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Five gaps in Ronda Rousey’s game


Leading into UFC 157, my biggest concern was that Ronda Rousey would run through Liz Carmouche so quickly that it would just reinforce the Neanderthal Class’s opinion that women’s MMA was a shallow pool brought into the promotion for Ronda to splash in. That wasn’t the case – Carmouche showed herself to be a confident fighter and smart strategist who almost caught Rousey and poked a number of holes in her once seemingly invincible aura. Without being as bitchy as Miesha Tate and Cat Zingano, let’s take a looksie:

She leaves herself open to being backmounted when she goes for her judo throws – guess she never had to worry about shit like that in the Olympics. Liz Carmouche’s team obviously figured that one out and had her train it extensively – what other weaknesses have Ronda’s years of training judo technique into her muscle memory left open?

Ronda’s rear naked choke defense isn’t great. You may remember Jon Fitch spending 15 minutes with Demian Maia on his back in his final UFC outing – he practically gave the position away the entire fight because he was obviously confident that he could keep Maia off his neck. His ability to pry hands out from under his chin and keep his forearms in the way of them getting there in the first place is legendary. Rousey’s team may wanna take a look at that and start training extensively because she absolutely sucked at keeping Carmouche from locking up that face crank.

Attacking an opponent that is on her back. It’s easy to forget Ronda Rousey is still pretty new at this MMA stuff – her first amateur fight was at the end of 2010. And while she’s a killer in the clinch via her judo and getting better every fight in yer average sparring positions, she seemed pretty hesitant once she was standing over a Carmouche that was ready to upkick her in the face.

That armbar really might be her only trick. And not to diss it – it is a pretty badass trick and Ronda can hit it from a hundred different positions and situations. But when she was in side control and had Carmouche trapped in a headlock, she had little to offer other than softening blows. A wider repertoire of offensive submissions would obviously be a boon to the women’s bantamweight champion.

Her opponents are getting better at armbar defense. This one kinda dovetails off the one trick pony thing: the problem with being so predictable with your submissions is it makes it easy for your opponents to prepare. Carmouche knew she had to be ready for armbars and kept her limbs appropriately out of reach when she could and locked them down when they were being grabbed at. She did a pretty decent job of it too (as decent as you can while still losing in the first round) and future contenders will only train harder to prepare themselves for the most obvious gameplan in the UFC.

It’s not like all of this doesn’t make sense – Ronda is still pretty new to the sport and opponents are going to continue to analyze the extensive amount of film on her to find potential holes. And Rousey will probably slam those holes shut as fast as they are found too. But it is interesting to see that while still overwhelmingly dominant, Rousey isn’t looking as invincible as many were expecting her to be coming into the UFC. And the caliber of opponents she faces will only increase – Cat Zingano being the biggest immediate threat of all the women the UFC has signed.

  • mofu69

    First one bitches. haha.
    The great thing about Ronda though is she is a smart fighter and a very hard worker. She and her team will go back to the gym and fix that problem.

    Is there a rule in MMA that says you cant pull down a fighters bra?

  • kvelertak

    She’s on a different skill level. That’s the biggest thing. I enjoyed the fight Saturday, but it’s like watching Wand club little Asian men.

    One day she will run into a cro-cop leg and she’ll never be the same.

  • Letibleu

    Its 3 very good opponents she faces that know and prepared for the armbar and were still unable to stop it. That’s bad ass.

    Is there a move you can be so good at that it is unstoppable? Or is it just that the opponents aren’t that good enough yet?

    I am thinking of Paul Harris.

  • dick

    One thing that you didn’t mention is that in this fight, she actually went away from the move that got her to the show. She first spent a couple of good minutes going for americanas and straight armbars with her leg from kesa gatame (judo scarf hold). That can be a good sequence of moves in certain situations, but not when the opponent sees it coming (which she probably did after the first 1-2 attempts).

    After a couple of failed tries, it would have probably been better to switch from kesa gatame to a more bjj-type side control, which is a significant step closer in terms of movement to her big-money move, the cross-body armbar.

    Unless she was deliberately waiting until the end of the round to face less time on bottom if she blew the move… in which case, well played, Ronda.

    P.S. Ronda, if you read this, will you come to New York and take a picture with my cat? She is named after you.

  • roycegretzky

    So you have five gaps in her game and none of them are absolutely nonexistent stand-up? She just runs at her opponent with arms outstretched and tries to smother them, which to her credit has worked out great but against a prepared opponent that can hit will get her KTFO bad. Unlike the early days where Gracie could get away with this kind of shit because he was fighting iffy competition and there wasn’t much of an idea of what to do against a guy who wanted to hug you to the ground, these women have a lot of history they can look at to see how to combat a clinch grappler that is useless on the feet. Combine that with the fact that she’s going to come upon someone who can and will prevent her from getting that armbar (ask Belcher how easy it is to gameplan for someone when you know exactly how they’re going to fight and have a good amount of tape to watch of them – an entire camp of armbar defense will pay off for one of these women) and I think we’re not looking at a particularly long reign as champ unless the UFC makes a point to match her favorably or avoid signing top talent, which I think/hope they’re above. She’s just too raw and doesn’t have much of a chance to polish her flaws when she’s prepping for title defenses.

  • bosswell

    Ok, let’s ignore the fact that she can’t strike her way out of a paper bag. Her ground game looked TERRIBLE. She got to side control and locked her arm around Carmouche’s head. Nothing else, just her fucking head. You can’t hold down a shitty high school wrestler with just the head, and the only reason she got away with it is because she was fighting someone with only 2 years of experience. 2 years is nothing. It’s embarrassing when someone with 2 years of fighting experience points out holes in your game. I’m sure Cyborg realizes what a big mistake she made. At 135, even dehydrated and depleted, Cyborg would have bowled right through Ronda.

  • CAP

    You’re right about the weak stand up even Tate had her moments. Sorry but i think Cyborg will rape this chick.

  • Spike

    so fitch has maia on his back for 15minutes and you praise him, ronda has liz on her back for 1 minute and shakes her off and you say thats a weakness? it doesnt matter if the rear naked choke is fully locked in if you can get the hooks out you can turn out easily. rousey was so confident that she gave up her neck so she could get the hooks out witch she did. thats the diff. between good bjj and great bjj.

  • kvelertak

    Idk. is low level sparring mauy thai the same as Olympic level Judo?

    Not by a long shot. And these girls are only as good as the people they fight before Honda.

  • armchair cagefighter

    She’s a good athlete and a judo champ. No question. But I’ve never understood this aura around her like she is some monster. She lacks rudimentary skills at pretty much everything except going for that arm bar. The funniest thing is her zombie walk towards her opponents to try for the clinch.

  • MadMan

    yea. Definitely need to put “lack of standup” as
    a “gap” in her game. Although, maybe she does
    have decent standup but she just hasn’t felt the need to
    utilize it yet. Whatever the case…she has disposed
    of a few good fighters, all of whom knew all about
    Ronda’s “trick”.

  • Jack Henderson

    Perhaps one of the worst articles I’ve read in a while. I’m assuming the writer of this article doesn’t practice Jiu Jitsu or, more likely, doesn’t know much about it.

    The first point is laughable. That was Ronda’s first ever judo throw miss in her MMA career. Ever. Suddenly it’s a weakness? Come on….

    Her RNC defense was great. She kept standing strong, kept her chin down, turned her head when appropriate, and gave a shrug to get Liz off. If anything, Liz did a poor job of threatening Ronda. The face crush was bad, she didn’t even try to take Ronda back to the ground when she was standing, and her balance was terrible. 1 shrug to get you off someone’s back is white belt level.

    I think you forget that most female fighters have no martial arts background beyond MMA at all… Carmouche, Tate, Kaufman… None of the “top” female fighters have any sort of pedigree. None. Ronda is the first really. Not to mention no one really brought this up when Lesnar came into MMA… Athletes are athletes.

    When someone actually gives Ronda a reason to expand her skillset, then you can make this claim.

    Lastly, I don’t think you know much about armbars; and GREATLY overhype these poor female fighters (fun fact, Carmouche has never won against a fighter with a winning record). Carmouche quiet literally rolled once and did nothing after that to get out of the armbar. Getting your arms locked doesn’t stop an armbar. It delays it so you can get out of it. All Carmouche did while on her back was keep her knees up for whatever reason. She was a sitting duck. The rest of Ronda’s opponents faired no better. Some more reluctant than others, but there hasn’t been one legit escape been thrown at Ronda. It’s pathetic. It’s almost deplorable when that’s Ronda’s move. It’s what makes Ronda, Ronda yet no one can stop it. That’s, as I said, pathetic.

    I truly enjoy Women’s MMA. I really do. Not so much for Ronda, but for the other great female athelets that put on great shows in the ring. But making Carmouche some sort of martyr is reaching far and wide to lend any credibility to WMMA where there is none. It’s crap like this from authors with no Jiu Jitsu experience write as if they know the ins and outs of what’s happening in the ring. As if they have some deep insight b/c they can write and have their articles published. Sad

  • Fedd1

    Great points, finally an article that speaks some truth about Ronda instead of pumping her up to be the greatest thing ever. She will lose as soon as she can’t take someone down.

  • CAP

    I’d like to put some game in Honda’s gap ifyaknowwhatimean!

  • Voice of Reason

    No, the only REAL gap she has is her 0 standup skills….and maybe overconfidence.

  • frickshun

    ^^Can you elaborate?

  • iamphoenix

    I too need elaboration.


    This might just be the worst technical analysis of a fighter I have ever read.

  • ric

    i would like to poke a few holes in her aura…if you know what i mean…

  • Incog

    @YEAH RIGHT- Maybe not the worst, but pretty short sighted, for sure.

    There’s this old martial arts proverb: Don’t be afraid of the fighter who knows a million different kicks, fear the fighter who’s done one kick a million times.

    The words “one trick pony” make me cringe. She’s the best female fighter in the world. Deal with it.

  • noiseless

    welcome to bleacherreport/ufc

  • Hendo Machiderson

    She did show she’s human, but twice now we’ve seen opponents get her back, and, rather than fight hands, she peels off the hooks, and shucks them off. Seems pretty effective. Bas Rutten seems to think her footwork and punching in the Sarah Kaufman fight looked good, and he might be considered to be fairly knowledgeable as far as this striking business is concerned. I am looking forward to Ms. Rousey being tested by the likes of Cat Zingano, as well as Sara McMann. I like the girl fights, at least the higher level ones.

  • http://mmalinker sam jump

    One gap is her vergina, whats the other 4?