By Adam Martin
On Wednesday, UFC President Dana White broke major news on the Colin Cowherd show on Fox Sports 1 when he announced UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes will make the first defense of her newly-won title at UFC 207 against none other than the former champ Ronda Rousey. The card takes place December 30 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
There had been rumblings in recent weeks that Rousey was planning her comeback, with pictures of the superstar in great shape making the rounds on social media. Rousey, who at 29 is still in the prime of her career, has not competed since November 2015, when she lost her belt after getting brutally knocked out by Holly Holm at UFC 193. For nearly the last year, Rousey has remained out of the spotlight, instead preferring to keep things low key. Now, though, she’s ready to return and take on Nunes, who just won the belt with a vicious finish of Miesha Tate, Rousey’s archrival, at UFC 200.
The biggest factor, of course, is that Rousey is one of the biggest superstars in the sport, and putting her in a big fight only makes sense. There have been some who have said Rousey should have taken a “tune-up” fight first, but that’s much too dangerous, because taking a tune-up fight against a lesser opponent would mean the UFC is risking a bigger fight in the case that Rousey loses. It’s just not worth the risk, so instead of doing that, the UFC just gave her the title fight. It guarantees the promotion a huge pay-per-view card to end 2016, which was a tremendously successful year for the company, it guarantees Rousey a big payday, and it gives Nunes, who deserves this big fight, a big payday as well. Everyone wins, including the fans, as stylistically this is a great matchup between a striker and a grappler.
The next thing to remember is that, yes, Rousey did lose to Holm, but that’s the only loss of her career, and prior to that, she was 12-0 in MMA, including 6-0 in the UFC with six straight finishes, five in the first round. Many are down on Rousey now, and understandably so, as she was badly exposed on the feet in the Holm fight, but you can’t forget what she did before that fight. Rousey was essentially unstoppable inside the Octagon, and gained a level of popularity that few in the sport have ever achieved. Although the long layoff made some fans forget about her, there’s no doubt that her return is going to get the fans excited again. After all, absence often makes the heart grow fonder.
recently lost to Valentina Shevchenko. And the same goes for Shevchenko, who lost a boring decision to Nunes earlier this year at UFC 196. Sure, I guess Julianna Peña is somewhat deserving after beating Cat Zingano, but she’s not very popular with fans, she’s not a draw, and she hasn’t finished a fight in over a year, so giving her a title shot didn’t really make sense. The division is very weak after that, with fighters like Sara McMann, Raquel Pennington, and Liz Carmouche not very interesting opponents for Nunes.
So really, not only was Rousey the right choice to fight Nunes, but she was the only choice the UFC had. Now the UFC has its cash cow back and she’s headlining the year-end PPV card, a card that could very well break the one-million buy mark. We know the UFC is more sports entertainment than sport, and this is no doubt the most entertaining fight the UFC can deliver to the fans, both on paper and inside the cage. It’s hard to call Rousey the favorite after such a long layoff, but there’s no doubt she’ll be competitive in this fight as she looks to take back what she feels is rightly hers, and Nunes is the one in the way looking to stop her. It should be a great fight, and it continues the UFC’s trend of giving the fans the biggest fights they can. Hopefully, Rousey vs. Cris Cyborg is next.