Ronda Rousey: Miesha Tate remains ‘one of my greatest challenges’

The moment Ronda Rousey landed a right hand that clubbed Bethe Correia across the head and knocked her face-first in the canvas, it was clear that the UFC women’s bantamweight champion was more dangerous than ever.

At the start of her career, Rousey was best known as a powerful grappler who could toss an opponent on the mat at will and then apply her signature armbar to get the finish.

Over her past four fights, Rousey has finished all of her opponents in a combined 130 seconds with three knockouts and another armbar submission to add to her resume.

Developing her hands has been an important project for Rousey over the past couple of years because she’s determined to build a skill set so deadly that there’s no fight she can’t win, no matter where it goes. The book on Rousey used to be avoid the ground and go for the knockout on the feet against the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist in judo.

Now that she has three vicious finishes via strikes, Rousey is just as potent on the feet, and she’s always adding new weapons to her arsenal with every training camp.

"I’m really happy that even though the last three fights were fast, they were all done extremely differently," Rousey said about her performances. "I know I made some mistakes tonight, and I’m always on a quest to be a perfect fighter. I know that’s something you can’t ever really attain, but that’s a goal that I’ll never reach that I can always pursue.

I don’t have that element of surprise and I know she’ll bring in something different every single time. So I’m eager to see what she comes up with this time.

— Ronda Rousey on Miesha Tate

"I just feel like I’m one step closer to retiring undefeated and having a real legacy. That’s my goal at this point."

If there’s one problem with Rousey dispatching the competition in such devastating fashion, it makes finding her a viable opponent that much harder.

In her past four fights, Rousey has defeated three women who were undefeated prior to facing her (Cat Zingano, Sara McMann and Bethe Correia) while also defeating a seasoned grappler in Alexis Davis in just 16 seconds. The combined record of Rousey’s last four opponents is 43-10, so it’s not like she’s facing the bottom-dwellers of the division.

As it turns out, Rousey’s greatest challenge to date may come in her next fight, against someone she’s already defeated on two previous occasions.

While that might sound strange, Rousey actually credits that next opponent — Miesha Tate — for knowing her game better than anyone else in the sport. Tate fought Rousey for the first time in 2012 and put up a valiant effort before losing by submission late in the opening round.

The rematch ended the exact same way, but not before Tate was able to drag Rousey into the third round, which still stands as the only fight the UFC champion has ever had that went past the first five minutes. On paper, Tate’s accomplishments might ring hollow, but Rousey says it’s a legitimate concern she will address before facing the former Strikeforce champion a third time.

"I think one advantage I do have against a lot of my opponents is they don’t really know what they’re getting into when they come in there. They can watch as much footage as they want, but they don’t know what it’s actually like to be in there with me," Rousey explained.

"That’s why I think Miesha’s one of my greatest challenges, because she already has an idea of what she’s getting in there with. I know I’ve improved a lot since the last time we fought, but I don’t have that element of surprise, and I know she’ll bring in something different every single time. So I’m eager to see what she comes up with this time."

Tate earned the shot by winning four consecutive fights, including wins over two past Rousey opponents in Liz Carmouche and Sara McMann. Now Tate will try to make the third time the charm as she faces Rousey with the UFC belt on the line later this year.

UFC officials are targeting a potential pay-per-view card for Dec. 5 featuring Rousey vs. Tate 3 as well as the long-awaited featherweight title fight between Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor at AT&T Stadium in Texas. The show is still a long way from official, but if both fights end up on the same card, it would likely be the biggest UFC pay-per-view of the year — if not all time.