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Ronda Rousey's Elite Grappling Skills Put Her Division on Notice

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COMMENTARY | On Saturday, February 23, 2013, at UFC 157: Rousey vs. Carmouche, the UFC bantamweight champion, Ronda Rousey, made her debut appearance in the octagon. The champion and her opponent, Liz Carmouche, also made history as well. The combatants were the first two women to fight on a UFC card. Not only did the fight appear on the biggest stage in mixed martial arts, it headlined.

The match did not disappoint. Early in the first round, Carmouche threatened to submit the champion with a rear-naked choke. However, the attempt was unsuccessful. Rousey dumped the challenger on her back, and immediately attacked and submitted Carmouche with her patented armbar with 11 seconds left in the round.

The fight was breathtaking, as Rousey overcame adversity for the first time on her career to emerge victorious. Through sheer will power, she survived the rear-naked choke attempt. Through high-level technique, Rousey retained her UFC championship title. At the same time, the win highlighted a truth that is more than evident, and one which sends a message to the rest of the newly developed all-female 135lb. division - Rousey's Judo/ground game is completely beyond the skill level of anyone in her weight class.

The UFC's #1 light heavyweight contender, Chael Sonnen, recently likened Rousey to baseball great Babe Ruth. He stated, "Ronda Rousey reminds me of an old-school baseball player where she comes out to the mound and points to where she wants to put the ball and that's what she does with the armbar."

Perhaps with regard to popularity and her elevation of women and mixed martial arts, the comparison may fit. President of the UFC, Dana White, commenting on Rousey's fame, recently stated:

"Ronda Rousey gets more media attention than any UFC fighter ever. This is without a doubt, the most media attention we've ever had leading up to a fight. She blows (Brock Lesnar) out of the water. No fighter has ever fought in the UFC that has had more attention than she has. It's a fact."

Rousey's celebrity may be undeniable. However, with reference to skill level compared to everyone else in her division at this moment in women's mixed martial arts (WMMA), Rousey may be more accurately likened to Royce Gracie and the early years of the UFC.

At the inception of the UFC in the early 1990s, Gracie made his mark on the world by submitting opponent after opponent. He went on to become the face of the brand and eventually a three-time world champion (they were called tournament winners back then). Gracie's dominance was unforgiving, making a mockery out of many of his opponents. The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) master's ground game governed over his opponents, irrespective of the usual one-dimensional fighting style that they brought to the cage. Once Gracie brought the fight to the ground, the ending and victory in his favor was inevitable.

At the time, BJJ was not a well-studied discipline in the fight game. Many fighters were ignorant with respect to the art of takedown and submission defense. Gracie was simply ahead of his time. His successful career boasts accolades that include being a three-time UFC world champion. Gracie's grand achievements led him to become the first inductee into the UFC Hall of Fame.

Regarding Rousey, WMMA has not evolved enough to contend with the bantamweight champion and her high-level grappling/mat skills. It is not as if the California native incorporates a skill-set that has never been witnessed before. Rousey's game does not include a "showtime kick," a "showtime knee," an unorthodox superman punch off the cage, a knee bar from back control, or a rear-naked choke from the backpack position, while executing a perfect figure-four body lock.

The bantamweight champion's approach appears to involve a standard judo hip toss, accompanied by a pillow hold that transitions into a full mount, then an armbar. Rousey's moves and transitions leading up to her patented armbar are basic, yet performed technically and thoroughly. Irrespective of how straightforward her technique may be, it is executed by an Olympic champion; and until the rest of the female division catches up to the elite grappling level of the current bantamweight champion, like Gracie, Rousey will continue to be ahead of her time.

Clinton Alexander Bullock has been a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner for many years. He has studied mixed martial arts for 12 years and has been published in the Philadelphia Sunday Sun Newspaper, Next Step Magazine, and Yahoo! News. Follow him on Facebook & Twitter @clintonbullock.


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Antonio "Big Foot" Silva Reshapes the Heavyweight Division with UFC 156 Victory

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