It’s hard to believe there was actually a time when UFC president Dana White was dead set against women competing in the Octagon. The times have certainly changed, and it could be argued that women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey is one of the biggest stars in the promotion. That drawing power is about to be put to the test at UFC 170.
The February 22 event in Las Vegas has been decimated by injuries. Solid fights like Rashad Evans vs. Daniel Cormier, Francisco Rivera vs. Raphael Assuncao and Rafael dos Anjos vs. Rustam Khabilov have all gone up in smoke due to injuries. On top of that, there was a previously expected lightweight tilt between Gilbert Melendez and Khabib Nurmagomedov that failed to materialize.
That basically leaves Rousey’s title fight against fellow undefeated former Olympic medallist Sara McMann as the sole notable scrap to carry the load. Yes, Cormier and Assuncao remain on the card, but are both facing very late injury replacements with very little name recognition for casual fans.
While “Rowdy’s” personality may rub people the wrong way, you simply can’t deny her marketability. She’s a tremendous athlete, very attractive and obviously in high demand. Rousey has been featured in a number of magazine photoshoots and with two more movie roles in the works, fans are left to wonder just how many more Octagon battles she has remaining.
Rousey has compiled a perfect 8-0 career record with eight consecutive victories by armbar submissions, and she showed against Tate at UFC 168 that she is capable of fighting into the deep waters. Rousey’s likely to get a stern test in McMann, who has a stellar wrestling background that could potentially negate the champion’s tremendous judo skills. However, the champion will likely have the advantage in the stand-up game.
Just think of the predicament that the UFC would be in if Rousey wasn’t capable of a quick turnaround to defend her belt at this weekend’s event or if she had been one of the many forced off the card due to injury? It will be interesting to see how the PPV numbers play out as Rousey is truly the top draw for the first time with very little in the way of a supporting act.
UFC 170 certainly hasn’t ended up being the card on paper that officials were originally hoping for. Matchmakers had to work overtime in piecing together an 11-bout card, and it will truly be interesting to see whether Rousey’s star power is at the level where she can salvage a show pretty much on her own.
White has recently labelled Rousey as the biggest star the UFC has ever had, and we’ll find out whether that’s true on Saturday night in Las Vegas when fans have to decide whether to shell out for the PPV.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports