Who’s Next For Ronda Rousey?

By now, most of you will be aware that UFC women’s bantamweight champion, Ronda Rousey, defended her belt in impressive fashion at UFC 184 in LA last night (Sat., February 28, 2015). Her record-breaking submission victory means she has cleaned out the top 5 of the division and presented the UFC matchmakers with something of a predicament: who’s next?

Holly Holm
Holm looked impressive in the women’s bantamweight co-main event showcasing speed, footwork, and accurate striking to take home the decision win in her promotional debut. “The Preacher’s Daughter” was adept in defending her opponent’s takedown attempts and was aggressive on the feet, outpointing Pennington over the first two rounds. Holm allowed Pennington to come back in the third round, though, and wound up squeaking by on a split decision. Had Holm put her opponent away in this fight, I think she could have made a strong case for a title shot, but a split decision win over a fighter ranked outside the top 10 probably isn’t going to be enough. Dana may “need fights” in the womens 135lb division but a chance at the belt may still be a win or two away for Holm.

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Cat Zingano
Speaking at the UFC 184 post-fight press conference, Rousey was open to a rematch:

“We should do this again,” Rousey said. “I think she definitely deserves another shot. Sometimes fights just go down like that. I’m lucky to have a lot of experience in judo and sometimes I walked out and I just got dumped on my head right away and I just wasn’t myself that day. It doesn’t mean that I didn’t deserve to be in that fight or I couldn’t beat that other person. It was just that for some reason I wasn’t there. I understand that feeling and I know that what Cat is capable of and I would definitely like to see more of what she’s capable of.”

Dana White, too, seemed amenable to the idea saying, “I need fights. We’ll get it done. Whenever you’re ready.”

Zingano has battled debilitating injury and horrifying bereavement, so she will undoubtedly come back strong. After a 14-second submission loss, however, a rematch may be tough to sell. Zingano may need to take at least one top 10 fight before she can be considered for a rematch against Rousey.

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Miesha Tate
Tate is on an three-fight win streak against tough competition and looked impressive in her comeback win over Sara McMann recently. The problem here is that Tate has been beaten by “Rowdy” twice already. Not only that, but she was finished on both occasions, the most recent stoppage coming little over a year ago. Selling a third fight when one fighter has lost the last two is not easy to do, particularly when the most recent loss is relatively fresh. “Cupcake” finds herself in a difficult spot, like heavyweight Junior Dos Santos and flyweight Joseph Benevidez, whereby she may just have to wait a while before being considered for another shot.

Other fighters on the list of possibilities include Jessica Eye and Bethe Correia. At sixth and seventh respectively, these women are the highest ranked fighters that haven’t already lost to Rousey in the UFC. Dana White mentioned Eye in the post-fight press conference, but with a record of 1-1 in her last two fights she’s hardly a shoe-in. She looked impressive in earning a gruesome stoppage over Leslie Smith, but she lost to Alexis Davis — who Rousey smoked in 16 seconds — this time last year. Correia is 9-0, which sounds great, but she got there without having to face anyone in the top 15. To take on Ronda Rousey in your first endeavour against a ranked opponent may just be biting off more than you can chew.

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In assessing the situation, there doesn’t appear to be an obvious next opponent for the women’s bantamweight champion. It was revealed at the post-fight press conference that she will be taking some time off to pursue her acting career. Perhaps by the time she returns a clear contender will have emerged from the ranks.