TBT: Ronda Rousey’s Legendary Night at UFC 148

Ronda Rousey and Cat Zingano, UFC 148
Ronda Rousey and Cat Zingano Credit: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

Next month, Ronda Rousey will be the first woman to be inducted into the UFC Hall-of-Fame.  UFC 148 is one of the nights that helped earn her the honor.

At the height of her powers, what made Ronda Rousey a must-watch fighter was the fact that her events had the feeling of momentous pop-culture moments.  She was already a lightening rod for attention, breaking the mold of what a typical fighter looked like by gracing the cover of Maxim and dominating the competition unlike anyone before her.  But on February 25, 2015 at UFC 184, Rousey shocked the world by breaking her own historic record.

Going into the fight, Rousey was the most popular star in the UFC and still becoming the darling of the pop-culture world.  Her biggest movie appearance, Fast 7, had not released yet.  Nor had her hyped appearance in Entourage: The Movie.  Even so, Rousey’s star power could not be denied.  She had already proven she could headline pay-per-views on her own, but it was her last performance that sent the MMA world buzzing.  Rousey had only been out of the first round once, and she set a personal best by blitzing Alexis Davis in 16 seconds and setting the record for fastest finish in a UFC championship bout.  At the time, Instagram was still new and exploding in popularity but one of its limitations was that videos could only be 15 seconds long.  Rousey’s fight, albeit to the chagrin of the UFC who saw their product widely pirated, spread through social media like wildfire due to its brevity and propelled her to new heights.

Undefeated contender Cat Zingano was supposed to be different.  “Alpha” had knocked out then top contender Miesha Tate and returned from a year lay-off to overcome future champion Amanda Nunes.  Zingano was supposed to be the woman Rousey couldn’t walk through.  Versatile, tenacious, battle-tested and possessing formidable destructive capabilities, Zingano was supposed to present Rousey her toughest challenge yet.

But when the bell rang, no one expected what came next.  Zingano charged forward only to be immediately taken down.  Rousey isolated her arm quickly and in just 14 seconds submitted Zingano with her signature arm-bar.  The crowd and public watching were stunned.  Rousey’s 16 second finish against Davis appeared to be a near impossible record to break and “Rowdy” had just taken off two seconds of time in her immediate next outing.  There was an acknowledgement that history had just been witnessed in a breathtaking moment.  But there was even more to the feat.  For example, if Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps break records, they are competing largely against a clock.  Rousey had twice stopped another woman who entered the cage intent on causing damage and getting her own hand raised.  In a sport like mixed martial arts, with all it’s variables, to set and break the record in consecutive fights was the equivalent of lightening striking a person twice.

Rousey’s movies would release, and her popularity would continue to skyrocket.  But even on this night, the shadow of the future began to creep into the picture.  The architect of her MMA collapse, Holly Holm, would make her UFC debut just minutes earlier.  Her split-decision victory over Raquel Pennington was not dominant by any means.  It certainly did not give anyone the idea that she would be able to throttle Rousey the way she did months later.

Over the weekend, Rousey was announced as the first female inductee into the UFC Hall-of-Fame, an honor she will receive in less than a month at International Fight Week.  However, Rousey will have more pressing matters to attend to.  She is in the midst of her new career as a professional wrestler for the WWE and will face women’s champion Nia Jax on pay-per-view this Sunday.

On the outside, it would seem that mixed martial arts doesn’t have a place in Rousey’s life anymore.  Every conversation seems to turn back to the endeavors she has now.  But the fact remains, no one will forget how Rousey dominated MMA like no one else before her.  For those who watched UFC 148 live, no one will ever forget what it was like to watch Rousey lock in the submission in 14 seconds and make you believe for a moment that just maybe, she really could break every record the fight game had ever seen.