I don’t watch much women’s MMA. If you’re wondering why, I’ll be frank: I want to watch MMA at the highest possible level, and the instances where I’ve caught a female fight definitely didn’t tell me that I was watching anything that couldn’t be easily surpassed (in both technique and power) by the fellas.
Recently, I’ve drawn the conclusion that neglecting to follow women’s MMA for this reason alone seems a bit unfair. After all, I’m the same guy that watched slopfests like Shogun-Vera & Shogun-Henderson … and was on the edge of my seat the entire time. Hell, Chris freaking Lytle was probably my favorite fighter to watch before he retired. So to watch women’s MMA because it’s sloppy seems borderline shambolic.With this is mind, I decided to make an attempt to give women’s MMA a fair shake, and checking out Strikeforce’s most recent card seemed like a good start. Here are my objective (maybe) thoughts.
I’ll start right off by describing what I saw in the main event, which might come off poorly. But, here goes. Is the talent pool in women’s MMA really this shallow? Are they really that hard up for athletes? How many women will step in with Ronda Rousey and not be able to thwart her clumsy advances into the cage?
I understand that Rousey is an excellent grappler. You don’t get glowing reviews from the guys she trains with unless you’re for real. She initiated a punching exchange, and within 8 seconds had opponent Sarah Kaufman up against the cage. At this point, it was already over. She completed a beautiful trip takedown, landed right into mount, and spent the next 40 seconds giggling as Kaufman tried to get out of her patented armbar. Finito.
Here’s my question. Where were the sprawl and brawl tactics? Don’t these women realize that the one thing you have to do to even give yourself a chance against Rousey is to avoid her grasp like the plague? I mean, it’s not like she does anything incredible to set up a takedown; she basically runs in like a mother who just realized that her child started crossing the street without looking both ways. Am I naive in thinking that there has to be a woman out there that could at least step (or jump) to the side when Rousey comes barreling forward?
This fight really showcased how little I (must) know about women’s MMA. I thought Rousey’s ascent had all the makings of ending as tragically and abruptly as Chuck Liddell’s; here you had someone who beat a few contenders and a few substitute teachers, generated some hype, got an ESPN mag cover, cruised through the late night talk show circuit … I mean, this was someone who was seemingly ripe for the picking. And yet, no one can do anything to her. This much can be said: she’s tough. In her fights with Kaufman and Tate alike, she took punches on the jaw and kept coming. Other than that, I don’t know what to say.
On the flip side, Miesha Tate and Julie Kedzie put on a really fun fight earlier in the night. I remember watching Kedzie fight Gina Carano back in ’07, and she didn’t look nearly as good as she did against Tate. Her striking is impressive. Her footwork isn’t great, but her punching combinations and overall striking creativity are very, very solid. She had Tate on the ropes several times here, but Tate’s resolve proved to be too much, as she secured a fight ending armbar after she was seemingly brained by a Kedzie high kick. Honestly, this was the first female fight I can remember watching that I actually didn’t give a damn about the gender of the combatants. Good action is good action. I’m not sure I’ve seen 5 better fights this year.
Using these two fights as a barometer of my overall opinion of females smashing each other in the face might be short-sighted, but here goes: I’m going to watch the next Invicta card. I’ve never made a proclamation even approaching this, much less for a public audience, but dammit, I’m watching Invicta. Why? Two reasons. One is that I don’t feel like I have enough information. Rousey is an exceptional talent, but until she gets a bit more experience and, I don’t know, actually shows something else off than her ability to hyper-extend arms, I’m not quite ready to call her the queen shit of turd mountain. Everyone wants her to fight Cris Cyborg, which would be great if Cristiane wasn’t really Fernando Vargas in drag (a long-standing theory of mine).
The second (and much more salient) reason is that I saw something in the Tate-Kedzie fight that I didn’t expect. I saw my own personal ability (that I didn’t know I had) to forget that I was watching women fight and to remember at the same time that I was watching a GOOD fight.
I’d almost always rather watch male athletes perform than female athletes. This is a common opinion, and it’s not one that I see myself disagreeing with anytime soon. But you know what? Just because I’m not watching the world’s best at what they do, doesn’t mean it’s not still good. That might be a sexist opinion, but it’s more evolved than the one I had six days ago. Go ladies!