Ronda Rousey's Dominance Is A Double-Edged Sword

Ronda Rousey's Dominance Is A Double-Edged Sword

Ronda Rousey looks more unbeatable each time she fights. She's considered one of the most dominant athletes alive. Maybe it's time for her to lose.

To be clear, I'm not suggesting that a Rousey loss is in any way likely -- especially not this weekend. Her opponent, Bethe Correia, is ranked seventh in the UFC women's bantaweight division for a reason. She's not hyper athletic, her punching technique can be sloppy, and she's easily backed against the cage -- an area where Rousey excels. Oh, and to top it all off, Correia's said her gameplan against Rousey will involve getting up in her face and boxing with her -- suffocating her with strikes, so to speak. This might seem like a solid idea, except for the part where it is the literal opposite of that. Rousey fights like a charging bull, only she transforms into a goddamn kraken when she gets her hands on you. You don't say, "I'm going to HELP the raging kraken bull devil tornado get close to me." You keep her at arm's length until she starts to tire out, make mistakes. Weather the early storm and then mount a counter-attack.

Nobody's really forced Rousey to try anything other than her one million horsepower 18-wheeler charge. Since she's gotten to the UFC, nobody's really tested her, let alone put her in danger of losing. Her division is young, lacking in high-calibre athletes and sophisticated strategy. And while Rousey's a media (and everyone else) darling right now, the "most dominant anything ever" narrative is a double-edged sword. This is because it's not really a narrative at all. There's no suspense, no drama. The ending is writ large before the horrible (now remixed!) nu-metal opening theme even plays: Rousey is gonna win, probably in quick and devastating fashion. Right now people are eating it up. In time, however, they will invariably get bored.

Don't get me wrong: I think Rousey will always command an audience, especially if her opponents keep stepping it up in the trash talk department as gamely as Correia. She's got personality in spades and one hell of a compelling story. But the baying crowd hungers for novelty. If a Rousey victory is a foregone conclusion, diehard fans will start snoozing, and the mainstream will go looking for the next shiny, exciting thing. I mean, look at interest in renowned douchefucker Floyd Mayweather at the height of his win streak versus when he was finally taking on Manny Pacquiao, someone people thought actually had a shot at beating him. There were, admittedly, other factors playing into that fight's preposterous popularity, but you can only sell so much of a fight on personality. Eventually, you need suspense, an outcome that isn't all but predetermined.

So there's the obvious compelling argument in favour of a Rousey loss (or an opponent capable of beating her): it might dispel her aura of invincibility, but it would make people wildly interested in what she does next. It'd make her fights exciting again. We wouldn't know what to expect. And boy do people ever love their stories of adversity faced and overcome. It'd be great, whether Rousey lost by lucky punch or got properly beaten, bell-to-bell.

There'd be so many questions. Having lost, can she improve and avenge her loss? And if she improves, what will she look like? Will she become less one-dimensional as a fighter? Will she tighten up her boxing so she's harder to hit? Will she improve her footwork? Will she stop letting people take her back on the ground? Rousey is by no means a perfect fighter. Part of me worries that, at this rate, no one will push her in a way that forces her to realise her full potential. That would be a terrible shame.

A "tough" fight for Rousey is one that lasts 66 seconds instead of 14.

Speaking abstractly, it reminds me of when ex-UFC welterweight champ (and massively popular international sensation) Georges St-Pierre suffered his first loss. He took on veteran and multi-time champ Matt Hughes, and he looked sensational as ever -- like an uncrowned king charging into battle. But he made one small mistake, and Hughes submitted him. He was heartbroken, shattered.

But when he fought Hughes a second time two years later? It was so thrilling and suspenseful that I thought I was gonna have a heart attack. GSP absolutely trucked Matt Hughes in their second go-'round -- nearly kicked his head clean off his shoulders -- and it was oh-so-satisfying. Witnessing a win like that, it feels personal. It makes you feel like you can overcome your own struggles too. It makes you want to whoop and shout and go laugh at a fucking mountain, just because you can.

That sort of thing, in turn, humanizes fighters. It reminds us that larger-than-life world-beaters are just like you and me. The fight game is weird in that we don't want fighters to be unstoppable killing machines or fallible fuck-ups; we want them to be a perfect combination of both -- to embody our greatest triumphs and our greatest vices.

But there's also the case against the idea of a Rousey loss. Losses have a habit of changing fighters -- not always for the better. To again return to the example of Georges St-Pierre, losing arguably made him boring. After capturing the belt and the hearts of fans the world over (but mostly in Canada), GSP underestimated a mid-level fighter by the name of Matt Sera and got knocked the end-times-ragnaork-see-the-face-of-god FUCK out. It was nasty stuff.

Ronda Rousey's Dominance Is A Double-Edged Sword

GSP came back and trucked that Matt too, but he fought differently. Instead of utilising a blistering karate stand-up game, he started wrestling people incessantly, pathologically. People can't knock you out, after all, if they're immobilized on the ground. GSP went from justifying his nickname -- "Rush" -- with blink-and-you'll-miss-it finishes to producing plodding, predictable decisions. He was still utterly dominant, but he was too cautious to look for a finish, especially on the feet. Adversity, too, can start a fighter down the path to boredom.

Granted, that's just one example, and Rousey and GSP are obviously very different people. Still, I think it's telling that on this, the eve of Rousey's next big fight, I'm having trouble doing anything except pondering what would happen if she lost. The fight itself is so low-stakes in my mind that I'm having to make it exciting for myself with flights of fancy. Certainly, there is something to be said for witnessing brilliance -- for marveling at Rousey's brand of primal perfection for as long as it lasts. But eventually it will end, as all things do, and that's when I think things will get truly interesting.


Comments

    I know the category is "In Real Life", but I have to wonder what this has to do with the usual Kotaku content.
    Also, I noticed the higher-than-average "fuck count". My favourite was "douchefucker"

    Last edited 01/08/15 12:06 pm

      ^^^^ This... sorry but what on earth does this piece of tripe "journalism" have to do with gaming? If I wanted to watch a "sport match" with I'd play Pokemon. -1 Kotaku.

    Statistically she will lose eventually, but it isn't time for her to lose.

    Charging bull is a good description of her advance except it's backed up by her exceptional skill and technical prowess that has her well ahead of competition currently.
    We have seen her against the hardest hitters and fastest movers, barely any make the second round because the steam roller is being driven by mathematician playing chess.

    Everyone is prone to mistakes though. The Bethe Correia fight should be interesting, apparently Correia said she will beat Rousey so bad it will drive her to suicide, which has pissed off Rousey who's father committed suicide. Rousey has said she will pick her apart slowly.

    Maybe she will make mistakes due to anger or drive the match on too long, but I think (and kinda hope) that Correia learns the lesson, "talk shit, get owned"

    Last edited 01/08/15 12:24 pm

    "At Kotaku Australia, we’re carefully trying to build a reputation for creating the strongest, most engaging content surrounding games and gaming culture."

    http://www.kotaku.com.au/about/

    I still struggle to understand how having two to three in-depth UFC articles per week match up with this mission statement.

      SCENE: Kotaku meeting room
      Editor: Well, it looks like we've run out of articles to lift from other news sites. Any ideas?
      "Journo" 1: We could lift some stuff off Reddit? We haven't done that for an hour or two.
      Editor: I get the feeling people are beginning to notice we're doing a lot of that. If they just went to Reddit they wouldn't need us at all. What we need is something original.
      "Journo" 1: Orangeful?
      Editor: Original.
      "Journo" 1: Awe-ridge....anal?
      Editor: No... original.
      "Journo" 1 [eyes narrowed]: Is that even a word?
      Editor: I think so. Well then, any other ideas?
      "Journo" 2: I like UFC. I can write about that.
      "Journo" 1: That's not really gaming
      "Journo" 2: There's a UFC game on consoles
      Editor: Sorted!

    At this point I wouldn't be surprised to see the crowd start a running count between the bell and the TKO. Rousey is so utterly dominant she's warping UFC around her.

    Thing is, when you're as dominant as she is it's starting to weaken Womens UFC. Womens matches without Rousey in them are getting boring, because it's just a sideshow to see who gets to be pummelled by Rousey next. If Rousey is defeated, we have a new champ and it'll be awesome. If Rousey gets hurt and has to give up her title, it'll be a division full of also-rans and almost everyone will just be waiting for Rousey to come back.

    This is pretty much just a long-winded way of saying that Rousey really needs a worthy competitor.

      I would argue she is strengthening woman's UFC by weakening a flawed view of the sport.

      The west has been slow to accept womans UFC much like many other female sports. Rousey is bringing woman's UFC in line with the men's division and the interest it has been generating is quite noticeable.
      With interest comes money and resources, trainers and gyms will see better reasons to invest in the division and girls who are interested are being shown that UFC isn't the boys club many thought it was.

      I find it strange when a dominating figure appears in sports, even when they are likeable it's almost inevitable that people begin to want to see them beaten, our love for an underdog story is well documented.
      For me this is a wakeup call for the division, time to lift your game. Rousey shouldn't have to change, lose or retire to keep things more interesting.

    Man what's with Kotaku's UFC boner at the moment? You guys are writing more in depth articles about it than talking about actual games.

    UFC sucks...

      Cool opinion bro.

        Opinion asides, he's actually right. There's far more detail in the UFC articles than the gaming ones lately. That's not me slamming the UFC ones, there's an audience for it, rather a disparaging look at Kotakus reluctance to push out better gaming articles lately one could say...

          I was referring to the last part of his comment.

          The first part I actually agree with. If the comment ended there I wouldn't have felt the need to say anything :P

            Indeed. I mean I'm not the greatest UFC fan in the world, I dabble, but I do enjoy the articles from time to time. But when there's a vast outweighing of quality UFC articles to gaming articles on this site... that should be some sort of concern? lol. Don't cut down the UFC ones, maybe pick up the quality of the GAMING ones kotaku...

              I think it more comes down to the things Kotaku does for money. UFC must be bring in the new traffic these days...

            So you'd say UFC is at its peak in 2015? Cool opinion bro. UFC in 2015 sucks... At least it sucks if you're in to watching mma... Which is what UFC used to be about before UFC became about UFC. Now go buy a Tap Out t-shirt or something...

              Thanks for putting words in my mouth, I never once said anything about UFC being at its peak.

              That being said, we did just have arguably the best UFC/MMA card of all time...If you think that's not true MMA then I feel sorry for you.

                He seems.....Jaded.

                Thank you, thank you, try the veal.

                So your answer is yes...

                  No.

                  My answer is whether you like the UFC as a company or not, they have the best current roster of fighters and they put on the best shows. Don't even attempt to say you're an MMA fan if you can discard UFC 189 like that.

                  Regarding the UFC being at its peak...nah. It's going to continue to grow and get better as long as Dana doesn't royally snarf it up, which I could totally see him doing.

                  Either way, no one is forcing you to watch UFC events or read UFC related articles.

    I ordered Gaming news, send this Sports news back to the kitchen.

    Keep the UFC news coming I say :)

    OT: She will lose soon, its just like Silva, someone will eventually come along that will dominate her, but until then she is really raising the standard of female fighters. Love watching her fight, especailly now where every fight I'm wondering "will this be the one she loses"

      I agree, she is raising the standard. It's the UFC that needs to change and I hope they take action given the interest Rousey is generating.

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