The Final Bell: UFC 207

Was UFC 207 the beheading of the Ronda Rousey phenomenon?

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Now that the dust has begun to settle, the world pauses to reflect on a dramatic night in the Octagon.From the moment it was announced, UFC 207 promised to be explosive, shocking and downright memorable. It delivered on these promises and then some…

In the main event, reigning Women’s Bantamweight Champion Amanda ‘Lioness’ Nunes obliterated the returning former champ and living MMA legend ‘Rowdy’ Ronda Rousey in a brutal 48-second knockout. In the co-main event, the UFC’s hottest prospect Cody ‘No Love’ Garbrandt shocked the world and put on one of the most memorable performances by any title challenger in recent years to score a well-deserved unanimous decision victory over the highly-regarded (former) Bantamweight king that is ‘The Dominator’ Dominick Cruz. Meanwhile, TJ Dillashaw moved another step closer to a shot at the Bantamweight title he relinquished to Cruz in January with an impressive win over the hard-hitting John ‘Hands of Stone’ Lineker. Rounding out the main card, South Korean Dong Hyun Kim returned to the UFC after a year’s layoff with a hard-fought split decision win over Belgian Tarec Saffiedine, and Ray Borg reigned supreme over fellow flyweight prospect Louis Smolka with a dominant unanimous decision victory.

Whilst UFC 207’s main card may have delivered just the one stoppage win, it will be an event that will certainly live long in the memories of fight fans for years to come. Many may view this event in the future as the birth of two genuine, global superstars in new Men’s Bantamweight Champion Cody Garbrandt and the still-reigning Women’s Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes. It is important to first note the achievements of these two superstars before discussing what is bound to be UFC 207’s overarching legacy – the fall of Ronda Rousey.

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Coming into the fight with Nunes, Rousey’s claim to the Bantamweight crown was already in troubled waters following a devastating knockout at the hands of now former Champion Holly Holm at Melbourne’s UFC 193 in November 2015. Now, as we reflect on UFC 207 and the night that was, any claim of Rousey’s to the title throne is well and truly drowned in the water. From the moment the first bell rang out, Rousey was forced into an uphill battle by a hungry Amanda Nunes, with the fiery Brazilian madly intent on keeping her belt firmly around her waist. Nunes forced Rousey into fighting on her feet, simultaneously shutting down any opportunities for the former champ to display her Judo prowess whilst giving Nunes the chance to showcase the power of her striking. Nunes did just that, landing clean shots to the head of Rousey that forced her to scramble back. Nunes pushed her advantage and Rousey would have no answer to the staggering 27 significant strikes that Nunes would land on her way to a stunning, massively one-sided knock out of the woman once seen by many as invincible. In disposing of Rousey with such brutal efficiency, Amanda Nunes would not only stamp her authority as undisputed champion of the division, but send out a symbolic message that is sure to silence her critics and show to the world just how far Women’s MMA and the Women’s Bantamweight Division has come since the days of Rousey tearing through her opponents at will. Whilst UFC 207 will then undoubtedly launch Amanda Nunes’ star, it will send Rousey’s plummeting to Earth – no longer is Rousey a part of the title picture and no longer is she a feared force in the organisation and sport she helped to build. One can not help but to recall the story of Royce Gracie and how he would pioneer the sport of MMA and overwhelmingly dominate early on in his career only to be passed by the sporting juggernaut that he himself had such an influential role in creating.

The question that lingers now in the world of fight sports is this – Where to now for Ronda Rousey? After observing the sheer emotional toll of Rousey’s shock loss to Holly Holm (which saw her disappear almost-completely from the public eye), many before this weekend’s loss to Nunes were already questioning Rousey’s mental well being and her ability to return to the Octagon as the same dominant force that we had grown so used to. If those naysayers were loud before this weekend’s show, they will now be deafening. Just as so many had predicted, Rousey appeared before Nunes almost as a lamb awaiting the slaughter, cutting a forlorn figure from the very first time that Nunes landed that so-feared right hand. Rousey was also interestingly absent from the post-fight press conference and made a quick-fire exit from the Octagon immediately following veteran referee Herb Dean’s stoppage of the fight. This naturally poses the question of is that the last we will ever see of Ronda Rousey in the UFC? UFC 207 proved that she is no longer a threat in the division she worked so tirelessly to build, and no longer feared by the fighters she once had such effortless control over. So, is that the last we will see of the legendary, sporting pioneer that is Ronda Rousey, or does 2017 have another chapter of this intriguing tale in store?  Time will only tell, but from Rousey’s withdrawn nature before and after the fight it may well turn out that Rousey’s star has well and truly fallen from the UFC’s now great sky, and that UFC 207 may be remembered as the last stand of a champion from days gone by.

 

 

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