For weeks, virtually the only thing that the sports and MMA media wanted to talk about regarding UFC 207 was the glorious return of Ronda Rousey.
Once thought impervious to defeat and invincible to damage, “Rowdy” Ronda fell from grace when she suffered a head-kick knockout loss Holly Holm at UFC 193 in November 2015. Heading into UFC 207, Rousey remained the hot topic even though Amanda Nunes, her opponent, was the defending UFC women’s bantamweight champion.
For weeks, Rousey refused to do any interviews and her behavior was both applauded and ridiculed. She was simultaneously heralded as a real champion who is so focused on regaining her title that even the slightest distractions were avoided, and she was criticized for being a selfish prima donna. As it turned out, it didn’t matter what Rousey did pre-fight because Nunes clobbered her within a minute to retain her title in a shellacking that could send the Olympic judoka into retirement.
Seconds into their main event battle inside the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, a three-punch combo to the head rocked the Glendale Fighting Club representative. Nunes played her hand perfectly and opted not to rush in and possibly fall prey to a lethal Rousey clinch. Instead, the Brazilian “Lioness” picked her spots and tore into Rousey’s head with lefts and rights. Before anybody could blink, Rousey was reeling, and in just 48 seconds was mercifully rescued by veteran referee Herb Dean.
“The whole time I knew it was going to be like this,” Nunes said at the post-fight press conference. “I trained like a lion. I know these girls can’t take my punches and it happened tonight.
“I know she’s going to strike with me because he boxing coach told her that she’s good at striking,” she added. “But I know when I connected with punches, she would try and clinch with me. I saw the first punch land and it hurt her and my coaches told me to keep going.”
Before Dean intervened, a missile of a right hand to the jaw knocked Rousey out on her feet, and the only thing keeping the American standing were her fingers clinched in the Octagon’s fencing. Never before had Nunes ever been in a bigger spotlight and she likely never will again. Though many who follow MMA predicted a Nunes win, her triumph was considered an upset. Rousey is arguably the most famous MMA fighter alive and she closed as big as a -170 betting favorite in some sportsbooks, while the majority of casual fight fans didn’t even know who Nunes was. Rousey pocketed a reported $3 million purse, while Nunes was given an initial purse of $100,000 before bonuses, but the Brazilian admitted that she was unfazed by the discrepancy.
“I was completely okay with everything,” she siad. “I know I’m going to make a lot of money. I am totally okay with it.”
Over the course of 2016, Nunes proved that she is without question the most dangerous woman at 135 pounds. She opened the year with a dominant decision win over Valetina Shevchenko at UFC 196 and followed that up by trouncing then-champion Miesha Tate in July at UFC 200. After her drubbing of the once-unbeatable wrecking machine Saturday night at UFC 207, “The Lioness” put an emphatic stamp on her campaign.