Ronda Rousey puts the “art” in mixed-martial arts.
The Olympic bronze-medal-winning judoka, who takes on Canadian Alexis Davis tonight at UFC 175, infuses a sport of savage strikes and bone-splintering contortions with beautiful throws. Fight fans habituated to punches, kicks, chokes, and single-leg takedowns startle at the vision of Rousey gracefully hurling opponents through the air using their momentum and her technique. The style, as well as the brutal beauty practicing it, turns heads. The throws take your breath away–for the thrown and the viewers thrown by the spectacle.
Mixed-martial arts arose to answer such questions as “Boxing or wrestling?” and “Karate or jujitsu?” Nobody wondered how judo might fare because they all thought they knew.
“Everyone assumed that everything could beat judo,” Rousey lamented on the UFC 175 conference call earlier this week. “I was always completely annoyed by the complete lack of respect the sport got.”
The undefeated Rousey fights to change that. Though Rousey also deploys a cry-uncle inducing arm bar–her Brazilian jujitsu appears not so far afield from judo’s grappling element–she clearly wants fans to see her octagon success as her base discipline’s success. Rousey surely isn’t the first judo enthusiast to win fans in cage fighting. Karo Parisyan employed the art in an impressive streak of victories over Nick Diaz, Chris Lytle, and Matt Serra during his UFC heyday nearly a decade ago. In the UFC’s current 170-pound division, Hector Lombard, a member of Cuba’s 2000 Olympic team, figures to fight for the welterweight strap soon. But no male competitor has utilized judo as effectively and during such a high-level run as the UFC’s 135-pound women’s champion. Tonight in Las Vegas, Rousey attempts to again win for judo in her title bout with Brazilian and Japanese jujitsu black-belt Alexis Davis.
And when it’s over, she looks to do it all over again–as fast as a sweeping hip throw. “I get in trouble sneaking into the gym two days after the fight,” confesses Rousey, who looks to step into the octagon again around New Year’s Eve after an uncharacteristic break. “I don’t really do that well with downtime. I’m always in the gym regardless.”