October 20, 2016

UFC 207: Ronda Rousey Should Have Had A Tune-Up Fight

By Raphael Garcia

Last week the mixed martial arts world received word that Ronda Rousey is ready to step back into the cage at UFC 207. She’s challenging Amanda Nunes for the women’s bantamweight title. Is she deserving of that role? Potentially, depends upon who you ask. MMA Ratings writer Adam Martin believes this is the right call, but perhaps there’s value in pushing the title fight back and welcoming Rousey to the cage with a tune-up.

Even though Rousey is opening up as a favorite over Nunes, there should be some concern as to how this fight will play out. After a year away from competition, one wonders what a returning Rousey will look like in the cage. Is she still that much ahead of the competition that she’s able to dominate them in spectacular fashion? Or has enough time gone by those elite fighters like Nunes have closed the gap? Those questions will be answered at UFC 207, but that shouldn’t stop the conversation of whether a tune up fight would have been a better route to this fight.

One of the major questions not being asked surrounds Rousey’s mindset. Often times, fighters who talk about retirement have their commitment to the sport questioned. Rousey took it a dangerous step further when she discussed her struggle with suicidal thoughts on Ellen. That’s a serious confession to make in a sport where physical violence can occur, especially when coupled with the challenge of facing a fighter such as Nunes. The UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion is known for applying a driving pressure that is meant to break her opponents, and it will be interesting to see whether Rousey is mentally strong enough to stave off that challenge.

There’s also the question of whether a tune-up fight would hurt Rousey’s value. The names of Julianna Pena and Valentina Shevchenko jump off the page as potential opponents for a returning Rousey and both are staunch challenges. A win over either of them would firmly push Rousey back to the forefront as the unquestioned top contender to the title. At the same time, a win for either Pena or Shevchenko would put the exclamation point on one of their slow builds into big name challengers. Plus, either tune-up fight would help answer questions about Rousey’s skill set and whether she has been able to close some of the holes in her game that Holly Holm made known. 

Ronda Rousey is a star that brings attention and dollars to the UFC, so many agree with the move to put her right into a title fight after a year away from the sport. However, there is value in bringing her back with a tune-up matchup. This practice helps many fighters who find themselves attempting to rebound from a drastic loss, and in the case of Rousey, the consequences of her not bouncing back at the level she should would be dire.

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