The once dominant Ronda Rousey was silent going into the Octagon for her return at UFC 207 against Bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes. The story UFC attempted to tell in video packages on the PPV broadcast was that Rousey was all business and wanted nothing to do with the promotional end of the fight. This was to be her reckoning. The return to promimence. She didn't even care about her makeup, said announcer Joe Rogan. This was all business. No distractions, like that pesky Hollywood career. This was Rousey's retribution.
It was not to be.
For all the online jokes made about how short WWE star turned UFC rookie CM Punk's first foray into the Octagon went, the sport's most celebrated female athlete lasted less than 48 seconds before referee Herb Dean called for a TKO and saved her from the humiliation of being knocked off her feet. Emotionally, it had to have been devastating.
Rousey's angry stare and walk to the cage to the tune of "Bad Reputation" was everything UFC fans had been waiting to see again, but once the ring announcements were completed, so was Rousey. She was immediately rocked by Nunes' great striking and was obviously stunned into submission. She never regained her composure after being immediately busted open and was easy pickings for the Brazilian star. With each punch, Rousey's star aura diminished. There was no doubt, not even a sliver, that the better woman was victorious.
As Nunes jumped for joy waiting for her arm to be officially raised in victory, Rousey looked down, silent, beaten, the crimson welts on her face rising.
She was a beaten woman and this time, the shock value of the loss wasn't even the story, because it was the second loss in as many fights. The story was that she never acknowledged anything once she was TKO'd.
Going into the fight, there were whispers that Rousey was likely done in the MMA world after this fight. There's been no official announcement, but those whispers certainly became louder after she walked out of the Octagon without comment after embracing Nunes. There would be no acknowledgement that the champion had beaten her. There would be no respectful show of support for the legend. There was only a quick shot of Rousey and her team wandering off into the darkness, escaping cameras and the audience for the safety of her locker room and whatever reflection would come from that solace.
During the post-PPV press conference, it was obvious that the media was waiting to see if Rousey would appear and even potentially address what everyone was thinking - that she was done. It was not to be, with Nunes instead coming out to close the conference, beaming as she talked of her victory, assuring the media that she was happy with the money she made. The most telling moment was when Nunes was asked if she felt sorry for Rousey. She noted that she felt there was too much pressure on Rousey and too many people in her head telling her what to do. That may be the case.
It may also be the case that a year off wasn't long enough for Rousey to find her mojo.
It's also possible that like every MMA legend that has come before her, from Royce Gracie to Chuck Liddell to Uriah Faber, that these supreme athletes only have a certain window before the next generation of younger, starving fighters rise up to take their place. Tonight may have been the night Rousey was truly defeated, not just by Nunes, but by time.
One day, Rousey will address her future and what's next for her. It will be a big story, but tonight, the fact that she chose to remain mute speaks volumes.
Rousey took her nickname from wrestling great Roddy Piper, but tonight, there was no Rowdiness. Just silence.