Amanda Nunes commenced with the gloating the moment her 48-second beatdown of Ronda Rousey was stopped.
“I knew I was gonna beat the [expletive] out of Ronda Rousey,” the UFC women’s bantamweight champion in her post-fight interview in the Octagon at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena on Friday night.
Nunes (14-3) was just getting warmed up. Later in the evening, at the UFC 207 news conference, the Miami resident by way of Brazil continued to pour salt on the fallen idol’s wounds.
“The whole time I knew it was going to be like that,” Nunes said of the fight. “And I’ve been training like that, like a lioness. And I knew, if I had the chance in the beginning of the fight, like she would give me the opportunity to, I knew I could finish her.”
Nunes’ words might have come off as a bit pointed and blunt in a mixed martial arts world built on respect for your opponent. But the thing is, the champion was simply echoing the critiques of Rousey’s approach being made around the world in the wake of her second straight one-sided loss.
Somehow, after taking a year off following her shocking title loss via head kick to Holly Holm at UFC 193 in Australia, Rousey managed to look even worse in her return fight – like a bully who didn’t know how to respond the first time someone finally stood up to them and punch them back.
Not only had Rousey not corrected her mistakes, she had regressed to the point that the fight resembled an MMA version of Little Mac against the hapless jobber Glass Joe in the classic video game “Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out.” Rousey had no answer for Nunes’ fast-moving, hard-punching style, which leads to questions of what, exactly, Rousey’s Glendale Fighting Club crew and head coach Edmond Tarverdyan were thinking.
“I knew [Rousey] was going to to strike with me, because she thinks it because her boxing coach told her she has good striking,” Nunes said. “I knew she was going to strike a little bit with me, but when I started to connect with some punches I knew she would want to start to clinch with me.”
If Rousey (12-2) is going to continue with her mixed martial arts career, it couldn’t be more obvious that a major change is needed. Rousey has been Tarverdyan’s sole ticket to the big time, and in consecutive fights, Rousey has been outclassed by fighters from elite gyms (Holm trains at Albuquerque’s JacksonWink and Nunes with South Florida’s American Top Team).
Of course, there’s no telling what the Rousey camp is thinking at this point, because they engaged in a self-imposed media ban going into the fight week, one which in hindsight looks more designed to keep their insulated bubble from bursting as anything else.
They certainly weren’t talking after the fight, although UFC president Dana White said the scene in Rousey’s locker room was about what you’d expect after a loss of such magnitude.
“She’s so competitive,” White said during an appearance on FOX Sports 1. “She’s devastated. She’s a competitor. She’s a lot better than the Holly Holm fight,” White said. “She was backstage and obviously she was upset. But she’s got a lot of support for her, and I think it’ll be a lot better than the Holm fight.”
From here, it would seem that Rousey’s best path forward is an acting career, one which in theory pays tons of money without having to get punched in the face.
But Hollywood is a fickle beast. And while Rousey was 2015’s “It” girl, it doesn’t take long to turn into yesterday’s news. Having lost much of her bandwagon by disappearing after the Holm loss and alienating much of her fan base with her demeanor in her return, the idea of Rousey as an A-list movie lead could be as short-lived as Quinton “Rampage” Jackson’s starring role in “The A Team.”
When the dust settles on Rousey’s latest loss, it’s likely her tremendous accomplishments will come back into focus. She single-handedly brought women into the UFC, made them an integral part of the promotion, and, along with Conor McGregor, helped fuel the modern-day UFC’s second major boom period after several down years.
Even though a rough downfall became a significant chapter to her story following the amazing 12-0 start to her career, Rousey’s legacy in the sport is secure. She’s made tens of millions of dollars. The only way it would seem conceivable that Rousey returns to the sport is if the acting career flops and she hasn’t done well with her money.
Either way, a turbulent period in the bantamweight division which started with Rousey’s loss to Holm has ended with Nunes, the sport’s first openly LGBT champion, as the unquestioned leader of the pack. Nunes has now scored back-to-back first-round knockouts over the two most popular women fighters in the sport’s history, Rousey and Miesha Tate.
She’s won five in a row and seven of eight. A rematch of her only loss in that stretch, to Cat Zingano at UFC 178, might beckon.
One thing Nunes won’t do, however, is sit around waiting for Rousey. Nunes was every bit as dismissive of her vanquished opponent as Rousey was of hers during her peak.
“That’s it for her,” Nunes said. “For sure she’s going to retire. She can’t take it anymore. If she wants the rematch, I’m going to do the same thing because she can’t take my punches.”