UFC 207 Analysis: Rondaʼs Comeback?
By Ryan McKinnon
Perhaps the most anticipated MMA fight of the past 13 months involves the return of Ronda
Rousey in UFC 207. Sheʼs been out of competition for just over a year, and everyone is
wondering if her return is going send a powerful message to the bantamweight division
that the champ is back. Has Ronda done enough both mentally and physically to ensure
a triumphant return? Based on the lack of video footage surrounding preparation, itʼs
very hard to tell.
The legendary female fighter was an absolute wrecking machine in the UFC for 4 years. She
completely changed the landscape of MMA all over the world by proving that female
fighters sell tickets, and are equally as exciting to watch as the men. Her records are
countless. Ronda transcended the sport of MMA in a short amount of time. That intense change
of lifestyle was a contributing factor to her only loss last November. Now with a year to
focus on training, the break may have been exactly what she needed to reset. She has
avoided doing press at all leading up to the fight at UFC 207, making her return on Friday night
Based solely on her last fight with Holly Holm, there were some observed holes
in Rondaʼs MMA game. Her striking and footwork didnʼt match well with the high caliber
striking of Holly. Ronda exposed herself to counter strikes, and lacked the agility to
dance with Holm. This isnʼt to say Ronda has terrible striking. She was simply
outclassed by a pro boxer and kickboxer with a lot more experience.
Looking at tape of her fights, you will notice that Rondaʼs poor defense has led to
her taking damage from counter punching. The only difference between Holly and all of
Rondaʼs previous opponents is that Holly had the physicality and correct game plan to
expose her. Many of Rondaʼs opponents either abandoned the counter fighting, or were
completely overwhelmed by her in the clinch and on the ground. Miesha Tate had
Ronda hurt in both of their fights, but allowed herself to get caught in the whirlwind that
is Rondaʼs ground game.
Amanda Nunes hasnʼt had much success against high level strikers either. Two
of her TKO losses were to striking standouts Cat Zingano and Alexis Davis. She has
definitely improved since her losses, but like Ronda, she lacks the high level timing that
comes with experience in pro boxing and kickboxing. If Nunes hopes to retain the title,
sheʼll need to be crafty on the feet by using angles and counterpunching to weaken
Ronda before she attempts a takedown.
The main thing everyone wants to see is where Rondaʼs head is at. She has
basically carried a scowl on her face for much of her career. Nobody looks meaner than
Ronda leading up to a fight. Her mean mug is so intense, itʼs almost comical. What has
her mind been truly focused on since her first loss? She was in a very bad place
mentally after her defeat. Has she taken the necessary steps to put it behind her and
learn the lesson?
The final question regards her cornermen. Her striking coach Edmond
Tarverdyan has been publicly criticized as the worst coach in all of MMA. His advice to
Ronda after the first round against Holly forces you to wonder if he is a coach or a hype
man. If that example wasnʼt clear enough, you can read transcripts of his ʻcoaching
styleʼ from Travis Browneʼs fight against Werdum. Browne is 2-3 with Edmond in his
corner. Why would a champion like Ronda keep a guy like him around?
Thus if Ronda hopes to make fighting a part of her life again, she needs to stick to
what sheʼs good at against Nunes. Ronda hasnʼt been in MMA long enough to be a high
level striker, but she can still employ some of the fundamental techniques of boxing to
her advantage. Ronda has to move her head, and make herself less predictable before
she engages in the clinch. Jabbing her way in to close the distance against Nunes will
minimize her chances of getting clipped. She doesnʼt need to make it fancy. Just stick
and move, keep her head off the center line, and hide her takedown attempts behind
her jabs. If Ronda stands in front of Nunes, she may meet the same fate at UFC 207 that
has been haunting her for the past 13 months.