UFC 168: What Makes Ronda Rousey's Armbar so Dominant?

Matthew Ryder@@matthewjryderFeatured ColumnistDecember 23, 2013

ANAHEIM, CA - FEBRUARY 23:  Ronda Rousey fights Liz Carmouche during their UFC Bantamweight Title bout at Honda Center on February 23, 2013 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Like anyone, there are things that UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey isn't good at, and there are things that she is.

Apparently, being fake is something she's not good at.

Winning fights is.

Being civil with rival Miesha Tate outside of the cage, apparently, is something she's not good at either.

Finishing fights by armbar is.

The trend that's emerged in that modest list of examples is clear: She hates Tate for real, she's never lost a fight, she's tired of being "instigated" outside of the cage, via Mike Bohn of MMA Junkie, and she's going to try and finish her by armbar (again).

Truthfully, you'd be more than a little crazy to think there's not a good chance of that happening. Rousey is 10-for-10 as a mixed martial artist, stopping seven pro opponents by armbar and three more as an amateur. It's hard to imagine Tate, who is on that list so gruesomely and memorably already, will have the answer this time.

But what makes Rousey's armbar so dominant? What makes it so unstoppable?

It's a combination of things: some preparatory, some technical and some beyond the realm of either.

To begin, Rousey is ruthless in her preparation, a tireless athlete with Olympic-level qualifications and the work ethic to match. She may or may not be a one-trick pony, but it's irrelevant because she continually needs only one trick to secure victory.

She knows more ways to set up an armbar than most of us know words in our native language. She knows how to close the distance to force a clinch, how to get an opponent to the mat and how to snatch an arm when she's there.

Once she is, there simply isn't a more technically sound armbar in the business.

Whether she starts on top or rolls underneath to secure a position, Rousey is as close to flawless as there is. She has a thousand setups to isolate the arm once she's on it and keeps incredible pressure with her hips at all times.

The ability to isolate the arm from any ground position and adjust both her weight and the weight of her opponent is a crucial element of Rousey's success as well, as most defenses to an armbar involve some manipulation of one or the other. Most commonly, one would press their weight into the opponent to relieve pressure on their arm or stack the opponent's weight back onto them so the opponent cannot extend their hips and lock the arm in place.

With Rousey, she has perfect control of her own weight and an uncanny ability to manipulate the weight of her opponent, which renders many escapes essentially useless.

The other two contributing factors to Rousey's unprecedented submission success are more abstract but undeniably influential: experience and level of competition.

It's no secret that she's been doing armbars since she could walk, with the stories of her mother attacking her in bed with shouts of "always be ready!" as a kid developing into folklore now. Think of the things you've been doing since you were a kid that you take for granted now—walking, writing your name, feeding yourself—that's the comfort level Rousey has with her armbar.

Related to that is the fact that, as much as we're all enjoying it, women's MMA simply isn't as evolved as men's MMA at this stage in the game. The fights are often spectacular, but the athletes simply aren't there yet. If they were, there would be more than a single women's division with one more on the way.

This leads to underequipped women going in without the tools required to have a chance against Rousey. There are high-level men that she's catching whenever she wants in training. What chance are midlevel women going to have?

Even the best fights she's had in Tate and Liz Carmouche were cases of delaying the inevitable, varying degrees of offense from challengers who then survived as long as toughness would allow. They're both great fighters in the current women's MMA landscape, but they're not on the level of an Olympian who devoted her whole life to mastering a specific skill.

What could they, like any other person, possibly learn in a 10-week training camp that could prepare them for that level of expertise? Likely not much. Certainly, as the fights proved, not enough.

And so it goes that Rousey continues to lay waste to opponents by latching onto an arm whenever she wants to and then contorting it on her way to a win. The combination of the way she prepares, the level of technique she's developed and the intangible elements of it all have combined to make it almost an inevitability.

Saturday, Dec. 28 marks the next attempt to prove otherwise at UFC 168.

Doesn't seem likely, does it?

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