It’s been a weird year for Ronda Rousey. She became a trailblazing and beloved UFC champ and superstar, scored some movie roles, coached a season of TUF, and – when everyone got to see her on camera – became pretty reviled for being somewhat of a tool. Of course, what we see on a highly-edited reality show is likely the farthest thing from what we’d see with our own eyes if our daily lives included interacting with the UFC’s female bantamweight champ. But that just begs the question, “Who is this Rousey chick and what makes her tick?”
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Somewhere around Chuck Liddell’s 32nd brain-altering concussion, I transitioned from ardent MMA nut-hugger to sober realist, and began seeing just how much brain trauma these fighters subject themselves to for the sake of sport. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching fights in the cage, and I know full well that these athletes willingly accept these risks as part and parcel of the whole “shed blood for a living” thing. So this isn’t me speaking out against the ills of unarmed combat, nor is it me asking for everyone to join hands and sing “Kumbayah” in the name of all the grey matter that’s leaked out onto the Octagon floor. Heck no. It is, however, me broaching the subject of expiration dates, and how, like that carton of 2% milk sitting in your fridge, each and every one of the warriors we watch set foot in the cage must at some point call it quits.
That’s right. I’m talking about the “Must Retire” list of 2013.
Twenty years of MMA here in the States and it is has become an irrefutable truth that the art of wrestling is an essential component for success within the cage. Whether it’s about getting the fight to the ground or diligently keeping it on the feet, if a fighter doesn’t have at least a working knowledge of the intricacies of takedowns and sprawls, he or she is going horizontal in the worst way possible.
I’ve never donned a wrestler’s singlet myself, but the aforementioned truth is what prompted me to go to Madison Square Garden on Sunday morning to check out the second installment of Grapple at the Garden – an event that can best be described as “more amateur wrestling than you can possibly keep track of at once”. There were eight mats laid out on the Garden’s massive floor, thousands cheering from the stands, music pumping out of the speakers, and entire teams representing such colleges as Rutgers, Cornell and Boston University, their individual wrestlers battling it out for superiority and an ephemeral concept of points. Yet for all the mysteries of the scoring process (and to me there were plenty), what was crystal clear was the action, and the elation of the crowd when one competitor skillfully ragdolled his opponent to the mat. Therein lies wrestling’s general appeal.
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Season 18 of The Ultimate Fighter is now a wrap in its entirety. After tonight’s Finale we have 2 new TUF winners, a few other newcomers who could be interesting, the answers to a few questions, and the emergence of some new ones. Overall it was a solid night of fights and storylines, and we didn’t even have to pay the cost of a PPV to see it – can’t complain about that. A few things about the card that stood out were:
What a blow
In the lead up to this event we took a look at where Gray Maynard stands in his career and contemplated what got him there and what the future would likely look like for the former number 1 contender. Unfortunately for The Bully tonight was likely another nail in the coffin containing his hopes of remaining anywhere near the top half of the 155 pound division. While I am not yet convinced that he is no longer a UFC caliber talent, 2 knockouts in a row at this stage of a UFC career is obviously a huge setback. Ironically I thought that Gray looked fantastic physically in the early goings of his fight with Diaz tonight. He looked to be in great shape, his offense seemed very crisp, and he was certainly not timid at all. But the fact is that Maynard has won just a single fight in all of 2011, 2012, and 2013 and he didn’t exactly set the world on fire in that win either. After all that he has been through in those wars with Frankie, the change in gyms, the injuries, etc, we have to ask ourselves, how much does Gray Maynard have left in him? Personally I’d like to see him in at least one more fight to better gauge his current standing. A rematch with Jim Miller after Miller’s upcoming fight seems about right.