The Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to Los Angeles on Feb. 28 for the first time since August 2012. The promoter was forced to cancel an event there last August when a main event between Jose Aldo and Chad Mendes fell apart due to injury.
The main event for UFC 184 between UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion Ronda “Rowdy” Rousey and Cat “Alpha Cat” Zingano has been 22-months in the making. Ever since Zingano (9-0) delivered three vicious knees to knockout Miesha Tate in April 2013 at The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale, MMA fans worldwide have wanted to see “Alpha Cat” get it on with the “Rowdy” one.
Cat Out of the Bag
By beating Tate, Zingano was set to become a coach on The Ultimate Fighter 18 against Rousey and become the next challenger for her belt. However on May 28, 2013 it was announced that Zingano was out as coach/opponent for Rousey after Zingano had suffered a knee injury earlier in the month which required surgery and would be replaced by Tate.
“Even when I got hurt I still never lost sight of wanting to win that belt despite my major setback,” Zingano said while reflecting on her knee injury. “If anything I’m hungrier than ever to win this thing now because it inspired me to get through all the tough times.”
Zingano’s world would be turned upside down in January 2014 when the 32-year-old’s husband, Mauricio, committed suicide.
Despite her personal and professional lives being at all-time lows, Zingano was determined to show her 7-year-old son Brayden that a human being can persevere, no matter what life might throw his or her way.
“Life is going to present you with tons of problems – really hard ones, some less hard, some debilitating – it’s what you do about them that matters,” Zingano said last summer. “I really want him to see what it takes to keep pushing forward and what it takes to fight for your dream. That was the toughest time of my life and the only way I could let that out was to train even harder.”
While Zingano was trying to piece everything together, Rousey was busy showing everyone why she’s the best women’s MMA fighter in the world while taking her talents to Hollywood in between matches.
Rowdy Lessons to Learn
Ronda Rousey (10-0) has defended the 135-pound title three times since Zingano’s injury, recording finishes in each title bout. The first victim in UFC 168 was Tate, who Rousey had previously beaten in their Strikeforce days.
It required more work than any of Rousey’s previous matches before it, but the UFC women’s bantamweight champion got her eighth consecutive arm bar victory in the third round of the second defense of her title. Rousey landed a short right hand before dragging a wobbled Tate to the mat.
Tate did attempt to scramble to a better position, but Rousey quickly transitioned into the arm bar and produced an immediate tap. It was the first and only time to date a Rousey opponent has made it out of the first round.
Rousey would move on to defend her belt six weeks later against fellow Olympian and previously-undefeated Sara McMann.
The bantamweight champ notched the fastest knockout in UFC women’s history, and she also finally won a fight by something other than her trademark armbar. Rousey stopped McMann just 66 seconds into their fight with a TKO stemming from a knee to the liver.
“We studied her videos and knew it was the best thing to concentrate on the liver shot for this camp,” Rousey said directly after the fight. “The knee has been working for me the most throughout sparring in this camp.”
With two spectacular title defenses in such a quick span one might think Rousey would slow down but she didn’t.
Rousey filmed Expendables 3 and Fast and Furious 7 in the lead-up to her fight with Tate, adding two more major motion pictures to her growing resume.
Warner Bros. tapped Rousey for a lead role in the movie-version of the hit HBO series Entourage while also putting in a bid for the Brad Thor-penned novel Athena Project, which also comes with Rousey attached as a star of the potential movie franchise.
Back in the Octagon, Rousey took on Canadian Alexis Davis as the co-main event of UFC 175 which took place during UFC International Fight Week. It took Rousey just 16 seconds to defend her UFC women’s bantamweight title against Davis.
The finish was the second-fastest knockout in UFC title bout history, behind Andrei Arlovski’s 15-second finish of Paul Buentello at UFC 55 in October 2005. The win also handed Rousey her fourth-consecutive UFC bantamweight title defense.
“I box six days a week and grapple four days a week,” Rousey said. “I have more to catch up on striking, so I do that the most.”
Rousey hit Davis with one solid right hand, one knee to the body, then a hip toss followed by a machine gun battering of short rights on the ground to end the night quickly.
Now recovered from a small knee procedure and a broken hand suffered during the Davis fight, Rousey is focused on Zingano and all that she brings to the Octagon.
It’s Go Time!
The UFC bantamweight champion says that Cat Zingano’s never-say-die attitude will make her the riskiest opponent she’s yet to face when they meet at UFC 184.
“Not only is she undefeated, but she’s shown an amazing ability to deal with adversity,” Rousey said in a recent interview. “There’s been a lot of times in her fights where she’s been down but she’s never been out. There’s been times where she’s been close to losing but there’s never been a single time where she didn’t come back, and that makes her an extremely dangerous opponent. She is someone that I need to entirely put away to the very end and that makes her, I think, the most risky opponent that I’ve ever had.”
Rousey vs. Zingano is for the UFC women’s bantamweight title and will take place at the Staples Center. With both fighters coming into the match-up with impeccable pedigrees this has the potential to go down as one of the best UFC fights ever.
Kendrick Johnson writes for a daily newspaper and is an independent print journalist and sports television reporter who has covered the NBA Finals, NFL, NCAA football, MLB, NHL, championship boxing and UFC Fights. He’s done numerous one on one interviews with some of the biggest names and personalities in sports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ kendrickjohnso