The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is no longer ‘The Ronda Rousey Show’. The UFC has a new pay-per-view (PPV) kingpin in Conor McGregor and a plethora of up-and-comers in Cody Garbrandt, Valentina Shevchenko and many others.
Nevertheless, Rousey is still one of the biggest names in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and regardless of whom she fights, every ‘Rowdy’ fight is a guaranteed box-office and PPV success.
That said, the hitch in the UFC’s promotion of its former Bantamweight queen is their inability to ease Rousey back into competition, instead of simply throwing her to the wolves (or Lions, in Nunes’ case) after suffering a high-profile KO loss.
Rousey suffered her 1st MMA loss by KO at the hands of Holly Holm in 2015 and in her very next fight, fought the brick-fisted Brazilian UFC Women’s Bantamweight champion, Amanda Nunes in December of 2016. Bad idea!
The UFC’s hasty matchmaking has served to not only derail Rousey’s career but to also diminish her star-power. That said, all is not lost, and in case Rousey feels like lacing up the gloves once again, the UFC should build her up step-by-step.
A select few stylistic matchups favour the American judoka and have made our list, in ascending order of difficulty. Let’s take a look:
#5 Jessica Eye
Jessica ‘Evil’ Eye (11-6-1) has an MMA base of boxing and wrestling. She holds notable victories over mid-tier fighters such as Angela Magana, Carina Damm and Leslie Smith.
Eye is a striker, so to speak. However, she wins most of her fights by outworking her opponents with a wrestle-box approach rather than a pure striking-based approach. Secondly, Eye doesn’t carry much power in her strikes, with most of her strikes being punches, with her rarely throwing any kicks, knees or elbows.
Eye is a decent grappler but got handily out-grappled and even out-struck in her decision losses to Alexis Davis, Miesha Tate, Juliana Pena, Sara McMann and...Wait for it...Bethe Correia! Eye is on a 4-fight losing streak and struggling with her confidence and rhythm inside the Octagon.
As far as Rousey matching up with her is concerned, Eye’s mediocre grappling plays right into Rousey’s wheelhouse as does her tendency to throw naked combinations at close-range. Eye is tailor-made for Rousey, who can walk through her strikes and execute the clinch-toss-tap routine that she’s so famous for.
Yet another essential point is that Eye is a bit undersized for the 135-pound division, which further aids Rousey’s grappling-centric game.
Rousey vs Eye is Rousey’s easiest tune-up fight in the UFC’s top-15.