There hasn't been a fighter who has captured the public's imagination the way Ronda Rousey has since Mike Tyson was in his early 20s.
The former undisputed heavyweight boxing champion scored first-round knockout after first-round knockout on his rise to the top, awing fans not only with his legendary punching power but also with the ferocity of his attack.
The Strikeforce bantamweight champion has the same ferocity, the same showmanship and the same ruthless finishing ability that made Tyson one of sports' biggest stars.
The 25-year-old Rousey is on the path Tyson rode toward superstardom after, once again, easily dismantling a top-level opponent. This time, it was former champion Sarah Kaufman who submitted to an armbar in just 54 seconds in what was Rousey's first defense of the bantamweight title she won in March.
She called out former featherweight champion Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos after the bout in what would be an epic match. Santos is fortunate because Rousey clearly has no need for her.
There are a few special athletes who don't need that career-defining opponent. Joe Louis became an American hero and regarded as one of boxing's greatest fighters by destroying a group of men who, collectively, became known as "The Bum of the Month Club." As the wins piled up, so did the Louis legend.
And now, a lifetime later, the same thing is happening with Rousey. She has had nine fights, three amateur and six pro, and all have ended with her victorious via first-round arm bar.
It's hard to know if there is anyone currently active who will be able to deal with Rousey's brutal efficiency with the armbar. Miesha Tate, who showed great courage and guts in defeating Julie Kedzie earlier Saturday in an entertaining battle, couldn't do it. Kaufman couldn't even come close.
Shannon Knapp's Invicta Fights is putting on regular women's cards and may be able to develop a fighter, or two, who can legitimately test Rousey.
It won't matter, though, because people will buy tickets to see Rousey regardless of who she fights.
Santos makes the most sense from a competitive standpoint. She was dominating the featherweight division almost as brutally as Rousey before she was caught cheating after a fight in December against Hiroko Yamanaka.
Santos tested positive for stanozolol, an anabolic steroid that helps build muscle, after the Yamanaka fight on Dec. 11. She was suspended for a year by the California State Athletic Commission. Stanozolol is an easy-to-catch steroid that elite athletes rarely use because there are no masking agents to hide it and it remains in the body a long time.
It's almost as if Santos was thumbing her nose at the establishment when she used it. She was delivering frightening beatings to overmatched women and was drawing her own comparisons to Tyson.
After summarily disposing of Kaufman, Rousey called out Santos.
"First of all, I need to put out a challenge to Ms. Cyborg out there," Rousey said. "People want to see you have the first fair fight of your life. I'm the champ now. The champ doesn't go to you, you go to the champ. Come down to 135 [pounds] and let's settle this."
Santos doesn't deserve a title shot in her first fight after her suspension is lifted in December. To do so would be to reward her for breaking the rules and to immediately thrust her into what would become the biggest women's MMA fight in history.
But who wouldn't relish seeing Rousey, the blonde who would blend right in with the cheerleading squad, trying to tear the juiced up Santos' arm off her shoulder?
Rousey is perhaps a better promoter than she is a fighter, and that's saying something. She has a great sense of timing and knows how to work a crowd to drum up interest.
After calling out Santos, she sniffed and added a little rejoinder.
"If you still want to go out in the parking lot … I'll be right there," she shouted, working the crowd at the Valley View Casino Center into a frenzy.
She's already pretty good at the street fighting stuff. She tells a story of how she beat up a group of men who were hassling her in a movie theater, a story that sounds like myth and urban legend but which she swears is true.
Santos would be wise, if she's given the chance, to take the match in the cage and not in the parking lot.
That way, not only will she get paid, she'll have a referee who will be there to protect her in case Rousey does temporarily lose it and start trying to yank her arm off.
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