Ronda Rousey controversy continues with victory

by Kirik Jenness
March 5, 2012

Ronda Rousey won her first three amateur fights in a total of 104 seconds, all by armbar. Rousey won her first four pro fights in a total of 138 seconds, all by armbar. And in her successful title bid vs Miesha Tate, Ronda Rousey won, again, by armbar.

The bout was notable in that at 267 seconds it was longer than all of Rousey previous fights combined, pro and amateur. And, as is always the case with "Rowdy" there was controversy.

Did Rousey crank the arm too hard?


Rousey was doing her job. The purpose of a submission, as the name implies, is to get someone to submit. If they don't tap, they will nap or as happened in this case, snap.

It's math.

Miesha Tate showed tremendous heart in trying to escape a second time, even with her arm clearly dislocated, but the burden to avoid injury by tapping was on Tate not Rousey. In a professional fight, Rousey no more has to apply a submission carefully than does a striker have to gently throw a straight right.

Should the ref have stopped it earlier?

Reffing is an extraordinary difficult task.

There are a number of cases where a fighter has suffered a dislocated arm and been able to continue, and even win.

At Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum, Conor Heun had his arm dislocated in the second round by Magno Almeida, and went on to win a decision. This is his arm after the fight he won.

At UFC 137: Penn vs. Diaz, Brandon Vera had his arm dislocated by Eliot Marshall in the third round, and went on to win a decision. This is the armbar.

While missing a tap is deplorable, that did not happen here. In a professional title bout, the referee has to give the fighter every chance to fight.

Miesha was attempting to escape after doing so successfuly once, and the fight was stopped the moment she tapped. Although Tate was not ultimately able to overcome a dislocation and win, or even continue, the referee made a justifiable decision to let the champion continue.

This was not the simple case of terrible reffing that some casual fans have made it out to be.

Was Showtime at fault for replaying the armbar in slow motion?

Until is was eclipsed by ABC's sister effort ESPN, for 37 years the USA weekly enjoyed the sports anthology series ABC's Wide World of Sports. It began with a montage and a voiceover promising "the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat."

Defeat was demonstrated by Slovenian ski jumper Vinko Bogataj missing the ramp and slamming into the crowd.

Bogataj suffered only a mild concussion, and Tate as well will in all likelihood suffer no permanent damage.

The media is going to put forth not the truth, but the most compelling content available. As MMA becomes mainstream, sometimes that is going to be accidents that cast the sport in a poor light. That is the life we live in, and the sport will be fine.

Was Rousey ungracious in victory?

In a previous interview on Sherdog radio Rousey offered her thoughts on injuries from armbars.

"I'm like screw everyone's idea of 'oh what sports are supposed to be like'" said Rousey. "I did what sports were supposed to be like, and I was living in my car. So you know what, fine. I'm gonna talk a bunch of shit. I'm gonna pose in a couple of pictures. And I'm gonna break a couple of girl's arms, and I'm not gonna feel the least bit sorry about it because you know what? At least I can feed my dog."

Post fight Rousey spoke somewhat mockingly about Tate's boyfriend Bryan Caraway's controversial remarks (Rousey had said she could beat him in a fight, and Caraway said if they fought Tate would get her arm broken and her teeth knocked out.)

"(Caraway) and Miesha were up all night tweeting and trying to defend themselves," said an amused Rousey. "And it was all over the front page of, and me and my friend and my mom were just sitting there laughing that they're stressed out and tweeting all night, and we're like, eating trail mix and watching 'The Fifth Element."

"She's a tough chick," Rousey went on to say. "That hurts. I've had my elbow dislocated before, and that's no fun. But the rule is in judo that even if it's dislocated, and they don't tap, you've got to keep going. I don't think the referee should be criticized for not stopping it because those are the rules I'm used to."

Rousey added that she "didn't feel that bad" about the break.

Rousey is a master of more than armbars. She, along with Chael Sonnen, are the Muhammad Alis of MMA, able to use their voice to build fan interest - pro and con - like no other in the sport. For the record, Ali explicitly was inspired in his trash talk by pro wrestler Gorgeous George. Both Sonnen and Rousey draw their attitude from pro wrestling mic work.

One thing clearly separates Sonnen and Rousey however. Sonnen is generally playing a heel character, albeit a role he clearly enjoys. Rousey on the other hand appears to be genuinely speaking her mind, albeit frequently in a teasing fashion.

Most fighters genuinely worry if their opponent is hurt, as caputured in the iconic image of Robbie Lawler helping revive Matt Lindland after knocking him out.

Rousey has not so far shown the same concern.

In this, the media age, professional athletes often guard their remarks. Rousey does not - when she speaks, it is as real as it gets. And that is positive.

So, yes, Rousey was not entirely gracious in winning, but there is a place for that. Not everyone is a role model in all ways all the time.

During the Civil War President Lincoln heard complaints that General Grant drank too much. “Tell me what brand of whiskey that Grant drinks," our greatest Presidnt replied. "I would like to send a barrel of it to my other generals.”

MMA needs more fighters like Ronda Rousey, not less.

As Cesar Gracie put it via Twitter: "Ronda is the honorary Diaz sister. Great fight." Hell, maybe now Nick and Nate are honorary Rousey brothers.

Women's MMA has a new face, and it is going to be in your face, saying whatever she want to, and the world will listen, and the sport is better for it.


The Face of Women's MMA