By: Albert Cameron – Laila Ali, daughter of mega legend Muhammed Ali, was accosted by TMZ Sports shortly after Holly Holm’s precision knock out of “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey. In a day and age when anyone with a twitter account (@CageNationTV) has a voice that can be heard, celebrities with no discernable expertise in combat sports have been weighing in on a matter of prize fighting. Donald Trump is glad Ronda lost, because she’s not a nice person. Lady Gaga postulates that Ronda lost because she didn’t touch gloves. When TMZ (Editorial: I hate TMZ and their crap slinging) caught up with Laila Ali, I felt that hers was a voice worth listening to, because she has the expertise. Laila Ali had retired from professional boxing with a perfect 24-0-0 record and two super middleweight championships. She had trained, had been hit and had overcome.
Courtesy of TMZ
To paraphrase Ms. Ali: no one who is best in the world should be getting beat like that in their prime. Immediately I thought of Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson, but we need to compare apples to apples. Was “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey’s defeat the most crushing blow for someone who is “best in the world”? The short answer is “no.” But let’s be clear on definitions. Although it has not been canonized, we can safely estimate that the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) attracts the top talent in the world. By proxy, if the UFC attracts the top talent in their world, then their champions of each weight division must be the best of the best, right? By using the associative property: if you are UFC champion in any given weight class, you are the best in the world in that weight class (arguably) until someone better comes along and dethrones you. Unfortunately for the world of combat sports, we have no better metric to judge by. So, with all of that understood, I have compiled five reasons why Laila Ali is wrong about “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey’s loss.
- Mark “The Hammer” Coleman vs. Pete “El Doro” Williams – UFC 17: Redemption
While Coleman was not champion at the time that he fought Pete Williams, he was coming off of a decision loss to Maurice Smith that was still contested as being awarded in the wrong favor. Coleman was as dedicated as ever to get a title shot against Smith and continue to reign supreme over the newly formed UFC Heavyweight Division (the UFC Superfight Championship had been rechristened as the UFC Heavyweight Championship when Mark Coleman defeated Dan “The Beast” Severn for the title). Prior to his disputed loss to Smith, Coleman had submitted Dan Severn (who was UFC 5 tournament champion, UFC Superfight Champion and UFC Ultimate Ultimate 1 champion), as well as dismantling Don “The Predator” Frye and Gary “Big Daddy” Goodridge in the UFC 11 tournament. By all accounts, he was arguably the best heavyweight in Mixed Martial Arts leading up to his fight with Williams.
Pete Williams took the UFC 17 fight with Coleman on short notice; he had been training to fight Dan Severn and felt that their styles were similar enough that his training would be sufficient. The fight went as you’d expect for a short notice substitution fight, a pick up fight if you will. Williams and Coleman circled, they clinched and then Coleman gassed. Despite an empty gas tank, Mark Coleman was still able to hit like a truck. Coleman’s fatal flaw was that he was telegraphing head movement enough for Pete Williams to kick him right in the teeth during the second round of the fight. Coleman was stunned, he was trying to recover, and then Mark Coleman toppled; John McCarthy called the fight. Pete Williams had just knocked out UFC 11 tournament champion and former UFC Heavyweight champion Mark “The Hammer” Coleman.
- Rich “Ace” Franklin vs. Anderson “The Spider” Silva – UFC 64: Unstoppable
Rich “Ace” Franklin’s title reign really ushered in the modern glory day of the middleweight division. Prior to Franklin’s defeat of Evan Tanner and the beginning of his reign, there had only been three middleweight champions to precede him: Tanner himself, Maurilo Bustamante and Dave Menne; you could even include Frank Shamrock, but the title that Shamrock held was more akin to the UFC’s Light Heavyweight championship than middleweight. During Franklin’s title run he had completely repositioned Nate “The Rock” Quarry’s nose on his face and won in decisive fashion against Canadian middleweight hopeful David “The Crow” Loiseau. Prior to his engagement with Anderson “The Spider” Silva, the middleweight division was bubbling with an influx of new talent, thanks to the middleweight spotlight on the inaugural season of The Ultimate Fighter. Yushin “Thunder” Okami was coming into his own and Nate “The Great” Marquardt was transplanting from Pancrase. Until Anderson Silva came along, there was no one able to challenge Rich Franklin for his crown.
Prior to Anderson Silva performing that striking clinic on “The Crippler” Chris Leben, Anderson Silva was mostly known as a SHOOTO champion and losing to Ryo Chonan by flying heel hook in PRIDE. He was polite and really unassuming. Anderson Silva felt he had been disrespected by Chris Leben in the pre-fight stages of their battle and as penance, Anderson Silva scored the highest strike accuracy in mixed martial arts history, on Chris Leben’s face. During their clash, Anderson Silva did what he’d come to do to Rich Franklin: knock him out cold. The events I’ve told you about are best described as a “Sea Change.” Prior to Anderson Silva’s title reign, Rich Franklin really was the best middleweight in competition. Even to compare Anderson Silva’s record, it was mediocre; losses to Chonan, “Mach” Sakurai and Daiju Takase. When Anderson Silva came to the United States, he hit his stride and became known as the Greatest of All Time.
*It should be noted that I did not include Anderson Silva vs. Chris Weidman because of Anderson’s injury being too big of a variable in the first fight and the rematch.
- “The Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianeno vs. Fabricio Werdum – Strikeforce: Insider
When you ask someone who is MMA’s Greatest of All Time (GOAT), you will likely get two overwhelming answers: Anderson “The Spider” Silva or “The Last Emporer” Fedor Emelianenko. I am an Emelianenko guy.
Fedor’s credibility stems from being PRIDE’s heavyweight champion during PRIDE’s prime. Fedor was the top dog, beating all of PRIDE’s top contenders (in a promotion that was prone to the freak show fight) and during a time when it would be hotly argued that PRIDE was the superior promotion to the UFC. In fact, leading up to his title fight with “Minotauro” Nogueira, he only had one loss on his record: a stoppage due to a cut in the middle of a tournament inflicted by an illegal elbow from Tsuyoshi “TK” Kohsaka. Kohsaka was permitted to continue because there had to be a winner and Fedor’s injury was on an eyebrow. Up to the fight with Nogueira, his record boasted complete victories over Kerry “The Meat Truck” Schall, “The Texas Crazy Horse” Heath Herring, and Ricardo Arona. After defeating Nogueira, his title reign seemed endless, and was for that organization. To his credit, Fedor took the best shots that Mirko CroCop could dole out, he was dropped on his head by “the Monster” Kevin Randleman, and avenged his loss to Kohsaka. After PRIDE had folded, Fedor stayed active with title fights against “The Maine-iac” Tim Sylvia and Andrei “The Pitbull” Arlovski.
At the time, would I have selected Fabricio Werdum as the man who would dethrone Fedor Emelianenko? Absolutely not. Werdum did have some pretty solid wins, over “Bigfoot” Silva, over Grabriel “Napao” Gonazaga, but it really seemed that Werdum was not able to crack into title contention when he and Emelianenko were both in PRIDE and he’d just suffered a KO loss to Junior Dos Santos. The heavyweight division, at the time, was on a little bit of a decline at the time; considering that decline, it really seemed that Werdum was damned to be a gate keeper (and now he’s the UFC Heavyweight champ; MMAth doesn’t work, kids). Fedor had been active, I’d already written off Werdum, and then Werdum does the seemingly impossible: he submits Fedor Emelianenko with an arm triangle, in the first round.
There was a true reversal of fortune in that fight. Fedor seemed to go into obscurity, taking fights that were hardly world class, and has committed to the Rizin Fighting Federation. Fabricio Werdum has gone on to become the UFC Heavyweight champion with no real dangerous contender in sight (as of this writing, and I’ve clearly been wrong before).
- “The Iceman” Chuck Liddell vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson – UFC 71: Liddell vs. Jackson
Before Jon “Bones” Jones, “The Iceman” Chuck Liddell was the most highly regarded UFC Light Heavyweight champion to ever be. That’s no disrespect to Randy “The Natural” Couture, but Chuck Liddell was highly dominant and his wins were of no great surprise to anyone. Liddell’s title run included winning the championship from Couture, defending it against “The Natural,” beating a prime Tito Ortiz, knocking out Renato “Babalu” Sobral, and avenging an early career loss to Jeremy Horn. Chuck Liddell’s style was awkward and angular, he had a back-stepping attack pattern that made it dangerous for opponents to pursue him (he actually knocked Vernon “Tiger” White out while taking a step back), and he had enough of a ground game to bring the fight back to a stand where he was even more lethal.
Prior to his title run, “The Iceman” traveled to Japan to compete in PRIDE’s Final Conflict Grand Prix in 2003. He was the first UFC fighter to ever step in a PRIDE ring to defend his North American employer. Liddell did well in the first round, knocking out Alistair Overeem, but was stopped the next round by PRIDE Light Heavyweight entertainer: Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Jackson had made a big impact in PRIDE, power bombing Ricardo Arona to a knock out, knocking out “The Monster” Kevin Randleman, and getting a decision victory over Matt “The Law” Lindland in the World Fighting Alliance (WFA).
Rampage had a little bit of a handicap coming into his title fight with Chuck Liddell. Up to that point, no PRIDE transplant had done very well in the UFC. Mirko CroCop had been knocked out by Gabriel Gonzaga, Heath Herring had an extremely disappointing showing, and Fedor was nowhere to prove his worth. Statistically, Rampage was disadvantaged in the fight, Liddell was a strong favorite to win anyways, and Rampage didn’t care. Jackson had an answer for everything Liddell was going to throw at him and in the first round, Rampage had conquered the Iceman.
- “The Natural” Randy Couture vs. Brock Lesnar
As long as there are those of us who remember the beginning of the sport, the debate will always rage about who the first complete mixed martial artist was. I could make the argument that it was “The World’s Most Dangerous Man” Ken Shamrock, but also it would seem that it was “the Natural” Randy Couture. Prior to Couture winning his first UFC Heavyweight championship, fighters still relied on their chosen disciplines as their identifier. For example: Maurice Smith was a kickboxer, Ken Shamrock was a shoot fighter, “The Polar Bear” Paul Varleans was a trap fighter (I still have no idea what a trap fighter is, exactly) and Randy Couture was a wrestler. In high school and college, Randy Couture was a standout wrestling star; in the Army, Couture was a boxer. “The Predator” Don Frye was the prototype for the wrestler/boxer combination; Couture was certainly Mark One of that model.
Randy Couture’s career has been a highlight reel of triumphs and comebacks. After he did everything he could do in the heavyweight division, he drops down to the Light Heavyweight division and cleans house; after losing consecutively to “The Iceman” Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture takes some time off and comes back, ready to fight. His phoenix-like rise from retirement found Couture back in the heavyweight division and straight for undisputed heavyweight champion Tim “The Maine-iac” Sylvia. After tearing through Sylvia, Couture then knocks out Gabriel “Napao” Gonzaga, who was coming off of a searing head-kick knock out of Mirko “CroCop” Filipovic. Enter: Brock Lesnar.
It could be argued that Randy Couture may have been in the winter of his heavyweight career, I couldn’t disagree more. The heavyweights that Randy was fighting at this juncture of his career were more skilled, younger, and more competitive. Brock Lesnar had made a lot of people turn their heads in his direction by being abrasive and confident about his abilities. Leading into the fight with Couture, Lesnar had dropped a loss to Frank Mir, hardly decisioned “the Texas Crazy Horse” Heath Herring, and won a fight in Japan that had no serious bearing on the global heavyweight rankings. By all accounts, Brock Lesnar was being fed to Couture because of his reputation. Near the end of the second round, Brock Lesnar had proven that he was too much for a primed Randy Couture and that proof came by way of technical knockout.
Conclusion – It’s simple: “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey lost a fight and the defeat was no fluke. I think that Laila Ali, and most everyone who has been taking advantage of the sale on Haterade, is being extremely unfair to Rousey. I’ve presented five great examples of fighters, in their prime, who had losses handed to them in the most devastating way possible. “The Preacher’s Daughter” Holly Holm scored a fantastic win and we cannot take that away from her. I strongly feel that all the Rousey hate should be praise for Holm; but I also needed to make the point that “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey has nothing to be ashamed of in defeat.