The second defeat of Ronda Rousey

Ronda Rousey challenged Amanda Nunes’ world title on 30 December 2016 at UFC 207 and she lost, for the second and consecutive time in her career.  She is an undiscussed celebrity within MMA and UFC but, as I previously wrote about, everything changed dramatically for her when she lost her title to Holly Holm in November 2015.

There is no doubt that her first defeat had a strong effect on her image and confidence as she totally disappeared for months.  There was quite a bit of speculation about whether she would ever come back and when.   Finally she announced to be challenging Nunes at UFC 207, without releasing any official interviews or taking part in press conferences.  The fight itself did not look too good as it lasted merely 47 seconds; Nunes managed to connect one of her powerful punches on her opponent’s face and, noticing Rousey visibly shaken, she continued with several other punches until the referee called the TKO.

A lot of interviews were released by all people with an opinion; the one I found most significant was from Nunes herself.  She stated that Rousey’s strategy was completely wrong; instead of concentrating on her winning techniques like take downs and arm bars she tried a stand up strategy and could not cope with her opponent’s pressure.  Nunes also blamed very strongly Rousey’s boxing coach who gave her the false illusion that she could hold her position on a striking game plan when she is a great grappler and wrestler.

We’ll see whether she is ever going to come back to UFC or even moving on to acting as many have speculated.   Much of her notoriety and status as a champion opened for her possibilities of various roles in Hollywood movies but, now that is no longer the champion she used to be, perhaps many of them will dry out.

The first UFC defeat of Ronda Rousey

I was intrigued by the content of this video with testimonials from Dana White and lots of Hollywood celebrities which built a great hype about this event.  Personally I had no strong opinion about what could be the result of Rousey vs. Holm at the UFC 193 in Melbourne. Being a kickboxer and loving strikes I surely had a natural preference for Holly Holm who is a Kickboxer and Boxer. She has been winning most of her MMA fights with kicks in her opponents’ heads which is kind of exceptional.

As Sylvester Stallone said in short interview: “one of them will win and the other will lose”.  That’s what happens every time. Obviously expectations are very high when you have a challenge between two undefeated fighters: at the end of the fight one of them will be a former undefeated fighter.

When I saw Rousey’s defeat by Holm’s flag strike, a kick in the head, I was pleased of such a spectacular win but also surprised of what that defeat has generated.  My surprise to the results has a number of different angles which I will explain in a few points:

  • Nearly superfluous to say Rousey is a great grappler and managed to finish most of her latest fights by using what she knows best: judo throws followed by very fast punching to the opponent just grounded or armbars.
  • It was pretty obvious that Holm would not want to go there, hence her very mobile footwork, succeeding to maintain a stand up fight where she is strongest. By using this strategy Holm managed to keep Rousey at bay and hit her in the face a number of times with strong cross punches as well as with a round elbow strike.
  • I was very surprised to see Rousey losing her usual control to the point that in the second round she charged Holm so aggressively and uncontrollably that she fell against the net.
  • Perhaps not having the level of control she is used to have and feeling the pressure of an opponent who would not be as controllable as others she lost her concentration. Definitely her guard was not where it was supposed to be and one by one each of the strikes chipped her down to the point that Holm’s kick had a clear path to Rousey lower jaw and neck putting her KO.
  • Rousey doesn’t really behave like shy as a person; she is full of herself and proud of being a tough fighter which was undefeated until last Saturday. Dana White himself, having discounted for years women being part of UFC, has been promoting her as the best fighters he has worked with. Regardless of this result hopefully he will not change his point of view about her.
  • Fame doesn’t come without repercussions and her bravado has definitely irritated lots of people. Her behaviour just before the fight, including her refusing to touch Holm’s gloves in my opinion should have not been accepted by the organisers.  If we accept substandard sportsmanship behaviours what are we teaching to all beginners and children that look at us to learn how to behave?
  • Despite Rousey’s arrogance I was surprised, to say the little, about the amount of poison spewed toward her. Starting from her main contender Meisha Tate, which is kind of understandable, to Donald Trump and many others all were very happy she lost and filling up social media feeds with their negative comments.
  • This fight reminded me a bit the famous rumble in the jungle when Muhammed Ali challenged and defeated George Foreman in Zaire. Foreman was so sure of winning this fight that entered a three years of depression due to his defeat.  Mind coaching and mental rehearsal have become standard practice for most professional fighters so I assume Rousey’s will be no different.  I trust Ronda will be surrounded by enough councillors, sport psychologists and mind coaches which will help her to analyse what went wrong, cope with the defeat and get ready for her next fight.

I am pleased that after some time in hospital and a few long days of silence Rousey has released an official statement explaining she will take some time off and come back stronger than before.  Martial arts, taught in the traditional way, promote humility and being humble: unfortunately these qualities don’t fit too well with the show business which fighting sports, and UFC in particular, have become.  Perhaps this loss will teach Ronda Rousey how to be a real champion, someone that after falling this hard goes back to the drawing board and understands what went wrong, learn from her mistakes and becomes even better.

Haywire – Gina Carano

I was surprised to watch Haywire last night and like it to a point of considering it the movies with the best (read: realistic and credible) fighting scenes I have seen in a long time.

There is no doubt that my passion for martial arts was started in the 70ies with Bruce Lee and other Hong Kong productions which were invading the cinema theatres at that time;  I have also written in the past about movies that, seen now with experience and knowledge, look a bit ridiculous.  Too often choreographers and stunt coordinators simply assume we are all gullible and we don’t understand what’s possible and just fill up movies with scenes which as just pure fantasy.

I found Haywire different; using techniques which are credible and nearly realistic.  Gina Carano showing off her full repertoire of Muay Thai well mixed with ju-jistu and wrestling. It’s realistic to the point that she fights people bigger than her with real effort and manages to get hurt in the process, she even looks out of breath a couple of times which is unusual in movies.  

Of course some scenes are exaggerated.  She gets shot in an arm and, despite a few minutes of pain, two scenes later she carries on fighting as nothing happened.  Then the scene in the hotel, against the character played by Michael Fassbender, when her head and face hit glass panels and other sharp objects without getting cut but, hey, it’s a movie after all 😉  Well done to producer, director, actors, stunt coordinator and of course Gina who uses very well her martial arts skills together with the typical action movie plot.

My visit at BCMMA7

BCMMA7 BCMMA7 was an event I could not miss.  My friend and kickboxing student Luca Senatore was fighting his first MMA bout and I had to be there.  The British Challenge Mix Martial Arts # 7 was held in Colchester on Sunday 1st June.

I have seen before a handful of MMA fights in various venues in South East England and London. I liked this event more than the others for a number of good reasons listed below:

  • Luca did a fantastic entry and literally dominated the first round; the fact that he lost the fight for submission on the second round did not diminish his enthusiasm and exited like a true winner and sportsman
  • The quality of the fights, all at amateur level, was reasonably high and just in a couple of short occasions they lost control and looked a bit like a Friday night brawl more than a sport bout between trained people
  • The venue was conveniently positioned with free parking, well organised with security efficient and friendly; the fact that it wasn’t too crowded I guess it helped logistics
  • The bar is of very generous size and friendly staffed making the whole drinking experience at the event even better

The positive aspects described above made this event a fun day out with some friends however I have a few recommendations that I would like to offer to the organisers for next time:

  • In more than once occasion the referee let the fight going for a few extra seconds before calling the TKO; those extra seconds have caused one fighter to lose consciousness and another one to have his face more swollen than necessary. I am aware that fighters safety is highly considered in MMA fights but an even stricter regime should be applied for amateurs, particularly at their first fight.
  • Breaks were in my opinion too long and further delaying the show. The first “5 minutes” break lasted about 20 and we left the show at 9:40 at the beginning of the third break when the whole event was supposed to be over by 9:30.
  • The sound system was way too cracking and unable to cope with loud base sounds; perhaps a few extra loudspeakers or better quality ones could help.
  • The round girls… I have noticed dozen of female spectators and a couple of waitresses which were better looking that those girls. It should be that difficult to find to decent looking one next time.
  • Avoid empty tables: I guess there was an expectation to sell more VIP tickets for tables around the cage but, if sales did not go as expected I would suggest to either take out the empty tables or being nice to regulars that perhaps cannot afford the VIP ticket. Once they try VIP treatment perhaps next time they will go for it.

Once again I was impressed of the event and will be back for another one, particularly if Luca fights again.

Martial arts schools vs. fight clubs

I was having a conversation with a new student the other day and he was asking clarifications about sparring and competing in fights.  We discussed the typical approach to fighting and teaching in Boxing, Muay Thai and then MMA, then I explained my philosophy of running my club.  I consider myself a martial artist and a martial arts teacher.  As it happens we specialise in kick boxing and we do spar regularly and train for fights that many of our members attend.  Sparring is and should be a fundamental part of martial arts training and nobody should use excuses to avoid it.  Sparring, however limited by rules, is the only way of testing whether your techniques can be really used against a non collaborative opponent.  At the same time my martial art approach philosophy is that everybody should be trained and inspired to improve their skills but nobody should be discriminated against their, perhaps not great, fighting performance.

My main point about martial arts school like mine and the difference of approach compared to fight clubs is the emphasis and focus on fighting and fighting capabilities.  In many Boxing, Muay Thai and MMA club they assess very quickly whether you could be a good fighter and will invest their time in you just in case of positive outcome.  In my club the attention your will get from me, other instructors and senior members of the club is just proportional to you attendance and determination to succeed.  Talented people will achieve results faster but the truly determined will succeed anyway.

In my pitch to new these students I simply stated: “I am martial artist and I teach martial arts; fighting is a result and a necessary consequence of training martial arts but not the only result”.  Being a martial artist is much more than being a fighter.  Fighters train and fight to win; for many this is a career that can have a beginning and an end; when they finish that career they retire and stop training.  Martial artists train for, among other things, personal improvement and for them; there is potentially no end in their training, perhaps an evolution of styles, often dictated by their body getting older.