was a foreshadowing of events to come would be a gross understatement.

Having twice made the United States Olympic judo team and having been the first American to medal in the sport with her bronze performance in 2008, Rousey put her burgeoning MMA career full speed ahead.

She submitted Autumn Richardson in November of 2010 in 57 seconds in Las Vegas under the Tuff-N-Uff banner.

Once more fighting for Tuff-N-Uff in Las Vegas in January of 2011, Rousey encountered Taylor “Tay” Stratford. Stratford was 6-0 in her amateur career.

“I am just pumped up for this fight,” Tuff-N-Uff commentator John Morgan, an award-winning writer for MMA junkie, said on the broadcast. “Tay Stratford is a really bright prospect at 19 years old, as well, and Ronda Rousey seems to be a future star of mixed martial arts without question.

“This is the fight people want to see.”

If those people turned away, they might well have missed it.

Stratford came out swinging, Rousey initiated a clinch and used a leg trip for a takedown and expertly transitioned for the armbar. Stratford pulled out of it, but not for long, as seconds later, a second Rousey armbar attempt was the last, leading to a tapout at 24 seconds.

Stratford has won three more amateur bouts against no losses and is considered a budding prospect, though her pro debut, reportedly for Invicta Fighting Championships in October of 2012, was derailed by an injury.

Rousey was ready to go pro and she wasn’t looking back.

Pro debut

Rousey def. Ediane Gomes in 25 seconds of first round via armbar

March 27, 2011, King of the Cage – Tarzana

Turns out the most difficult battles associated with Rousey’s debut came with Harvey trying to find an opponent and Rousey trying to break up a dogfight.

“I don't want to toot my own horn, but I think I've done the impossible — nobody wants to fight her,” Harvey told the News-Press in 2011. “I've had to beg, borrow and steal. It's been very frustrating for Ronda, it was very frustrating for me. I began to doubt myself.”

Thus, for her professional debut, Rousey was faced with Gomes, a veteran boasting a 6-1 record.

Shortly before the bout, though, Rousey heard her dog, Mochi, and her roommate’s dog fighting in an adjacent room. In breaking up the canine combat, Rousey sustained a bite from her roommate’s dog that required stitches on the bottom of her foot.

To hide the injury, Rousey chose to weigh in naked, as she’d have to be surrounded by towels and the athletic commission wouldn’t look on as closely.

A day after dropping her clothes to ensure a fight would happen, Rousey dropped Gomes in 25 seconds.

“I always try to be aggressive,” Rousey told the News-Press after the fight. “If we want women’s fighting, we have to make it exciting.”

Rousey def. Charmaine Tweet in 49 seconds of first round via armbar, June 17, 2011

Hard Knocks Fighting Championship – Calgary

Contrary to what some have said, most notibly Tate, Rousey said she’s never had ill will for any of her opponents besides Tate and one Charmaine Tweet.

It stemmed from Rousey getting an offer to fight for Strikeforce, then the biggest stage for female fighting in North America, if not the world. But Tweet and the Hard Knocks Fighting Championship wouldn’t budge in letting Rousey out of her fight, she said.

“I remember where I was when I heard that I got the call from Strikeforce – I was at RiteAid,” Rousey said on Thursday. “I was broke and when I heard I got the call from Strikeforce, I bought everything in the store. I was like, I’m getting all the fancy tooth paste, I’m getting nail polish; I walked out with like $50 worth of stuff from Rite Aid. … It was so long since I could afford to buy gum.

“Then I got a call and they’re like Charmaine said she’ll sue you if you pull out. … I was like, I have to go to work tomorrow and then I have to fly to Calgary and f--- that b---- up. So I was justifiably angry about that.”

She did just that.

Strikeforce debut

Rousey def. Sarah D’Alelio in 25 seconds of first round via armbar, Aug. 12, 2011

Strikeforce Challengers 18 – Las Vegas

Rousey’s Strikeforce debut came and went in the blink of an eye. It came against a fighter in D’Alelio who was 4-1 at the time and has since built a 7-5 record with her subsequent six fights coming under the Invicta banner against a slew of top-notch competition.

Rousey def. Julia Budd in 39 seconds of first round via armbar, Nov. 18, 2011

Strikeforce Challengers 20 – Las Vegas

Budd, having just come off a win over current UFC fighter Germaine de Randamie, was seen as Rousey’s biggest step up in competition – then in the 145-pound featherweight class. A veteran kickboxer with a big punch, Budd got a shot or two in, but Rousey ended their fight just the same as all her previous bouts.

And afterword, Rousey, who had already made mention of her plans previously, made it known she intended to drop down to 135 pounds and was zeroing in on Tate.

“I really want to have a title fight with Miesha Tate,” she said in the cage following the bout.

Budd, since then, has won her last four fights and is seen as a likely contender to Invicta’s 145-pound title.

Strikeforce women’s bantamweight championship

Rousey def. Miesha Tate in 4:27 of first round via armbar, March 3, 2012

Strikeforce: Tate vs. Rousey – Columbus, Ohio

There was hype, there was trash talk, there was plenty of this and that. There was a weigh-in dust-up and then, finally, there was Tate and Rousey in a much-hyped main event.

In the end, Tate survived one armbar attempt, but she couldn’t survive a second as she held out as long as possible, but with her arm pulled back in grotesque fashion, she finally tapped.

Strikeforce title defense

Rousey def. Sarah Kaufman in 54 seconds of first round via armbar, Aug. 18, 2012

Strikeforce: Rousey vs. Kaufman – San Diego

While Kaufman lasted just 54 seconds against Rousey, she remains the only common opponent between Rousey and Tate. She defeated Tate via unanimous decision in May of 2009.

Thus, Tate, and Kaufman to a lesser extent, believed the Canadian striker was the one deserving of a title shot. Rousey gladly gave it to her and might very well have put together her best performance.

Rousey came out with a triple jab to initiate a clinch which quickly led to another armbar conclusion just the same as all the others with Kaufman, now 16-3 and a part of the UFC roster, left as just another victim.

UFC women’s bantamweight title match

Rousey def. Liz Carmouche in 4:49 of first round via armbar, Feb. 23, 2013

UFC 157 – Anaheim

For years, UFC President Dana White had said women would never fight in the octagon under the UFC banner. That all changed on this winter night.

Following an overwhelming amount of media exposure for Rousey that included the likes of Time Magazine and HBO, the former Olympian walked into the cage to take on Carmouche, an ex-Marine on a two-fight winning streak and the first openly gay UFC combatant.

Carmouche gave Rousey her longest fight and perhaps her toughest, taking Rousey’s back and putting her in a painful cross face. But Rousey eventually wiggled out of it, secured an armbar and made history as the first-ever UFC women’s champion won the first-ever UFC women’s fight.

“I don’t know how many adjectives I have right now,” said Rousey of her emotions at the postfight press conference. “It’s kind of odd. I’m very, very happy right now, it’s starting to feel normal a little bit.”

UFC title defense

Rousey vs. Miesha Tate II, Saturday, UFC 168 – Las Vegas

Much has changed since their first monumental encounter.

While Tate lost to Cat Zingano in a matchup to determine the next title shot and a spot coaching opposite Rousey on “The Ultimate Fighter,” an injury to Zingano altered everything. Tate was given the spot coaching and the shot for the title.

“I think because of the ready-made rivalry it was a natural,” Rousey said on Thursday. “The first fight between me and Miesha was what really reignited the interest in women’s MMA. I purposely instigated the rivalry to get people [paying attention]. Because at the time, it was necessary. Now it’s gotten to the point where, I was so encouraged that the next fight with me and Kaufman had 20% better viewers because people started watching for the spectacle and they stayed for the athleticism. It really picked up after that: with Carmouche it was an even bigger success. Now I’ve reached a point where I really just don’t think it’s necessary anymore and so I’m gonna be happy to beat this girl and really close that chapter in my life.”

That latest chapter comes Saturday with the question left to be answered as to whether it will be the next chapter in the Rousey-Tate rivalry or the last.

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