COMMENTARY | It is likely that 2013 will go down as a year of transition for the UFC.
The year ended with top superstars Anderson Silva and Georges St. Pierre no longer holding titles and facing uncertain futures, and former stalwarts Alistar Overeem, Dan Henderson and Chael Sonnen having lost some of their luster with multiple defeats.
At the same time, another group of fighters stepped up with great years and leave the UFC with hope of another fantastic year in 2014. For instance, Chris Weidman was able to defeat the legendary Silva on two occasions, Vitor Belfort scored three crushing knockout wins over three middleweight contenders, Demetrious Johnson defended the flyweight title three times on Fox, and Anthony Pettis took the lightweight title from Benson Henderson in spectacular fashion. Any one of those fighters would have a legitimate claim to being the most successful UFC fighter in 2013.
However, if you are trying to figure out which UFC fighter had the best 2013, and you consider achievements both inside and outside the octagon, there is one who rises above the rest. Due to her mainstream appeal, budding acting career and dominance inside the octagon, UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey is the obvious choice for the promotion's most successful fighter of the past calendar year.
Now that Brock Lesnar is firmly back with the WWE, no UFC fighter captures the mainstream, "casual" MMA fan like Rousey. This was demonstrated in 2013 by the extensive coverage of Rousey's fights on the various sports networks, a type of coverage generally reserved for only the biggest draws in the sport.
In addition, she appeared as a guest on Jimmy Kimmel and and graced the cover of Maxim magazine in a bikini. After all that she has accomplished in 2013, Rousey's name has become familiar to even non-MMA fans, which puts her in rare air with only a few rare fighters in MMA history.
Budding Acting Career
Along similar lines, Rousey also caught the eye of Hollywood in 2013. In the midst of the lead-up to UFC 168, Rousey traveled across the world to film scenes for "The Expendables 3" and "Fast and the Furious 7."
With strong showings in these movies, it is likely that the number of acting opportunities will only grow for Rousey going forward. This will only enhance her image and popularity on the mainstream level, which will lead to even more and greater opportunities outside the cage. As her career takes off, 2013 will be looked back to as the year she first got her shot in a couple of major movie productions, while still being able to balance her life as one of the UFC's top pound-for-pound fighters.
Dominance in the Octagon
Notwithstanding all of her success outside of the octagon, Rousey remained unbeatable inside it. In two fights, she handily defeated both Liz Carmouche and Miesha Tate, both with her trademark armbar. To be sure, Rousey entered both of the fights as a heavy favorite, but the fact that she was able to back up her considerable hype makes the victories that much more impressive.
With the attention on her reaching a feverish level and the added weight of being the first female champion in UFC history, there was immense pressure on Rousey each time she entered the octagon, and a loss would have lead many to conclude that she was a fraud focused more on other the other endeavors than on being an elite fighter.
However, despite all of the pressure, Rousey was able to rout both Carmouche and Tate while still establishing her presence outside of the cage as a mainstream star. As a result, there can be no doubt that Rousey was the most successful UFC fighter in 2013.
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Del Pearson is a big MMA fan who has been to many live UFC events. His all-time favorite fighter is Randy Couture. Follow Del on Twitter @DelPearson44.
- Mixed Martial Arts
- Martial Arts
- Ronda Rousey
- Anderson Silva