Ronda Rousey has finished all 10 of her opponents. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
UFC 184 was originally headlined by a long-anticipated middleweight title fight between Chris Weidman and Vitor Belfort, but Ronda Rousey and Cat Zingano were forced to step into the main-event slot when the New Yorker went down with a rib injury. A succession of other maladies and misfortunes further robbed the card of Frank Mir and Antonio Silva, along with a scheduled bout between the peaking Ronaldo Souza and human highlight reel Yoel Romero.
Although Rousey-Zingano is as good a fight as the women’s bantamweight division can offer and the champion has become must-see TV, the same cannot be said for the rest of the card. Holly Holm’s organizational debut is certainly intriguing, and the remainder of the lineup includes a few potential barnburner matchups and rising fighters like Tony Ferguson. In sum, however, this is not the promotion’s best offering.
Let us take a look at each matchup for UFC 184 “Rousey vs. Zingano,” set for Saturday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles:
UFC WOMEN’S BANTAMWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIPRonda Rousey (10-0, 4-0 UFC) vs. Cat Zingano (9-0, 2-0 UFC)
THE MATCHUP: This is an awesome fight. Rousey is probably the most dominant fighter in the sport today, having disposed of all 10 of her professional opponents inside three rounds with ridiculous ease. She took out Sara McMann, an Olympic silver medalist, and Alexis Davis in a combined 82 seconds. Zingano, meanwhile, overcame a blown knee, the death of her husband and a brutal first-round against Amanda Nunes to take a late TKO in her last outing; prior to that, she blasted Miesha Tate in her Ultimate Fighting Championship debut. There is no better fight available in the women’s bantamweight division right now, and this should be a barnburner.
Rousey is an absolute marvel, a phenom of the highest order. Leaving aside her skills for a moment, it is worth pointing out that she is absolutely enormous for the division and an incredible athlete with outstanding quickness, strength and power. With that said, there are still pieces of Rousey’s game that are exactly as raw as you would expect from a fighter who has been competing professionally for four years, namely her range striking. Rousey has decent footwork and can throw punches with some power, but she is too linear, does not move her head and has only a limited arsenal of strikes. Especially early in the fight, she is quite hittable and seems content to charge forward face-first.
This is a relatively small problem in the grand scheme of things, however, because Rousey’s ultimate goal is always to get the fight to the clinch. On the inside, she is a monster, with sharp knees and elbows that flow directly into her vast array of trips, throws and hip tosses. Once the fight hits the mat, she passes with ease and begins the hunt for her favored armbar, and she also packs serious power in her ground strikes. Her takedown defense is not impenetrable, but she is almost impossible to control on her back and boasts a dangerous, active guard with strong wrist control and crafty setups for her armbars. Her killer instinct is incredible, and she works at a punishing pace that her opponents struggle to match.
Zingano is a quick-paced, offensively focused pressure fighter who does her best work moving forward. She wears down her opponents with a constant stream of offense in all phases of the fight, relying on her output, cardio and durability to see her through until her opponent quits. From a technical perspective, striking is probably Zingano’s weakest suit. She is too linear and carries her chin high, moving forward quickly with shift steps, round kicks and lunging punches without much concern for angles or defense.
That is less of a problem than it might seem, however, because Zingano’s range striking is essentially designed to bring her into her real wheelhouse: the clinch. When she ties up with her opponent, Zingano is exceptionally destructive, unleashing brutal knees to the head and body from double-collar ties, side clinches, frames, over-unders and every other position. She hits most of her takedowns from the clinch, as well, with a preference for high-amplitude front headlock throws, lateral drops and the occasional trip. She does great work from top position, passing quickly, maintaining a heavy base and dropping bombs, but she has comparatively little to offer from her back and is not a strong defensive wrestler. Indomitable will, cardio, durability and athleticism make Zingano’s game all the more effective, however, and she gets stronger as the fight wears on.
BETTING ODDS: Rousey (-1250), Zingano (+800)
THE PICK: The betting odds accurately reflect the sheer scale of Rousey’s dominance since entering the sport. While Zingano is a serious challenge and probably the most dangerous and durable all-around fighter Rousey has faced, it is hard to picture a scenario in which the champion loses this fight. The challenger’s best chance is to try to weather the early storm and push into the fourth and fifth rounds, hoping Rousey has tired by then. That sounds reasonable enough, but the problem is making it that long in the first place. Zingano’s best skill set is her clinch, where Rousey holds an advantage over almost every fighter in the history of the sport. If Zingano could get the fight to the ground and spend a while in top position, she might have some success, but that is easier said than done, and she would still have to deal with the champion’s lightning-fast armbars from guard. Rousey holds skill advantages practically everywhere, is the better athlete and can match Zingano’s durability. The pick is Rousey by submission in the second round.
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