Time and logistics may be all that separates Strikeforce women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey from a super fight with Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos.
Rousey submitted Sarah Kaufman with a first-round armbar in the Strikeforce “Rousey vs. Kaufman” main event on Saturday at the Valley View Casino Center in San Diego. Kaufman tapped out 54 seconds into round one, the latest victim in a growing list for the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist. Rousey has submitted all six of her opponents with armbars in the first round, five of them in less than a minute.
Some expected Kaufman to test her. She did not. Rousey bullied her way into a quick clinch and grounded the Canadian with an exquisite inside trip. The 25-year-old champion moved to mount, transitioned to the armbar and, after a brief struggle, finished it. She now sports 39-, 49-, 54- and a pair of 25-second submissions on her resume.
Afterward, Rousey shifted her attention to Santos, the disgraced former 145-pound champion whose suspension from a positive test for performance-enhancing drugs expires in December.
“People want to see you in the first fair fight of your life,” Rousey said. “I’m the champ now. The champ doesn’t go to you. You come to the champ. Come down to 135 [pounds], and let’s settle this.”
Rousey has done nothing to hide her disdain for Santos. In a February interview with the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Savage Dog Show,” she took no-holds-barred aim at the embattled Brazilian.
“I think she was a detriment to women’s MMA,” Rousey said. “I think that no little girl is going to watch Cris Cyborg fight and want to be like her one day. I don’t think that she’s a good example. I think it was obvious all along that she was doping and I think it’s a really bad message to send to kids that you need to dope to be a champion. I think it’s better with her gone, and I think that when she comes back ... I plan on fighting her when she comes back and I plan on beating her when she comes back. I feel like that will be a good example.
“The only positive role that I think Cris Cyborg can play for women’s MMA is as a bad guy Ivan Drago character that’s going to get beat by a Rocky,” she added. “She earned her sentence, and when she’s done, she can come back and get her real punishment.”
Santos has not competed since she wiped out Hiroko Yamanaka in 16 seconds eight months ago. The result was later changed to a no contest by the California State Athletic Commission after Cyborg tested positive for the anabolic steroid stanozolol. The 27-year-old Chute Boxe representative was subsequently stripped of her 145-pound championship. Seeing as though Santos made her name at 145 pounds, Rousey may have to meet her in the middle in order for the bout to materialize.
In wake of Strikeforce “Rousey vs. Kaufman,” here are four other matchups that need to be made:
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza vs. Luke Rockhold: In terms of statements, former middleweight champion Souza could not have made a stronger one. The decorated grappler showed off his ever-improving standup against Derek Brunson, as he knocked out the Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts export in 41 seconds. Long hours spent under the wing of trainer Josuel Distak have proven fruitful for the five-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion. Souza will need all of his skills if he plans to avenge his decision loss to Rockhold, the man who dethroned him 11 months ago. Rockhold has successfully defended the title twice since, stopping UFC veteran Keith Jardine on strikes and outpointing Tim Kennedy. The American Kickboxing Academy standout has rattled off nine consecutive victories.
Sarah Kaufman vs. Miesha Tate: Kaufman could only give a figurative shrug of her shoulders following her ill-fated encounter with Rousey. Submitted in less than a minute, the opportunity for which she had waited for nearly two years came and went in a blink.
Still, the loss to Rousey did little to diminish her standing within the women’s 135-pound division, where she remains one of the world’s best. Tate finds herself in a similar position, even after her riveting submission victory over Julie Kedzie. Kaufman outpointed Tate in their May 2009 matchup at Strikeforce Challengers 1. Much has changed in the three years since.
Tarec Saffiedine vs. Jorge Santiago-Quinn Mulhern winner: Calm, steady and precise, Saffiedine was almost clinical in earning a unanimous verdict over Roger Bowling. The Belgian remains in the discussion regarding a potential title fight against newly crowned welterweight champion Nate Marquardt, but his performance against Bowling lacked the kind of pizzazz for which one hopes when the stakes are high. Perhaps a bit more seasoning is in order. The winner of the Santiago-Mulhern matchup at Strikeforce “Melendez vs. Healy” on Sept. 29 could provide just such an opportunity.
Ovince St. Preux vs. Gian Villante: A physical specimen at 205 pounds, St. Preux delivered a highlight-reel knockout against T.J. Smith. His left hook sent an unconscious Smith crashing to the ground 20 seconds into round three, the Floridian’s head bouncing violently off the canvas. Still, the performance left plenty of room for improvement for the former University of Tennessee linebacker. Villante, who also played football at a high level in college, has quietly pieced together a streak of three consecutive wins and remains one of the few light heavyweights in Strikeforce who can challenge St. Preux athletically.