LAS VEGAS — “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey winning by armbar has been a familiar ending to every one of the Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s bantamweight champion’s fights.
On Saturday night at UFC 168 in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand Arena, the ending was just the same as every fight before, but the journey getting there was far more arduous.
After a riveting first two rounds, Rousey was able to secure an armbar submission against archrival Miesha Tate 58 seconds into the third round of their co-main event bout to defend her championship.
Rousey, cornered by Glendale’s Edmond Tarverdyan, Gene LeBell, Martin Berberyan and Rener Gracie, remained undefeated at 8-0 with all of her bouts ending via armbar submission.
Just after Tate (13-5) tapped out and the bout ended, Tate extended her hand to Rousey, but the Glendale Fighting Club-trained fighter walked away, refusing to shake her rival’s hand.
Boos poured down thereafter, as well as during Rousey’s in-cage postfight interview with Joe Rogan.
“In judo, I didn't know what a cheer was, cheers are what's new. I took the name ‘Rowdy’ after ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper because he was such a great showman. I wanted to put on a good show,” Rousey said. “I respect Miesha very much as a competitor, but I can't respect a fighter who did what she did and I cannot shake her hand because of it.”
Tate, who was a huge underdog and became an overwhelming fan favorite, was quick to give praise to the champion, however.
“I have no excuses,” said Tate, 27. “She was the better fighter tonight.”
Saturday night’s fight concluded a 2013 for Rousey, 26, that was a year full of firsts. In February, having already been crowned the first UFC women’s champion, she won the first-ever UFC women’s fight by submitting Liz Carmouche in the first round.
Later on, she was announced to be the first woman to coach on UFC’s reality show “The Ultimate Fighter.” Opposing her would be Tate, who lost her Strikeforce title in March of 2012 to Rousey in their first meeting.
In their second bout, though, Tate became the first fighter to extend Rousey past the first round. And it was a riveting first round, as the two exchanged punches, takedowns and submission attempts amid an electric MGM Grand atmosphere.
In the opening round, Rousey and Tate both came out swinging, exchanging winging punches with Rousey going for the clinch and getting a throw for a takedown. Tate bounced up, but Rousey never let go, landing a knee and using a clinch against the cage, where she landed a slew of right hands.
The two separated and Rousey landed a high kick, but Tate countered with a left kick to the stomach. Rousey used it for a takedown and landed some ground and pound. Rousey would pick Tate up in a power bomb position, but couldn’t get a good slam and in the scramble, Tate landed a takedown.
From her guard, though, Rousey cinched up her legs and began peppering Tate with punches, bloodying the challenger’s nose and attempting a triangle choke. Tate was able to shrimp her way out and the two went at it standing, both exchanging big right hands. Following a Tate right, Rousey clinched and secured a judo takedown. Rousey went for Tate’s back, but Tate rolled and was able to get on top as the fight waged back and forth. Rousey went up to her feet, stuffed another Tate takedown and notched another judo throw.
Though it was a back-and-forth saga, it was one that Rousey won.
Rousey notched a trip to send Tate to the mat in the second round, but Rousey was forced to back off after eating a slew of upkicks. Tate bulled in for another takedown, but yet again it resulted in a Rousey judo throw. Perhaps surprisingly, Rousey let Tate back up, before working for another takedown.
“Miesha” chants erupted as the two clinched and Rousey landed knees to the back of Tate’s thigh. Rousey began to land rights from the clinch before the two exchanged knees to the body and just like that, Rousey landed another judo takedown, whipping Tate to the mat. Rousey looked to be going for an armbar before Tate threw her legs back and briefly pulled Rousey back. Rousey then mounted Tate and started landing more punches that led to a Rousey armbar attempt.
She looked to sink it in, but Tate rolled through it and the crowd roared. Rousey went back to work with more hammerfists before attempting an inverted triangle choke attempt. Rousey pulled Tate over and pounded on her body as the round expired, taking another round.
More chants for Tate began the third round, but Rousey came out with a right hand and backed Tate to the cage and clinched.
“She worked on her right hand a little bit,” said Tate of Rousey, who showcased vastly improved striking, while both displayed sturdy chins. “That was surprising.”
Rousey pulled Tate down and, in the transition, ended up with another armbar attempt from the top. She quickly pulled Tate over and pulled back the armbar, garnering a quick tapout from Tate.
“Going more than one round was a good experience,” Rousey said. “The experience is good, going longer than one round. I needed that experience in the octagon and, as my mom said, ‘Better to get it in a win than in a loss.’ I feel fine. I was much worse off after the Liz Carmouche fight, where she dislocated my jaw. I feel pretty good other than a scratch under my eye. I'm looking forward to a little time off and celebrating Christmas with my family.”
Though the fight was compelling, statistics bared that it was a dominant performance for Rousey, who outlanded Tate, 134-28, in total strikes (40-24 in significant strikes), and landed six takedowns to just one for Tate.
On Saturday, the last reported odds saw Tate as a 7-1 underdog, having dropped from as high as 12-1, and, as predicted, Rousey walked away still undefeated and still champion.