Opinion: Ronda Rousey will return to her best

She challenges Amanda Nunes for the women's bantamweight title at UFC 207

BY Simon Maguire 12:46 Thursday 29 December 2016, 12:46 29 Dec 2016

Ronda Rousey and Amanda Nunes. Image: ©INPHO/Tom Hogan

Ronda Rousey was unstoppable during her rise to the pinnacle of the women’s bantamweight division – first dethroning Miesha Tate to become the champion in Strikeforce before carrying her dominance over into the UFC.

The Olympic bronze medallist judoka made easy work of most of her opponents, rushing to a 12-0 record with only one challenger making it out of the first round. Most were lucky if they got past the first minute.

If Rousey got close to her opponent, the chances were they would end up on the ground in an arm bar.

That was the story until she faced Holly Holm in Melbourne at UFC 193. Holm was a former boxing world champion and kept Rousey at a distance. It appeared as if that encouraged the champion to try and beat her opponent at her own game, and it was a terrible game-plan.

Holm picked her off at will throughout the first round, making the champion look amateur. She finished Rousey with a brutal head-kick, knocking her to the canvas before the ref jumped in and saved the stricken star.

Rousey didn’t take the defeat well. She avoided the limelight as much as possible, no mean feat considering she was one of the two biggest stars in the sport. Her high-profile Hollywood career ground to a halt, as did the appearances on popular TV chat shows.

She hid so well from the media glare that most felt her MMA career was over.

However, she remains the only woman to have defended the bantamweight title, as it has since passed from Holm to Miesha Tate and then from Tate to Amanda Nunes in her absence.

Since the announcement of her return at UFC 207, we have seen a few glimpses of what she has been up to. Working on her boxing skills was a no-brainer, and she enlisted the help of US amateur champion and Olympian Mikeala Mayer.

Rousey's camp was secluded this time around, about two hours north of Los Angeles. She declined to do the amount of media previously expected of her to focus fully on her preparation. 

Speaking to ESPN in the lead-up to the fight, she said: "I will never put my body at risk for money and views ever again. What makes me happy is winning and being the best in the world and that's it. F*** all the promotion and energy spent on anything that's not me winning.

"And anyone who tries to tell me I owe them energy on frivolous s*** during camp out of 'loyalty' or 'friendship' deserves no loyalty from me and is no friend of mine.

"This is not a time for f***ing favors. This is a time for redemption and revenge," she added. 

As for her comeback fight against Nunes, it should be back to basics for Rousey. Nunes is no Holm when it comes to keeping opponents at distance.

Nunes is a solid competitor and is on a four fight win streak. However she was dominated by Cat Zingano in her last loss at UFC 178 in 2014, and Rousey is likely to be too much for the Brazilian this time out.

Rousey needs to win and is desperate to do so, and while many have speculated that she was broken by the knockout she suffered, her actions and words suggest otherwise. She will attack the champion from the get-go, smother her and win by submission. The safe bet is, as you might expect, an armbar.

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