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USA Today

Saturday night's UFC 184 event offered more of that patented Ronda Rousey magic: the anticipation, the atmosphere and the quick destruction of an opponent that leaves us all breathless and wondering who can possibly step up and give Rousey a run for her money.

Today, we take a look back at Saturday night and figure out what we learned, loved and hated. Leave your own thoughts in the comments below.

 

WHAT WE LEARNED

Rousey's dominance is something of a controversial subject. At least that's what social media would have you believe. The more times Rousey goes out there and beats people in mere seconds, the less inclined folks at home will be to either buy pay-per-views with her headlining or to go out to a bar, pay a healthy cover charge and make an evening out of watching her defend her championship.

On Saturday night, I was afforded the opportunity to go out and watch UFC 184 at a sports bar. It was the first time in many years I've been able to do so. I am glad I did, because it was a learning experience.

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USA Today

Things didn’t totally go Holly Holm’s way at UFC 184.

Maybe that will turn out to be the best thing for her.

Holm made her Octagon debut amid a boatload of hype on Saturday, after establishing herself as one of women’s MMA’s hottest free agents with three undefeated years on the independent circuit. Before her arrival—once delayed in 2014 by injury—there were even whispers she might be the one to finally give Ronda Rousey a real run for her money.

After Holm eked out a split-decision win over the outsized Raquel Pennington and Rousey doused Cat Zingano in just 14 seconds, however, those murmurs no longer apply. It’s clear now that Holm will need more seasoning at the sport’s highest level if she ever means to challenge the UFC women’s bantamweight champion.

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Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA Today

Cat Zingano came charging out of the corner, launching herself at UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey with a fierce determination, murder in her eyes and weeks of muscle memory twitching in every fiber. 

That didn't end up being the best decision she's ever made.

Fourteen seconds after the bell rang to signal the commencement of the fight, Zingano was tapping desperately, her arm contorted at a horrible angle, her title dreams dashed. She had no hope of beating Ronda Rousey. 

Perhaps no woman in the UFC does.

Last week, Jeremy Botter and I discussed Rousey's place among the most dominant female athletes of all time. But no matter who you pick out of a crowded field of greats, all of them have met defeat. Martina Navratilova, for example, crushed the competition for more than a decade—but she also lost 13 of every 100 matches.

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Rich Schultz/Associated Press

Last fall, Scott Coker surprised just about everybody by announcing that Tito Ortiz and Stephan Bonnar would face off in a headlining Bellator event. 

Two aging UFC veterans, long past their best days, fighting in a main event? It didn't make sense—at least to hardcore MMA fans. They said it was an embarrassment to the sport of mixed martial arts and set the sport back years.

But then the fight happened, and millions tuned in to watch. It was an absolutely terrible bout, but it was also the highest-rated MMA fight on cable TV in 2014. Coker was on to something.

So it should not have surprised a single soul on earth when Coker dipped back into his bucket full o' spectacles and dusted off two fighters even older than Ortiz and Bonnar: Kimbo Slice and Ken Shamrock.

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The soundtrack to Ronda Rousey’s UFC career has always been a ticking clock.

Rousey is so special, her talent so glaringly cant-miss, that we’ve always known we couldn’t keep her forever. Someday, somebody’s going to come along and offer her a boatload of money for a job that doesn’t involve getting punched in the face, and then she’ll be gone.

Each time we've watched Rousey defend her UFC women’s bantamweight title—as she will against Cat Zingano on Saturday at UFC 184—we've been haunted by fears that it could be the last time. When she spent a substantial stretch away from the cage during 2013 to appear in a couple of movies, we thought it was the beginning of the end.

But perhaps there's suddenly good news on that front. Leading up to her clash with the undefeated Zingano, there is actually less trepidation about a potential Rousey retirement than ever before.

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Scott Coker seems to have a winning formula for television success.

The formula goes a little something like this: Fill up a card with great prospects and great style fights. Upgrade your presentation with a mixture of World Wrestling Entertainment and PRIDE, tossing in a little bit of rock-concert action on the side. Set yourself apart from the competition by creating custom entrances, lighting packages and music. Give each fighter a memorable and branded identity.

And for the main event, sign two fighters with name value, and pit them against each other. It doesn't matter if they are old. It does not matter if they were never a champion. The only thing that matters is that they have recognizable names.

And not just to the hardcore mixed martial arts community. They'll be watching anyway, because that is what they do. They need to be recognizable to the casual fans who tune in once or twice a year, at most. They need to capture the attention of the people who started watching MMA back in the early days of The Ultimate Fighter, or when Brock Lesnar began pulling astronomical pay-per-view numbers.

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Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA Today

UFC 184 may be limping and exhausted, but at least the finish line is in sight.

At this point, Ronda Rousey’s women’s bantamweight title defense against Cat Zingano will do nicely as Saturday night’s main event. The much-ballyhooed debut of Holly Holm in the co-main won’t be anything to sneeze at, either.

It’ll all be fine, it’ll all be fun, even if it’s not exactly what we expected.

This event was once slated to be a middleweight showcase—featuring the long-awaited title clash between Chris Weidman and Vitor Belfort as well as a potential No. 1 contender bout between Ronaldo Souza and Yoel Romero—before injury and unforeseen circumstance had their way.

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Heading into UFC 184, Ronda Rousey is facing two opponents.

First, there's Cat Zingano, Rousey's opponent on Saturday night. Zingano (9-0) is a vicious striker with plenty of power and a bit of a crazy streak, as evidenced by her bloodcurdling scream in the UFC 184 promo commercial. And if Rousey has the best mean mug in the sport (she does), Zingano has to be near the top of the rankings.

Point being, Rousey might have a challenge on her plate. Or maybe not. Odds Shark lists her as a nearly 10-1 favorite, and it is hard to imagine Zingano pulling off what would be considered an all-time upset. As my colleague Jonathan Snowden and I noted, Rousey is the most dominant fighter in UFC history and is on a completely different level in terms of athleticism.

I suppose it is no surprise, then, that the major pre-fight storyline for Rousey has centered not on Zingano, but on one of the bikini-clad women who will carry a numbered placard around the Octagon on Saturday night, informing the public which round is coming up.

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Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA Today

Saturday night's UFC 184 card marks the return of perhaps the biggest current star in mixed martial arts.

Ronda Rousey, the women's bantamweight champion, has never been tested in competition. She has only been pushed past the first round one time, and all 10 of her professional victories have come by stoppage.

Rousey has been so dominant, in fact, that the UFC is now touting her in promotional materials as the most dominant female athlete ever.

To discuss and debate whether Rousey deserves such a lofty place among the elite, our tag team of Jeremy Botter and Jonathan Snowden return with another edition of The Question.

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On a map, it looks like the Dave & Buster's in Manchester, Connecticut, sits along a quintessentially American stretch of blacktop.

Buckland Hills Drive cuts a gentle curve from east to west, just a stone’s throw north of I-84 and a little south of a thin blue pencil line called Plum Gulley Brook. It’s hemmed in on all sides by shopping centers. There’s a Home Depot right there, an Olive Garden, a Sam’s Club.

The restaurant itself sits across the street from a sprawling mall, where a Sears, a Barnes & Noble and a Dick’s Sporting Goods are among the anchor stores.

It seems fine, it seems like suburbia, but it seems impossible that Fedor Emelianenko could ever feel at home there.