Ronda Rousey Roundup – Reasons She Was Roasted

If you follow MMA at all, you doubtless are aware that there was a highly anticipated fight on December 30th between Ronda Rousey, regularly voted “Best Female Athlete Ever,” and bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes. We posted a detailed guide to the fight on our website and where you could bet on it.

Ronda Rousey was the 3-1 favorite over Nunes. This is not a surprise considering that she previously won twelve MMA fights in a row, six of them in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Five of those fights were over within three minutes combined.

But what did surprise a lot of people is that Rousey lost her latest fight against Nunes—and it happened in under a minute.

Anyone who bet on underdog Nunes won big on December 30th. Those who bet on Rousey lost big—in fact, some punters who were sitting in the T-Mobile arena that night were actually sobbing.

How did it happen? Why did Rousey lose so badly? To understand the answer to that, you need to know a few things about Rousey’s history and personality.

Rousey’s Fall From Grace in 2015

You know that Rousey was an amazing fighter prior to November 15th, 2015—or at least an amazingly successful one. Many of her opponents went down in under a minute. She knocked out Bethe Correia in only 34 seconds, while she managed to take down Cat Zingano in only 14.

And then she met Holly Holm. At UFC 193 on November 15th, 2015, Ronda Rousey learned a very hard lesson in humility. Holm did not go down in the first couple of minutes like so many of Rousey’s other opponents. She hung in until the second round, and then threw a kick to Rousey’s neck which resulted in her first loss and a medical suspension.

It was an experience which shocked Rousey out of her bravado. In fact, she even go to the point where she thought about killing herself. On the Ellen DeGeneres Show, she said, “‘What am I anymore if I’m not this?’ Literally sitting there [in the medical room after the fight] thinking about killing myself.”

Rousey decided to take some time off of fighting to try and re-gather her nerves. December 30th, 2016 was her chance to prove to the world and to herself that she had what it takes to continue calling herself an MMA fighter. She failed.

Nunes Trounced Rousey in Just 48 Seconds

Perhaps what is most fascinating about Rousey’s loss on December 30th isn’t that it happened—but how.

As you will recall, Rousey was always good at ending a fight early and emerging as the victor. What happened with Holm was unusual in her career, because Holm knew how to keep her distance from Rousey, unlike Rousey’s previous opponents. As a result, the fight with Holm carried on longer than usual, and Rousey did not know what to do. As Nunes explained before her own fight with Rousey, “She didn’t know how to adjust because she was never more than a couple of minutes in a fight.”

If anything, we might have expected something similar to unfold on December 30th with Nunes. But it did not. Nunes was eager to engage, and Rousey did surprisingly little to defend herself, despite talking a big game going into the fight. While she sounded confident in her interviews beforehand, what she displayed in the fight was the furthest thing from poise. Her coach Edmond Tarverdyan literally screamed at her to move out of the way as Nunes laid into her … but she didn’t. She just stood there, looking shocked and confused.

In a very literal way, Rousey’s defeat on December 30th was a perfect mirror to her previous rise to stardom.

Nunes finished her off the way she used to finish her own opponents off—swiftly and without blinking.

In fact, Nunes is in some respects quite similar to Rousey in terms of how she fights, but she is no cover band. Arguably in some ways she is a much better fighter than Rousey. She is emotionally and strategically more mature. And yet she will probably never receive the level of recognition that Rousey has.

Rousey was the first female UFC fighter to really blow people away with her quick ascendancy to greatness. No other female UFC fighter has been so aggressively promoted, so stupendously popular. Nunes may be a superior fighter, but she cannot take that achievement of being “first” away from Rousey.

Explaining Why Rousey Lost

There are really two possible explanations for Ronda Rousey’s humiliating defeat.

  1. Nunes truly was a superior fighter,

    (quite likely, given that she has more perspective and more diverse experience than Rousey)

  2. Rousey was psychologically overwhelmed by the pressure of the fight

In all likelihood, both of these were major factors in Rousey’s defeat. Between the two, the psychological aspect is perhaps the most fascinating.

Rousey needed to win this fight if she wanted to take back her place in the spotlight of the UFC. She needed to win this fight to prove to herself (more than anyone) that she is still a great fighter or anything at all, really. Remember her statement, “What am I anymore if I’m not this?” Rousey’s entire identity was built upon her previous victories. Without them, she feels like she is nothing.

Such a shaky identity is going to struggle to hold together in the wake of defeat—and is going to provide a poor foundation for future victories.

Given all of that, it is understandable why Rousey has avoided media attention since her loss in 2015. It is also easy to see why she fled immediately after her loss to Nunes as well without even bothering to show up at the press conference.

Actually, all of this raises a very good question: Does Rousey still want to be a champion UFC fighter?

It is entirely possible that all of the pressure of being a champion is actually too much for Rousey. Sometimes when someone is terrified of losing, they also become terrified of winning. If she won against Nunes, she would win back her glory, but she would also have to return to defending her championship. Whereas now, she has no pressure to deal with at all. Even her mother is recommending she retire and perhaps that would be easier.

Maybe this is why she just stood there as Nunes clobbered her. Perhaps that look on her face had more to do with bewilderment over her life purpose and identity than it did to do with shock at Nunes’ proficiency.

Then again, maybe it really was surprise … perhaps she really did go into that fight once again convinced that she was going to win with ease. But it is hard to imagine that she could possibly make that mistake twice.

Was the Writing on the Wall?

Interestingly enough, it would have been hard to determine whether Rousey was confident and ready from her recent interviews with the press, but perhaps the greater lesson was contained in her silence over the past year.

Rousey has spent a lot of time since 2015 actively avoiding the media and her fans. Anyone in her situation would want some time off, but her resounding silence has long cast doubts on her intentions to continue in UFC.

At this point, it seems to me that it is possible that Rousey walked into the fight with Nunes intending to lose. Perhaps she did not have that aim on a conscious level, but it would certainly explain why she just stood there, why she did not fight back, why it seems like her hunger has gone. Maybe it is gone. After a second crushing defeat and everyone at this point pretty much calling for her to give up and call it quits, she could do so without anyone criticizing her decision.

In a sense, perhaps she chose Nunes as the executioner for her career. In some ways, it is less painful to let someone else put a bullet in you than to pull the trigger yourself. If Rousey wants to be free of MMA and all the attention that goes with it, she is free now. This is not to say that Nunes might not have defeated her even if she had been trying, but Rousey most definitely did not try in that cage.

Looking Toward the Future

So will we see more of Rousey in the future? Is her career truly over? It is hard to say at this point, but it seems entirely likely to me she will retire. If she chooses to stay in UFC, she is going to have to make a lot of big changes not just to her strategies, but to her mindset.

Those changes are not going to happen overnight, nor would they even be likely within the span of another year. But one thing I can say for sure is that if they do happen, we will see a transformation in Ronda Rousey outside the cage well before we see it inside the cage.

As to Amanda Nunes, her career is probably just beginning, and she has a shining road ahead of her if she stays on target. Unlike Rousey, she knows how to fail and how to fall and how to get back up again.

Lessons from the Rousey vs. Nunes UFC 207 Fight:

When handicapping a fighter, it is important to pay attention not just to what they say to the press, but also what they do not say. A fighter who is avoiding the limelight may very well wish to stay out of it and that might mean throwing aside a career.

Psychology is a vital aspect of MMA fighting or any other sport. One loss devastated Rousey so completely than she has been entirely unable to pull herself back together.

The fighter who gets less publicity sometimes deserves it more (in this case, Nunes).

Ronda Rousey has been an absorbing case study in the psychology of both victory and defeat. Having watched her career unfold and possibly end, you can take the lessons above and apply them in the future as you continue to follow other MMA fighters.

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