Sarah Kaufman Played Tough on TV, But She’s Still Not Tough Enough for Rousey

During the broadcast of Strikeforce last night the announce team began discussing the decision to skip over Sarah Kaufman and give Ronda Rousey the first crack at new Bantamweight champ Miesha Tate. They concluded that it probably had something to do with Kaufman’s niceness and that had she stuck up for herself then it would have been her in the main event as opposed to slumming away on the under card. And while that gross simplification may play well to the masses it is a far cry from any sort of reality. First the most obvious fact: In all of MMA it is hard to think of another fighter who stands up for themselves as assertively as Kaufman does. She may look sweet and kind and sort of nerdy but if you slight her in the least you most likely are going to hear about it on national TV. Look at the weeks leading up to the Tate/Rousey main event and notice how Kaufman’s name always seemed to be hovering in the background. There was really no need for it and thus it speaks to her ability to be the proverbial squeaky wheel.

But any misconceptions about her ability to fight for her right to fight aside she still has a larger problem in the marketing of her own brand and that is the in cage product she puts on display. We’ve all forgotten it by now (thankfully) but her five round jab-a-thon with Takayo Hashi back in February 2010 still stands as the most excruciating main event in televised MMA history. The folks at Showtime, supposedly operating independently of Dana White’s influence, are not the brightest promoters on the planet but they were at least smart enough to know that sending Rousey in there to break Tate’s arm would make for far better TV than whatever Kaufman could provide and based off of last night’s title fight they were right.

Kaufman though is no dim bulb and knew that she had to provide something more than just peppering Alexis Davis with little baby leg kicks to win the respect of the fans and the suits and so she came out with reckless abandon and engaged in a bloody three round war that saw her take home a majority decision. It was a crazy sight to see and totally unlike any Sarah Kaufman we had known before. Later on her battered mug was rolled out to cage side to watch Rousey armbar her way to victory in another spectacular women’s match setting up an inevitable showdown between the two. Unfortunately this will just be another case in which the pre-fight mic work will almost certainly outshine anything that happens after the bell rings as everything I’ve seen since Rousey burst on the scene seems to indicate that she is indestructible.

Of course I am basing that off of what Rousey has done to low level competition and then to Tate but women’s MMA being what it is (shallow) it’s always hard to gauge an athlete’s true worth and I think in the case of Miesha Tate her beauty causes even more cloudiness. As much as I would love to judge her solely on her in-ring performance it is hard because I find it hard to believe that somebody not blessed with that face would have been pushed quite as hard as she. It was always her sitting ringside with Frank Shamrock winking at the camera and not, say, Marleos Coenen. Be that as it may she has more than earned her spot in the division by winning a one night, four woman tournament and choking out the aforementioned Coenen, neither of which are small tasks. However, going into her fight with Rousey the entire MMA community had predicted her going down to a first round submission and they all were proven right. But was the lack of respect due to a perceived false push of Tate or to the apparent awesomeness of Rousey? Either way Rousey did what she was done in every other one of her pro bouts and earned a stoppage victory in under a round.

Kaufman may not have beauty on her side but she is respected by the MMA media. She may even be less of an underdog heading into her fight with Rousey. We all know she can win fights (she’s 15-1 after all) we just didn’t know until last night that she could do it with any sort of panache. And yet I still dare you to tell me that there is any other possible outcome to their fight other than Rousey by first round submission. I might bite on second round submission but that is as far as I’ll go.

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