Half the fun of being a fan of combat sports is in the anticipation. We’re not fortunate enough as fans of the major league sports who get games from their favorite teams every single week, sometimes multiple times a week. Fight fans only get to see their favorite fighters in action a few times a year maximum, and that’s barring any injury that could put them on the shelf for a year or more. To compensate, we talk a lot. Would the champ beat so-and-so in their prime? Is he going to improve on this aspect of his game before his next fight? Who would in a fantasy fight between A and B?
That last question, fantasy fights, is a big one in MMA. The use of weight classes means that we’ll never be able to see the 125 lb. flyweight champion, Demetrius ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson, stare down the 240 lb. undisputed king of the heavyweight division, Cain Velasquez, and that’s a good thing. Johnson is a force of nature, but a 100 lb. weight disparity is a big gap that pure skill can’t overcome. Naturally, we separate the weight classes to ensure that the combatants are competing against opponents with relatively similar physical features. This way we can ensure that whoever wins did so based on ability, not natural born advantage.
That same desire to isolate technical ability and downplay physical gifts is the main reason there are no cross-gender divisions. Sexual dimorphism isn’t an arbitrary social construct; it’s the set of biological differences that exist between men and women. Men are naturally much stronger than women, and tend to be more explosive in their movement as well. Women generally have a significant flexibility advantage and – if Mythbusters is to be believed – allegedly have a higher threshold for pain tolerance.
What happens when we control some of those factors? If a man and a woman had approximately the same weight and were both champion combat athletes – highly skilled and trained – who would come out on top? If the two people who popped into your head were undefeated UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey and undefeated boxing superstar Floyd Mayweather Jr., then, like me, you’ve been paying attention to the discussion that’s been going around the internet and the media.
The latest fantasy match-up being tossed around is an MMA match between Rousey and Mayweather. The automatic assumption would be to back the man in this situation, and if we were talking about a boxing match you’d certainly be right. There’s absolutely no chance that Rousey would walk into a boxing ring against Mayweather and walk out with the victory. At the same time, there’s also no chance that Rousey wouldn’t finish Floyd Mayweather Jr. – quickly and painfully – inside an MMA ring. Anyone who thinks otherwise is harboring some deep delusions on how much ability is granted by gender alone. Let’s break down the 5 reasons why Ronda Rousey would annihilate Floyd Mayweather Jr. in an MMA match.
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5 Equal Size
The #1 advantage that a man would have over a woman in a physical altercation would generally be size. In this situation, that advantage is mostly neutralized. Floyd and Ronda are about the same height (5’7 vs. 5’8) and fight at similar weight classes. Ronda is a champion at 135lbs but apparently walks around at about 150lbs. Likewise Floyd, a champion at numerous weight classes, allegedly has a natural weight of about 150lbs. This hypothetical match-up wouldn’t take place in any existing division in MMA, since there’s no such thing as a cross-gender fight. By default, the fight would be at ‘catchweight’ a catchall term used to categorize a fight at an arbitrary weight class with no championship. When a fighter fails to make weight for a particular bout at the weigh-ins (which take place the day before the fight), the fight goes on regardless. The promoter doesn’t want to sacrifice a spot on the card, so the fight is dubbed as a catchweight bout and is held anyway, albeit with no repercussions in the originally scheduled divisions ranking.
A catchweight bout between Rousey and Mayweather at 150lbs would neutralize most of the strength advantage that Floyd Mayweather possesses. He would, undoubtedly, retain some degree of a strength advantage over Rousey – since as previously mentioned men tend to have more strength per pound than women – but with their body weights equal, that difference shouldn't be significant enough to render the match uncompetitive.
4 The Octagon
Floyd Mayweather Jr. has fought all of his bouts in a boxing ring. The standard boxing ring is square and is surrounded by ropes. The octagon used by the UFC is a very different beast. Instead of the 4 corners he’s used to, he’d have to contend with 8 corners. This may seem insignificant to the layman, but ring positioning is a huge part of both boxing and MMA. If he was cornered, Floyd wouldn’t be able to sidestep and reposition himself the same way he would in boxing, since he would end up being at least partially cut off by the tighter corners in the octagon. In addition, Mayweather has never experienced being pressed up against the cage, which is very different than being pressed up against the bouncier and more flexible ring ropes. He would very quickly find all of his go-to positioning movements ineffective and just slightly off compared to what he was used to.
3 Lower Body Strikes
Ronda Rousey has fought in MMA from the very beginning of her professional combat sports career. From day 1 she has been taught how to properly execute a low kick to the legs and how to defend (aka ‘check’) against one. Leg kicks are a sometimes underutilized but always underestimated aspect of striking, especially against a boxer like Mayweather who depends on his fluid movement to confound his opponents. Mayweather has no experience dealing out or absorbing leg kicks, but in the cage he would very quickly understand their importance. Since he has no kicking experience any kicks he threw would be more or less ineffective, as Rousey would be able to either shrug them off or check them. Meanwhile, Mayweather wouldn’t be able to check Rousey’s leg kicks and would quickly find his ability to move significantly impaired.
From this point on in the fight, Rousey would begin unloading on Floyd. There’s no way in hell that Floyd Mayweather – a man with no grappling experience – is going to be able to take down Ronda Rousey, the Olympic Judo medalist. Naturally, he would try to keep the fight on his feet where he felt he had the advantage. However, even assuming he doesn’t attempt any takedowns himself, he will almost certainly find himself on the ground at some point. Rousey’s Judo is terrifying. She’s used it to toss around her previous opponents like rag dolls and allegedly can do the same to men with significantly more bulk on them than Floyd Maywether Jr. in the gym. If she goes for a sweep, Mayweather is going for a ride to a dark place where he has no experience.
1 The Ground Game
This is a world that Floyd Mayweather has never been in. The ground grappling aspect of MMA is so extraordinarily different from a sport like boxing that all of Mayweather’s tricks and abilities would immediately become irrelevant. For those of you that have never grappled, whether it be Greco-Roman wrestling, jiu-jitsu, sambo, or anything similar, it’s difficult to comprehend exactly how powerless a world champion striker would become. All the punching and kicking ability in the world can’t save you if you don’t know how to properly defend yourself and jockey for position on the ground against a skilled grappler. Oh, and Ronda? She’s about as skilled a grappler as they come. Out of her 9 professional fights, she’s won 8 by armbar. In fact, she probably has the best armbar in all of MMA right now – it’s so technical and so effective. If the hypothetical fight between Ronda and Floyd got to the ground, it would take less than 30 seconds for Rousey to trap the arm and get the submission victory.
There’s no chance this fight will ever happen. No organization or athletic commission would ever sanction it, with good reason, because it would open the floodgates to other ‘freakshow’ fights. Still, in this particular instance, no one could realistically argue Floyd Mayweather could beat Ronda Rousey in an MMA fight. The only way he would walk out of that cage would be with a broken arm.
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