Who’s Next For Ronda Rousey?

On Saturday night, Strikeforce Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey not only proved that she is the top 135er around with her submission of former #1 Sarah Kaufman in just 54 seconds, she also made claim to being the pound-for-pound best on the women’s circuit.

At 6-0 as a professional, Rousey is still at the infancy stage of her mixed martial arts career. The way that she has been able to go through competition it may be unclear who she could be facing sometimes from fight to fight, similar to the UFC’s Jon Jones. By using the process of elimination, I believe there’s only one fighter that makes sense when talking challengers for Ronda’s crown, continue reading for more details.

Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos is the woman that most fans would like to see challenge Rousey next, but the champ wants to face Santos on her terms, calling for the former Strikeforce Featherweight Champion to make the move to Bantamweight. There were rumors of the two colliding at 145 after Rousey’s victory over Julia Budd last November, but the Olympic Bronze Medalist decided to challenge for a title in another weight-class.  “Cyborg” then tested positive for a banned substance therefore making it impossible for the women to face off earlier in the year.

Cris has made it clear that she is not able to cut down that low and history supports that. In an April 2009 bout with Japan’s Hitomi Akano that was originally scheduled to take place in the Featherweight division (145), “Cyborg” came in at 152, seven pounds off the mark. Throughout her career Santos has had trouble making weight.  Knowing this, it is somewhat confusing as to why Rousey would challenge the Brazilian to make the cut down. Since the 25 year old has competed as high as 154 in the Judo circuit. And up until the fight with Tate, all of her MMA bouts took place at Featherweight. It’s interesting that Rousey wouldn’t consider a catchweight of 140 if that’s a fight that she wants.

A fight with Miesha Tate seems a little too soon. “Takedown” may have given the new champ the toughest fight of her young career thus far, but due to Tate being submitted in the first round like Ronda’s previous 4 opponents, it would be a hard sell for many. In addition to that, Miesha recently stated that she doesn’t feel her winning performance over Julie Kedzie was enough to warrant a rematch with the champ. This fight doesn’t seem like a real possibility just yet.

Liz Carmouche has shown that she has the tools to compete with some of the best in the division. She has proven this by dominating former BW Queen Marloes Coenen in a bout early last year only to fall short, eventually tapping out late in the fight. The only thing keeping Carmouche out of a title bout right now seems to be that one big signature win that is lacking from her resume. She is obviously one of the top fighters in the division, but until she gets that signature win, Carmouche may find herself on the outside looking in for a few more fights.

Currently on a two fight run since the loss to Kaufman, I feel that Liz is currently one or two wins away from challenging for the division crown and a fight with Miesha makes the most sense for her at this stage in her career. Some are saying that 2004 Olympic Silver Medalist Sara McMann deserves the next shot. While this would be an interesting matchup, a contest between the two Olympians would be a hard one to book. InvictaFC has already attached themselves to McMann for the long term by announcing that she will be the first to compete for the organization’s Bantamweight title sometime next year. With a growing promotion like Invicta, it would do nothing but hurt them to let such a promising athlete leave for another company.

The fight that I feel makes the most sense for “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey right now is a bout with Alexis Davis. Currently ranked #3 at BW just under Sarah Kaufman, Davis has to be considered as one of the most improved competitors on the women’s circuit over the last two years. Alexis popped up on most observers’ radars when she battled Sarah earlier this year. Although she dropped the majority decision, Alexis gained many fans with her performance that night. She followed that up by becoming the second woman to stop Hitomi Akano (Cyborg being the first), the only woman to submit the Japanese star. Davis also holds notable wins over Tonya Evinger, Julie Kedzie and highly regarded striker, Amanda Nunes.

Davis has never been submitted in MMA competition, the BJJ Black Belt would be the most skilled fighter that Rousey has faced on the ground to this point. With an aggressive, well-rounded style, Davis at least in my opinion should not only be the next challenger to Ronda Rousey’s throne, but poses the most interesting matchup stylistically.

Closing Thoughts: It is really disturbing to me how many fans and media alike including the Strikeforce organization have been pressuring Cyborg to move down to BW, knowing her history of weight cutting and health issues. People really need to step back and do some research on the dangers of weight cutting. It’s so common in this sport that I feel many forget, or aren’t aware of how serious this really is, and it can be life threatening. Cris is a big girl, but I don’t want her to risk even more than she already has stepping into the cage just to give me a fight that I want to see. No matter how much I want the fight, or what it would mean for the sport, it’s just not worth it.

To the people saying that Santos can make the weight if she loses muscle, do you want the best Cyborg in there with Ronda? Or do you want a Cyborg that was just able to make the weight? How many times have we seen it in combat sports, fighters that have a lot of muscle eventually losing some and not being as good as they were? If Cyborg says that she can make 140 ok, which I am still not sure of given her history, then hopefully Ronda would agree to that. If not, then I don’t think the fight should happen. We talk a lot about fighter’s safety. Where are all of those people in this case?

Twitter: @MacGreeneMMA

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