Rousey vs. Cyborg
In 2006 Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock fought a trilogy that burst the UFC out of the “Dark ages." The fights re-injected hype, rivalry and mainstream press into the organization that had been ignored by the media and relegated to “Remember when...” That is; discussions of its inception as a spectacle in the early 90's.
Tito was a large fan favorite: brash, young and dominant. On the surface he had run a three year undefeated streak, burying every fighter in pantomime, selling fights with unveiled threats and becoming the face of the largest Mixed Martial Arts organization in America. His foil, Ken Shamrock, was as much a legend as one can be in a young sport, having fought Royce Gracie and having ties in both the memories of the fans and the history of the early UFC tournaments.
This fight was between the old and young lion, and judging from its stratospheric sales, this age old idea, sold by larger than life personalities, had at stake ideas that turned casual fans into regular pay-per-view buyers. That Tito won the first match handily did not diminish the following two matches and their anticipation. In Tito Ortiz, the UFC had a face, sound-tracked by Eminem, with a personality that lulled WWE fans towards the UFC in a way unparalleled until the arrival of Brock Lesnar years later.
Meanwhile, in Japan...
Dan Henderson, Shogun Rua, Alistair Overeem, Wanderlei Silva, Mirko Cro Cop, Fedor, the Nogueira brothers and others were brutalizing each other in tournaments and single matches before humongous crowds in the Saitama Arena. These matches had a fury and an open-ended quality that was missing from the UFC's then modus operandi of feeding and sacrificing unknowns to the big dogs, building them to larger than life proportions against the backdrop of a sport touted as “As real as it gets.”
The win/loss records of Pride fighters seemed to indicate a plot hole in the UFC's narrative, a flaw in logic whose boom mic in the frame was Chuck Liddells performance in the Pride tournament. So while Ortiz wrecked shop in the UFC, some hypothesized match ups between him and Shogun, Hendo, Wandy. However, by the time many of these fighters entered the octagon, Ortiz was on the decline, but the previously near flawless records of fighters began to scar, and in that scar tissue, the MMA game evolved from a feed tank to a wide ocean of possibilities, that still expands and tides today.
As this Cambrian Explosion treks forward, novelty has grown in its petri dish. The most exciting as of late as been the inclusion of women's mixed martial arts. The late Strikeforce promotion had the prototype, but it has been the UFC's star building promotion that has made Dana White the Thomas Edison to Scott Coker's Tesla.
Ronda Rousey has graced magazines, commercials, twitter controversy and television interviews. Her undefeated record and her dominant dismantling of opponents has made her the face of WMMA. Yet, as with any hype built narrative, there are plot holes, questions and names. She was crowned the champion in the UFC prior to fighting, and being the champion of the largest fight organization's only woman division we are offered no alternative options but to accept what we are told. Dana White claims there is no depth in other divisions, that the 135 pound division has the best fighters. I venture to question whether he would say the same about a 145 or 155 pound division if that is where Rousey felt comfortable fighting. The 'depth' is in the numbers, in the black, in the profit margins. The best argument against both the proposed pound-for-pound coronation of Rousey and the supposed lack of depth requires merely stepping outside of White's head and watching Invicta, and specifically, Cris “Cyborg” Santos.
There is a parallel between Rousey's upcoming rematch with Meisha Tate and the Ortiz/Shamrock fights that took place in the early 2000's and a parallel between the fighters such as Wanderlei, Henderson, Shogun and Cyborg, all whom were waiting just outside the frame. I do not revise history and state that any of the Pride fighters would have assuredly won against Tito, but instead, I claim that those were the fights, non-compartmentalized by promotions, that should have taken place, for fun, legitimacy and to quell the fans desire to "Just see, just know, who the baddest is.”・