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The Dangers of Testing an Olympian’s Medal

Ronda Rousey’s submission victory over Miesha Tate Saturday night in Columbus proved to the naysayers Rousey can fight just as well, if not better, than she talks. The astonishing technical display also showed experience in MMA does not compare to high-level accomplishments in the Olympics.

Prior to the fight, Tate believed the superior amount of time she had training in MMA would easily trump Rousey’s single year inside the cage. A good percentage of fans and media shared Tate’s belief Rousey did not belong in the main event with a world champion so early in her MMA career and ran their mouths about it on social networking sites for the past few months.

Those individuals were proven wrong last night and it is because they all downgraded a high-level Olympic pedigree in favor of 4-5 more years of MMA experience. This is a mistake typical of the MMA community that seems to be oblivious to the fact the sport is not the highest level of martial arts in the world. MMA is still evolving and has not yet reached that technical milestone there we can start comparing the athletes to those who are mastering a specific art on the Olympic level.

Rousey only had four MMA fights to her name before besting Tate for the title but she competed at a high-level in Judo for many years prior to even thinking about stepping foot inside the cage. At the young age of 17, Rousey won a gold medal at the 2004 World Judo Junior Championships in Budapest, Hungary. In 2006, Rousey became the first female athlete from the United States to win an A-Level tournament taking home the gold at the Birmingham World Cup in Great Britain.

“Rowdy” Ronda was merely 19 years old when she captured the Bronze Medal at the Junior World Championships and she became the first American athlete ever to win two Junior World medals. The pinnacle of her Judo career was in 2008 when she was awarded a bronze medal in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China becoming the first American to win an Olympic medal in women’s Judo since its inception as an Olympic sport in 1992.

Tate, fans, media, and even other fighters failed to respect Rousey’s abilities and are mpw all enjoying a piping hot piece of humble pie for their efforts. Rousey is the perfect example of what a young Olympic martial artist having competed at a high-level can accomplish in MMA. This isn’t to say that every Olympic judoka, wrestler, or boxer could dominate in the cage because obviously there are many variables that come into play in an MMA fight that these athletes are not used to dealing with in their specific art.

An Olympic wrestler would put MMA fighters on their backs with relative ease but defending submissions would be a new ball game to them. The same goes for an Olympic boxer, as their punching technique and footwork would be far superior to the average MMA fighter but would find themselves flopping around like a fish out of water if action hit the mat. Even a phenomenal Olympic judoka could be in a tremendous amount of danger if they are stuck in a striking exchange with a well-rounded fighter in the cage.

MMA is a sport dominated by athletes who are good at all areas meaning even if you excel at one specific art you can still be defeated by an average fighter. On the contrary, a world-class Olympic competitor who has dedicated themselves to MMA will have a higher percentage of becoming a world champion than any other fighter in the world. Again, I point to the new Strikeforce bantamweight champ as the example; Rousey evolved herself from a Bronze Medal Judoka into a well-rounded MMA fighter without losing touch with her base.

Also, you may have heard of a few other Olympians who have done well in the cage – Daniel Cormier and Dan Henderson for example. Rising star Sara McMann, a silver medalist wrestler in 2004 who is 5-0 in MMA, is also another name to consider.

That is the key – to develop an understanding of all aspects of MMA and learn how to tie those puzzle pieces together to further strengthen your base. Rousey has done that and she is only going to improve with time. Hopefully this will cause an influx of more Olympic caliber competitors to jump into the cage to help the sport evolve even more from a technical standpoint. Tate was a great champion and is a fantastic fighter but it was foolish to overlook an Olympic medalist and likely a mistake few fighters will ever make again.

PHOTO CREDIT – STRIKEFORCE