For former Stikeforce women's bantamweight champ Sarah Kaufman, Saturday's title fight with Ronda Rousey is about more than just winning a belt—it's about earning the respect she deserves.
Like a Rodney Dangerfield skit, Kaufman's fighting credentials have garnered little respect from fans and analysts despite her nearly spotless record. While everyone may be jumping on the Rousey bandwagon, Kaufman wants to prove to the mixed martial arts world she shouldn't be overlooked.
Since her 2006 debut, Kaufman has been one of the most dominant forces in women's MMA, suffering only one loss in that span, a 2010 title loss to veteran Marloes Coenen. Winning back-to-back bouts following her sole defeat, Kaufman thought she was a shoo-in to face Meisha Tate for a chance to win back her title last March, but the Strikeforce brass opted to go with the newcomer Rousey.
Understandably, Kaufman was angry.
Rousey has just been competing as a professional since March of 2011 and only made her amateur debut in August of 2010. To put that in perspective, Kaufman had already won and defended her Strikeforce belt before Rousey had ever entered the cage.
Not only did Kaufman have more experience, but she was also the last person to defeat Tate at the time.
While these facts did little to stop Rousey's ascension to the title, they are important factors to keep in mind as Kaufman finally gets her shot at the belt.
In addition to having an edge in terms of experience, Kaufman will also have a huge edge in the striking realm. Of her 15 career victories, 10 have come via knockout or technical knockout.
Not only is Kaufman a better technical striker than any of Rousey's previous opponents, but she is also quite powerful. Whether it's her heavy straight right hand or a huge power bomb slam, Kaufman is deceptively strong and may be able to push Rousey around as long as she avoids the takedown.
Kaufman has solid take-down defense, as seen in her win over the wrestling-minded Tate, and may have a chance of keeping this fight standing—a must against Rousey. The key for Kaufman is to turn this fight into an all-out brawl and drag Rousey into the later rounds, a feat easier said than done considering "Rowdy" has never let her opponents out of the first round.
The former champ needs to draw out the fight because that's where she shines. In her last bout against Alexis Davis, Kaufman put on a gutty performance, turning the bout into a bloody affair, a strategy that she must duplicate against Rousey.
Both women are skilled and it truly is anybody's fight, but if anyone thinks Kaufman is going down easy, they are absolutely insane.