LAS VEGAS - Ronda Rousey entered the MGM Grand Garden Arena to the sound of Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation,” the perfect song to encapsulate the UFC bantamweight champion’s persona in the eyes of many fans these days.
Once the do-no-wrong darling of mixed martial arts, Rousey took a big hit to her public image as the latest season of “The Ultimate Fighter” played out on televisions and Internets over the past few months.
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She became the bad girl as Miesha Tate became the fan favorite.
That was evident with each punch and kick at UFC 168 on Saturday night. What also was evident was this: Rousey is still the alpha female of women’s MMA. She submitted Tate by armbar – again – in the third round.
It was the first time Rousey (8-0, 2-0 UFC) needed more than one round to finish an opponent. Rousey won fight of the night and submission of the night for a combined $150,000 bonus.
That was after the chants of “Mie-sha! Mie-sha!” could be heard as loud as any cheer of any fighter the entire night. And, it was before the boos completely drowned out her post-fight interview inside the cage.
“In judo, I didn't know what a cheer was, cheers are what's new,” Rousey said. “I took the name ‘Rowdy’ after ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper because he was such a great showman. I wanted to put on a good show.”
That she did. Rousey and Tate put on a terrific performance in a back-and-forth fight that included good stand-up and solid groundwork. Each fighter landed solid strikes and worked for submissions when possible.
But it was Rousey’s judo skills – she won Olympic bronze in 2008 – that made the biggest difference. She landed several throws throughout the fight to maintain control as the action increased.
Tate (13-5, 0-2) said every day that people choose hills to climb and “I chose Mount Everest.”
The loudest boos came about after Rousey snubbed Tate’s post-fight handshake after the submission. Tate tapped 58 seconds into the third round, then rose to shake Rousey’s hand. Rousey turned and walked away.
“I respect Miesha very much as a competitor but I can't respect a fighter who did what she did and I cannot shake her hand because of it,” Rousey said.
Rousey and Tate never liked each other and that rivalry simmered with each episode of “TUF” and each interview before, during and after the show aired.
“Going more than one round was a good experience,” Rousey said. “In judo, I had to go five founds. The experience is good, going longer than one round. I needed that experience in the octagon, and as my mom said, better to get it in a win than in a loss.”