THE SUNDAY SUPPLEMENT 10/16: Ronda Rousey set to return at UFC 207 to try to regain Bantamweight Title, will she return a different fighter?

By D.R. Webster, MMATorch contributor

(Matt Roberts) USA TODAY

This week saw the huge announcement that Ronda Rousey will finally make her return to the Octagon after over a year out and, as expected, she will have the chance to regain the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Title.

Dana White announced this week on “The Herd” with Colin Cowherd that Rousey will challenge Amanda Nunes at UFC 207 in Las Vegas on Dec. 10.

The fight will see Nunes defend her newly won title for the first time in a division which has seen the belt change hands like a hot potato, with every fight since Rousey lost the belt seeing a new champion crowned.

The landscape of the Women’s Bantamweight Division has changed a whole lot since Rousey lost the title. Holly Holm couldn’t hold on to the belt long enough to make the big money rematch, old rival Miesha Tate was destroyed by Amanda Nunes, closing the door on a third fight with Rousey for the time being, which leaves the new challenge of the “Lioness” now.

Rousey’s return will sell the PPV, of course. However, it took her so long to come back that the real big fights with Holm or Tate have passed her by, Nunes is unproven as a draw, but this fight could be the true making of her as a star in Women’s MMA.

This fight is must win for Ronda Rousey. Her loss to Holm almost broke her, and a loss to Nunes could be the final nail in the coffin.

Nunes, the first Brazilian female to win a UFC belt, is not an easy challenge. She is dangerous, hungry, and perhaps exactly the type of fighter Ronda Rousey would have possibly wanted to avoid in her first fight back with regards to the vicious striking Nunes displayed against Miesha Tate.

Some MMA fans are annoyed that Rousey has returned to an automatic title shot. While I can totally see this point, business-wise it was always going to go down this way. Dana White has been quoted as saying, time and time again, that she would fight for the title upon her return. That’s exactly what happened. Right or wrong competition wise, business always comes first.

(CHECK OUT OUR ROUNDTABLE ON THIS TOPICROUNDTABLE – (Batch 3): Does Ronda Rousey deserve to receive an immediate title rematch if she returns at UFC 207?)

Nunes also wanted this fight with Rousey despite suggestions of Julianna Pena and Valentina Shevchenko as her next possible challengers, which is smart as this is the big money fight, the biggest of Nunes’ career so far and maybe ever, depending on how it goes. Also, she could be known as the fighter who ended the career of Ronda Rousey if she wins, which would be quite a scalp for Nunes moving forward.

It will be very interesting to see what a post-loss Ronda Rousey looks like, especially considering that because of her bad loss to Holly Holm, her cloak of invincibility is gone. We now know that she can be hurt and knocked out. Does she have the mental strength to step back into the cage and overcome a loss which drove her out of the public eye for the most part for almost a year?

It remains to be seen, but Rousey’s whole attitude and demeanor was built upon the foundation of being undefeated. It gave her confidence and drive. Her loss took that away and those qualities may have been what set her apart from everyone else in the first place. Without it, she will be a different fighter. She is no longer unbeatable and doubts creep in. This is uncharted territory for Rousey.

Conor McGregor managed to come back and overcome, but there are differences, McGregor has lost before and come back in his career. After losing to Nate Diaz, he didn’t disappear for a year; he went straight back into training, focused only on fighting, and came back to avenge his loss.

I believe that Ronda Rousey has too many irons in the fire to concentrate solely on fighting these days considering the media, movies, and TV appearances. It is impossible to maintain it all a high level at the same time. Fighting needs a lot of time and dedication and, from what we have seen, that hasn’t been there for Rousey since her loss. It reportedly took her months to even get back into training or even thinking about coming back to fight again.

Amanda Nunes, on the other hand, is focused solely on fighting right now – no distractions from the outside. She will be focused on training to defeat Rousey, which could make all the difference in this fight. Also, she is in fighting shape and on a win streak, compared to coming off a loss and some possible Octagon rust for Rousey.

Rousey has also remained in the camp of Edmond Tarverdyan, a man Rousey’s own mother, Dr. AnnMaria De Mars, publicly criticized before the Holm fight. Who knows how this will affect things? He is not a man who is well-respected these days in the MMA world and, aside from Rousey, he has overseen a decline in the career of once promising Heavyweight Title contender, Rousey’s boyfriend, Travis Browne.

Perhaps it might have been time for a change, someone new to push Rousey to get better, rather than retreading old ground which left gaps in her game, leading to her defeat against Holly Holm.

However, Rousey was the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion since the division’s inception, racking up six successful title defences during that reign. Mental state aside, she is still dangerous, the armbar is always there, and she has defeated good strikers before using that method, so anything can happen in this fight.

If Rousey manages to get past Nunes, according to Dana White, Rousey vs. Cyborg is finally going to happen next year, which would of course be a huge fight, one of the biggest and most anticipated in MMA history perhaps.

However, even if Rousey does beat Nunes, this fight with Cyborg will come down to how good Rousey looks during that win for the title. If she struggles with Nunes’s striking, then I can’t see Dana White putting her in a fight with Cyborg. He will want to protect her as the top star in the 135 lb. division again for as long as possible, I would imagine.

Then there is the sticking point of weight. If Rousey is the 135 lb. champion again, why would she want to move up to 140 lbs. just to fight Cyborg after all this time? It may be the case right now that a fight with Cyborg is on the table, according to Dana White, but if Rousey wins that story may quickly change, perhaps to preserve her power as a draw for the company without the chance of taking a bad loss again.

There are a whole lot of questions to be answered here. The spotlight is back on Ronda Rousey. All eyes and attention are on her once again. Can she handle the pressure and will she rise to the occasion?

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(D.R. Webster writes “The Sunday Supplement” for MMATorch each week and also authors the MMATorch Daily Trivia feature. He has written for Daily Record Sport, WrestleTalk TV, Sports Kings, and a variety of other combat sports sites and publications, includinv review shows and DVDs, news reporting, columns, and fantasy articles.)

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