Everything you need to know about this weekend's (other) big fight.
So many questions are swirling around in the starry orbit of Ronda Rousey.
Is she really capable of backing up her bodacious claim that she and her Olympic medal-winning judo acumen could beat any female Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, of any weight, wearing a gi or not, in a jiu-jitsu match? Will she someday soon take to the bank a cash-grab mismatch with fighter-turned-actor-turned-wannabe-returnee Gina Carano? Speaking of Hollywood, can Rousey put on a winning performance outside the action film realm in the upcoming Entourage movie? Is “Rowdy Ronda” truly as unconcerned as Joan Jett is about her bad reputation? And, of course, the essential, even existential query: When will we see Rousey dance a dangerous dance with the lumbering Cristiane“Cyborg”Justino?
There's so much uncertainty surrounding Rousey, but none of it has anything to do with this weekend.
When Rousey meets Alexis Davis in the co-main event of UFC 175 on Saturday at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas (10 p.m. ET, PPV), she will walk into the octagon as one of the biggest betting favorites the fight promotion has seen. You don’t really wonder why, do you? The women’s bantamweight champion is unbeaten, having finished all nine of her opponents, eight by unavoidable armbar, with five of the first six foes falling in the very first minute. She’s the most domineering athlete in mixed martial arts.
Rousey ranks No. 6 in the SI.com pound-for-pound fighter rankings not because there are five more dominant competitors in the sport but rather because the women’s 135-pound division does not yet have the depth of elite fighters that exists in some men’s weight classes to continually challenge the champs. The 27-year-old Californian is as close to a sure thing as exists. Can anyone in the human race -- you know, not a cyborg -- hang with this phenom of physical gifts and mental focus?
Davis, 29, does bring a new challenge to the table: She’s a jiu-jitsu black belt, the first Rousey has faced. She’s tough both on the canvas and on her feet, having won her last five bouts and eight of her last nine under sometimes gritty circumstances. Davis (16-5), who ranks No. 6 among women’s bantamweights in the SI.com rankings, earned her ticket to this title fight the hard way, with a split-decision victory over Jessica Eye back in February. It was a back-and-forth battle on the undercard of Rousey’s one-minute destruction of fellow Olympic medalist Sara McMann. What else do you need to know?
In addition to the pay-per-view telecast of the five-fight main card, four prelims will be shown on FX (not the usual Fox Sports 1), starting at 8 p.m. ET, and the card’s other two bouts will stream on the UFC Fight Pass digital subscription service (7 p.m.).
Rousey has taken out much of the Top 10 in women’s MMA. Sara McMann. Sarah Kaufman. Liz Carmouche. Miesha Tate, twice. Cat Zingano earned a shot at the belt but has been injured and unable to step up. And perhaps Justino, if she continues to work hard on her craft, will be deemed worthy by the UFC, too. Someday. Maybe.
Now it’s Alexis Davis’ turn, and the impulse is to say, “Really? What has she done to deserve this?” Well, other than a split-decision loss to Kaufman over two years ago, Davis has won every time she’s competed since the summer of 2010. She’s never looked spectacular in doing so, though, so it’s easy to overlook her.
Rousey isn’t the type to overlook an opponent, although she does have an awful lot on her plate. She’s become the face of women’s MMA, which has brought her much outside-the-cage attention. She's wanted on movie sets and at screenings, for TV talk shows and magazine photo shoots. Yet she claims that she’s never been as focused on training for a fight as she has been for this one. That’s what they all say, but you get the feeling that “Rowdy Ronda” has caught a rhythm and will be well-tuned for Saturday night.
Last five fights
2/22/14 Sara McMann W TKO 1
12/28/13 Miesha Tate W Sub 3
2/23/13 Liz Carmouche W Sub 1
8/18/12 Sarah Kaufman W Sub 1
3/3/12 Miesha Tate W Sub 1
2/22/14 Jessica Eye W SD 3
11/6/13 Liz Carmouche W UD 3
6/15/13 Rosi Sexton W UD 3
1/5/13 Shayna Baszler W Tech. sub 3
7/28/12 Hitomi Akano W Sub 2
Tale of the Tape
Feb. 1, 1987
Oct. 4, 1984
Port Colborne, Ontario
Santa Monica, Calif.
San Jose, Calif.
*Official weights announced at the weigh-in (Friday, 7 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1)
Other numbers to count on
1: Only a single opponent has managed to get through a fight with Rousey without being armbarred into submission. That was Sara McMann, who accomplished that feat by going down via TKO barely a minute into February’s fight.
7.73: Takedowns per 15 minutes for Rousey, a number that takes into account that all but one of her fights have ended in the first round. Davis’ takedown average: 0.86. (That looks meager but it’s probably good, actually, because Alexis is better off on her feet.)
1,025,000: Pay-per-view buys of UFC 168, according to a MMApayout.com estimate. Like Saturday’s card, last December’s was headlined by Rousey and Chris Weidman title fights. Of course, the Weidman bout was a rematch with the great Anderson Silva, and Rousey was in a grudge rematch with Miesha Tate. This weekend’s main event and co-main are not as glittery. Still, it’s worth noting that 168 was the first UFC PPV to surpass a million buys since 2010.
The starting point of Rousey’s path of destruction:
One of the many things that makes Rousey so good is that she begins doing battle long before the cage door locks.
While fighters tend to be tight-lipped during the leadup to a bout when asked about specifics from their training camp, “Rowdy Ronda” has laid her cards on the table. Or at least displayed the hand she wants her opponent to see.
Rousey has talked in several interviews about how she’ll utilize a different stance than she did in her last bout, against elite wrestler Sara McMann. She said in one Q&A that if she were one of Alexis Davis’ trainers trying to break down Rousey film, she’d note that the champ appears open to left head kicks. Here’s the plan for beating Rousey, courtesy of Rousey: Utilize push kicks to maintain distance, then break out the elbows when Ronda draws close.
“I also want her to know that I know this and I’ve been preparing for it,” Rousey said in an interview with Sherdog.com. “And I want her to doubt her own game plan.”
Mental edge: check.
Rousey also has a significant physical advantage. Her Olympic pedigree suggests that she’s a higher-level athlete than Davis, and viewing footage of their fights supports this. Davis is strong all around, but plodding, nowhere near as quick and purposeful in her movements as Rousey, who in her well-practiced methodical approach is without hesitation and always two or three moves ahead of the game.
Rousey is crisper on her feet; Davis more of a brawler. When the women go to the mat, which they surely will, Davis’ jiu-jitsu skills will be both a blessing and a curse. She’ll have some answers for what Rousey brings to the table, but if her countermoves aren’t aimed at getting her back on her feet -- if she dares to stay in the grappling realm too long with Ronda -- the band eventually will play “Taps” for her.
Rousey is the heavy betting favorite, with a money line of -1600 (bet $100 to win $6.25). The line on Davis is +900 (bet $100 to win $900).
Will “Rowdy Ronda” tap out the BJJ black belt? Yes, “Rowdy Ronda” will tap out the BJJ black belt. Rousey by submission.
“Alexis is definitely the most well-rounded fighter I’ve come up against.”
--Rousey on Davis, during a conference call with reporters on Monday
“To be honest, it doesn’t really bother me. It’s fine. … When you step into the octagon, what’s going to happen is what’s going to happen, regardless of what you say.”
--Davis, after being asked during the same conference call about how fans and media seem to be discounting her
The Tweet Beat
Join the conversation about Rousey vs. Davis on Twitter. Track the hashtags #RouseyDavis and #UFC175 to see who’s tweeting what about Saturday’s fight.
Main event: Chris Weidman (champion) vs. Lyoto Machida, middleweight
Stefan Struve vs. Matt Mitrione, heavyweight
Urijah Hall vs. Thiago Santos, middleweight
Marcus Brimage vs. Russell Doane, bantamweight
Preliminary card (8 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1): Urijah Faber vs. Alex Caceres, bantamweight; Kenny Robertson vs. Ildemar Alcantara, welterweight; Chris Camozzi vs. Bruno Santos, middleweight; George Roop vs. Rob Font, bantamweight.
Online prelims (7 p.m. ET, UFC Fight Pass): Luke Zachrich vs. Guilherme Vasconcelos, middleweight; Kevin Casey vs. Bubba Bush, middleweight.
Mike Goldberg will handle blow-by-blow and Joe Rogan analysis for the main-card telecast on pay-per-view as well as prelims on Fox Sports 1 and the UFC Fight Pass. An hour-long postfight show begins at 1:30 a.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.