With Rousey Convincingly Conquered, Nunes Leads Division Into Next Chapter

Ty O'Keefe / January 3, 2017 - 3:27pm

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It took just 48 seconds to answer the most frequently asked question of 2016, and in the main event of last Friday’s UFC 207, reigning UFC women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes answered that question with a convincing TKO victory over former champion Ronda Rousey to solidify her status as the division’s unquestioned queen.

Sheltered from much of the same pre-fight media obligations that once helped to fuel her popularity, Rousey was in unfamiliar territory during the final few days leading up to last Friday’s headliner as she followed in the footsteps of her own previous opponents preparing for the fight of their lives instead of trash-talking her way through fight week like she often did during her time on top.

But since Holly Holm knocked Rousey off of the top of the mountain more than a year ago, nothing has been the same for the former champion. Public appearances have been rare and limited to so-called ”safe” settings. The in-your-face ”Do Nothing B—-” approach she was known for was essentially abandoned for a more reserved version of Rousey. And other than the few minutes she spent on the stage during last Thursday’s weigh-ins, the Rowdy Ronda that once dominated the division just didn’t show up.

Following her decisive victory, Nunes told the post-fight media that she had prepared for everything in Rousey’s arsenal.

”When I connected her with my jab, I knew that she was going to go down and it happened,” said Nunes. ”I trained for everything that she would bring today. If she would come forward and try to take me down or if she respects me, I was ready for everything. I took my time and connected with some punches.”

Unfortunately, Rousey’s unprecedented rise and disastrous decent has been in the headlines for so long that it’s overshadowed much of what Nunes has accomplished. Nobody, not even Holm, has ever beaten both Rousey and former champion Miesha Tate before Nunes. And while the UFC would probably love nothing more than another five or six years of Rousey’s lucrative reign, there’s now no denying that it’s come to an end.

In July, Nunes earned her fifth straight victory by submitting Tate in the opening round of their women’s bantamweight headliner to claim the title at UFC 200. Prior to the Brazilian”s career-altering win, the division’s crown had been worn by three different rulers in a span of just seven months, and Nunes is the first to successfully defend the women’s 135-pound title since Rousey defeated Bethe Correia in August 2015.

Unlike Rousey, Nunes didn’t claim the women’s bantamweight belt as an undefeated champion, and there’s a good chance that Cat Zingano’s knockout win over the division’s current queen in 2014 will serve as a ticket to a title shot at some point in the future. But Nunes has become far more dangerous since then, and she’ll be tested much more often than Rousey ever was during her reign.

Over the past 14 months, the women’s 135-pound weight class has grown from a top-heavy division dominated by one champion and a few qualified challengers known primarily for their respective ground games, into a weight class now driven by knockout-hungry combatants such as Nunes, Holm, and the increasingly-dangerous Valentina Shevchenko. And when it comes to Rousey and the future of the division, Nunes had an answer for that too while speaking to the media at last weekend’s post-fight press conference.

”Let’s stop this Ronda Rousey nonsense because this fight was everything about her but I’m the champion,” said Nunes. ”I don’t understand why. It’s supposed to be everything about the champion and about the best in the world. Why did Ronda Rousey stop for a year and then come back and have everything? It’s not right.”