When I was kid, I could not stand Sugar Ray Leonard. I thought he was loud, annoying, and not nearly as good a boxer as my hero, Marvin Hagler. I asked my stepdad, a former professional athlete in his own right, why Sugar Ray talked about how great he was all the time. My stepdad said that when you compete at that level, you have to believe that you are the best. I was reminded of that conversation when I read this article from June 25. The article quotes Ronda Rousey, UFC women’s bantamweight champ, as saying she could be any female BJJ player in a pure BJJ match.
Rousey’s grappling acumen is well-known. She has submitted all but one of her opponents in MMA. She won a bronze medal in the Olympics in Judo. Her athletic ability is off the charts. However, she a pure BJJ match is very different from an MMA or Judo match.
Rousey also enjoys saying outlandish things and playing the “heel.” MMA fans who followed her rivalry with Miesha Tate remember Rousey using “Bad Reputation” as her walkout music in the rematch. Those same fans will remember all the booing Rousey received when she refused to shake Tate’s hand after the fight. Rousey also cannot seem to pass up a chance to bash Cyborg Santos any chance she gets. She clearly has the attitude, but does she have the BJJ game to match it?
The rules of BJJ tend to favor the person on the bottom. There are also a number of positions, like spider guard and inverted guard, that work great in BJJ matches but have no place in MMA. A skilled bottom player with a unique game like Michelle Nicolini would lock Rousey up in positions she does not see on a regular basis.
Rousey’s dreaded armbar would not be as effective in a BJJ match either, as her set-ups tend to be telegraphed but she gets through based on her strength and explosiveness. A perfect example is the armbar she likes to hit from the back when she grabs the opponent’s arm, puts her shin in the opponent’s neck, and rolls to the top position. A world-class BJJ player would never leave her arm out wide enough for that move to work.
Rousey is a great athlete and a phenomenal MMA fighter. She also has the attitude and self-confidence that says “I can beat anyone, anywhere.” Saying she could win a pure BJJ match against the best BJJ players may stroke her ego, but it is not reality. The great women’s BJJ players would lock Rousey up in unfamiliar positions and use the rules to their advantage. I cannot say that they would submit Rousey, but they would definitely beat her in a pure BJJ match. That said, I would love to see Rousey in Metamoris 4 against any world-class female BJJ player willing to step on the mat with her.