The Ronda Rousey hype train has seen its subject ascend from the Challengers series to the ESPN Body Issue cover and a two-part special on Showtime. On Saturday night it made a stop in San Diego’s Valley View Casino Center, where Rousey defended her title for the first time since ripping it away from wrestler Miesha Tate in March.
Ronda Rousey vs. Sarah Kaufman
Ronda Rousey has a game plan that’s been in place since her amateur bouts: She bulls her opponents against the fence, throws them to the mat using her Olympic-medal-winning judo skills, and armbars them. Usually in the first minute, but always in the first round. That rinse-wash-repeat style has earned her not just a perfect record, but a title to boot.
At Strikeforce: Rousey vs. Kaufman, Rousey faced another championship-caliber opponent and the first with pedigreed standup — former titleholder Sarah Kaufman, a 15-1 striker with 10 knockout wins. Kaufman’s plan was to force Rousey to stand, using body shots to keep her at bay and take her off her game.
Here’s what happened instead: Rousey bulled Kaufman against the fence and, 12 seconds in, threw her to the mat using her Olympic-medal-winning judo skills. She locked on an armbar, content to use the remaining 4 minutes and 48 seconds of the round to break Kaufman’s defensive hold on her own arm. It didn’t take that long, as she isolated the limb and got the tapout in 54 seconds. In doing so, Rousey improved to 6-0 as a pro, handed Kaufman her second loss, and proved that her hype is warranted.
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza vs. Derek Brunson
In the middleweight co-main event, wrestler Derek Brunson met BJJ and judo black belt Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, and former champion Souza made quick work of things, knocking out the three-time All-American in 41 seconds.
As Brunson moved forward, Jacare’s counter right dropped him flat on his face. When the ref didn’t stop things and Brunson moved to his hands and knees to get up, the Brazilian knocked Brunson back with two punches. This time Jacare followed his prey to the mat and landed two more hard shots before being waved off.
The win is Souza’s 16th overall (with three losses), his sixth in Strikeforce, and his first knockout finish in the promotion. Brunson departs 9-2.
Tarec Saffiedine vs. Roger Bowling
Belgian standup specialist Tarec Saffiedine squared off against Midwestern boxer Roger Bowling in a competitive, three-round welterweight war. The bout ended in a unanimous decision for Saffiedine, who called for a shot at newly-crowned divisional king Nate Marquardt.
Bowling played the aggressor in the first, coming forward with unpredictable combinations of body shots, head shots, and kicks low and high. Saffiedine’s strategy was to time the assaults, grab Bowling’s head in the clinch and throw knees. None of the knees dropped Bowling flat-out, but they did accumulate, and gave Saffiedine the control to move things to the cage. Bowling stayed busy in the clinch and issued uppercuts, changing levels to work for takedowns. The last minute or so was spent in close quarters with both men struggling for position and throwing short shots against the cage.
Saffiedine was more willing to trade in the second, opening up his arsenal with splintering kicks. An accidental eyepoke to Bowling halted the action for a bit, and Saffiedine came out even more aggressively, matching Bowling’s combinations. Again Bowling avoided a Saffeidine knee and dropped for a takedown, this time successfully.
Saffiedine came forward with kicks to open round three, only to be answered with kicks and body shots from Bowling, showing the grit that earned him the nickname “Relentless” Roger. More striking exchanges and cage struggles marked the action, as both men stayed active while showing signs of damange from the other. Mid-round, Bowling caught a kick and nearly turned it into a trip, but Saffiedine scrambled for the cage and the two reversed several times on the cage. With under two minutes left, Bowling shot for a takedown. Saffiedine sprawled and spun to take Bowling’s back, getting both hooks in and an arm under his chin – if perhaps only cosmetically – in the final seconds.
Both men raised their hands in victory, but the judges’ scores were 30-27 thrice for Saffiedine, whose record is now 13-3; Bowling moves to 11-3.
Lumumba Sayers vs. Anthony Smith
The night’s second wild scrap between big strikers ended in a first-round submission as Anthony “Lionheart” Smith triangled Lumumba Sayers 3:52 in.
Sayers went for a takedown early and went for Smith’s back, but Smith scrambled into full mount and issued a few elbows before getting tied up. Sayers did a good job of controlling Smith’s arms, and the two worked back to their feet, where a series of wild, sloppy scrambles ensued. Eventually both men stood and simultaneously threw wild punches that didn’t connect. In doing so, Smith knocked himself off balance, slipping and falling to his back. Sayers pounced with hammerfists, but BJJ purple belt Smith controlled one arm, slapped his long legs around his foe, and quickly got the tapout.
Smith, who turned 24 last month, now boasts a record of 17-7 while Sayers, 10 years his elder, drops to 6-3.
Ovince St. Preux vs. TJ Cook
The main card opened with a light heavyweight jaw-dropper as Ovince St. Preux nearly finished TJ Cook in the first round, cruised through the second, then knocked him out dramatically in the third.
Round one was an absolute brawl as the huge men traded testing kicks and jabs, each of which sounded like a baseball bat hitting a door. As the two exchanged, St. Preux pushed the action to the fence and dropped Cook. He followed things to the mat and unloaded in what looked like the end for Cook. But Cook somehow survived, got to his feet and winged a few punches of his own. St. Preux managed a single-leg and wound up on top in Cook’s half-guard before taking his back briefly to end the round.
Things slowed significantly when the men answered the bell for the second — even Cook’s corner had to be scolded to leave the hexagon. St. Preux’s occasional body kicks were the only action of note until an accidental low blow to Cook gave both men another break. When the action resumed, St. Preux scored an easy double-leg, tried some ground-and-pound, then passed into side control and full mount to end the round.
The third round was short and nasty as a perfectly placed left hook from St. Preux starched Cook 20 seconds in. The win is St. Preux’ 12th overall (6th in Strikeforce, with his only promotional loss owing to former champion Gegard Mousasi) , with just five losses; Cook now stands at 15-5.