LOS ANGELES (AP) — Ronda Rousey has stopped every opponent she has faced in her meteoric mixed martial arts career, so a first-round victory is no shock for the UFC’s bantamweight champion.
Except nobody had finished a UFC title fight this quickly, and hardly anyone had ever done it with so much flair.
Rousey stopped Cat Zingano with an acrobatic armbar after just 14 seconds, dramatically defending her 135-pound title at UFC 184 on Saturday night.
Rousey’s fifth title defense before the sellout Staples Center crowd could process what it just witnessed. Those 14 seconds were action-packed, and Rouseydelivered again.
“There’s very few situations where a fight goes 14 seconds and the crowd is cheering and going crazy and looking at each other with their mouths open,” UFC President Dana White said.
Rousey (11-0) earned the most impressive victory of her career with jaw-dropping speed, taking out the previously unbeaten Zingano with her signature armlock from an unlikely position.
Zingano (9-1) dropped Rousey on her head with a flying charge at the opening bell, but the champ used her peerless judo skills to flip Zingano onto her back.Rousey scampered into position to wrench Zingano’s arm grotesquely — and just like that, the challenger tapped out.
Rousey wasn’t surprised by the opening charge: She suspected Zingano might try to catch her unprepared. Rousey didn’t expect to get turned upside-down, but when it happened, the Olympic medal-winning judoka relied on instinct.
“I made that up on the fly, to be honest,” Rousey said. “But it was kind of funny: We were going toward the ground, and I kind of reverted back to judo mode and was thinking, ‘Don’t touch your back. It’s a point.’ That’s where the acrobatic thing came from, was thinking about not touching your back in judo.
Nobody in the women’s sport can touch Rousey, the most dominant champion in MMA.
Rousey’s last three fights have lasted a total of 96 seconds, including two bouts against previously unbeaten opponents. Her 14-second finish was a record for any UFC title bout, but she thought it only went to plan.
“That’s not usually how you land an armbar at that angle, but it works,” Rousey said.
Champion boxer Holly Holm made her much-hyped UFC debut with a split-decision victory over Raquel Pennington in UFC 184’s penultimate bout as the world’s dominant mixed martial arts promotion ended a two-year absence from Southern California, the home base of Rousey and numerous fighters.
But the night was a showcase for the star power of Rousey, who has become one of the UFC’s most prominent fighters just two years after the promotion added women’s bouts. Zingano was considered the most daunting active threat to Rousey’s reign, but was obliterated.
Zingano chose the dubious strategy of charging and grabbing onto Rousey, whose judo skills make her practically unbeatable in a clinch.
“She’s really good … but that wouldn’t happen again,” Zingano said. “It was a knee and then a throw and then a scramble, and then she was wrapped around my arm. I got caught. I was ready to do a million different things. I planned on getting in a fistfight tonight.”
For the first time in UFC history, two women’s fights headlined a pay-per-view event. Although partly created by necessity when middleweight champion Chris Weidman was injured, that spotlight is the latest affirmation for women’s MMA and Rousey — a movie star, a model and a celebrity who can sell out a large arena in her hometown.
The 33-year-old Holm (8-0) ended an 11-year pro boxing career in 2013 to concentrate on MMA. Although she did enough to win her UFC debut against the scrappy, undersized Pennington (5-6), Holm and White both said she needs a few more UFC fights before she can challenge for Rousey’s belt.
Southern California fighters Tony Ferguson and Alan Jouban kicked off the pay-per-view card with dynamic first-round stoppage victories. Ferguson has won five straight bouts, while Jouban bounced back from a debatable loss with an impressive striking performance.
Although Los Angeles is the largest U.S. city that allows MMA competition, the UFC hadn’t staged a card in the area since Rousey’s debut with the promotion in Anaheim in February 2013. A mediocre card scheduled for Staples Center last summer was canceled when champion Jose Aldo was injured.
The extra publicity paid off: Rousey and the UFC attracted a star-studded Hollywood crowd including Vin Diesel, Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Kiedis and Mickey Rourke. Also watching at cageside was former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar, the professional wrestler who is thought to be contemplating a return to MMA.
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