The face of the UFC has one major obstacle left.
For Ronda Rousey, the sport's equivalent to Tiger Woods at this point, a unique opportunity has presented itself. Already in the co-main event of Saturday night's UFC 175, Rousey may have a chance to step in and be the headlining act at UFC 176, too.
For all of her talk about wanting time off to recuperate, things have done a 180 since it was announced the promotion lost its main event at 176, a featherweight title match between Jose Aldo and Chad Mendes, because the former sustained serious injuries while training, per Fox Sports' Mike Chiappetta:
As the card stands, Dana White has to be in a frenzy. A co-main event of Ronaldo Souza against Gegard Mousasi is great in that slot, but not enough to headline the card.
No matter, Rousey might just be there to save White and co., as she explained at UFC 175 media day in Las Vegas, according to Fox Sports' Marc Raimondi:
If they needed me to step up, I would do it. I would appreciate the rest, but if they really needed me to do it, they know I would do it. I told them I would fight on 24-hours' notice and they know that. When I make a promise, I mean it.
Her bout on Saturday marks her third match in just over six months during an era in which the promotion books champions two or three months in advance to give them ample rest and time to properly promote the event.
Clearly, Rousey doesn't enjoy the modern schedule, per Chiappetta:
I definitely don't like resting too much. That high after a win is what I enjoy the most, not sitting around and resting. I can really only enjoy the rest while that high still lingers, so there's only so long I can enjoy sitting on the couch and eating as much pie as I want and then going to the gym and pressing repeat. I really need that big goal and obstacle to be excited about what I'm doing.
Rousey's elite skill set, in tandem with the rather mediocre talent pool in her division (she's an Olympic-level athlete fighting opponents with average athleticism and great technical skill) gives her some leeway in the quick-turnaround department.
But there's less than four weeks until 176, which would shatter the record books—a record she coincidentally holds after submitting Miesha Tate at UFC 168 (the first time a women's bout headlined a UFC pay-per-view card) and then battering Sara McMann at UFC 170, a mere 56 days apart.
The logistics of such a turnaround are not too difficult to iron out, other than who her opponent would be. Convincing another fighter to step in the Octagon with someone who has run roughshod over the division, with eight of her nine victories coming in the first round, would be quite the task.
Then again, it's a title bout and a fleeting shot at glory, right?
For any of this to matter, though, Rousey has to first overcome Alexis Davis, the No. 2-ranked contestant. She's no slouch either, riding a five-match winning streak and renowned for her strikes and ability to submit once on the mat.
Equipped with a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and winner of eight of her last nine, there is undoubtedly upset potential in the form of Davis, who, like Rousey, has also won three UFC fights.
|Ronda Rousey vs. Alexis Davis Tale of the Tape|
|Ronda Rousey||Alexis Davis|
|67 in||Height||66 in|
|135 lbs||Weight||135 lbs|
|Ronda Rousey||Alexis Davis|
"She's a well-rounded fighter and she has a great ability to give out and endure a lot of punishment," Rousey said, per Yahoo Sports' Kevin Iole. "And she's the first jiu-jitsu black belt I've fought."
It's clear Rousey is not looking past her opposition, but the thought of headlining 176 and the benefits it would bring for herself and the sport, not to mention her lasting legacy, are difficult to not consider.
At this point, Rousey can safely seek out artificial ways to challenge herself, because unless Davis can pull off the stunner, there isn't a woman in the sport who stands a chance.
Rousey is like Woods in that she is carrying the sport at the moment. No matter her form, fans will flock to her matches, even if it's just to see her fail. A back-to-back appearance from her in major events is nothing but a great thing for UFC.
For Rousey, it's a chance to back up the talk. Should she choose to make history and succeed, perhaps then she'll get some rest.