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The 4 Best Opponents for Ronda Rousey Amid UFC 300 Fight Rumors

UFC 300 is getting closer and closer. The landmark event doesn’t yet have an official date, but it should occur sometime in the Spring of 2024 and speculation as to which fighters will appear on the bill is already running rampant.

 

One of the most popular theories at the moment is that the card marks the return of former women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, who is one of the biggest stars in the history of the sport.

Rousey has not fought since late 2016 when she suffered a brutal first-round stoppage loss to Amanda Nunes in a failed bid to reclaim the bantamweight throne.

That loss was preceded by another knockout defeat, which came courtesy of former boxing champ Holly Holm.

 

Those losses were the first of Rousey’s MMA career. The former Olympic judoka rattled off 11 straight wins to start her run in the sport, finishing all of them—and many of them in the first round. Highlights of that streak included quick and devastating wins over the likes of Bethe Correia, Cat Zingano, Sara McMann, and Miesha Tate, which helped turn her into one of the biggest sporting stars of the day.

Rousey’s star is still burning bright, thanks in large part to her recent run with WWE, and while it seems quite unlikely that she will actually end her lengthy retirement from MMA for a final fight at UFC 300, adding her name to the marquee would just about guarantee the pay-per-view will be a blockbuster.

The big question is who she would fight. Without further ado, here are four options that make sense for the former champ.

 

Julianna Peña

1 OF 4

 

 

Julianna Peña

Julianna PeñaAlejandro Salazar/PxImages/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If Rousey really mounts a comeback, Julianna Peña is definitely one of the most likely options for her opponent.

Peña is currently ranked No. 1 in the bantamweight division. Usually, it would be pretty cruel to pit someone like Rousey, who has not fought in almost seven years, against the No. 1 contender in their weight class. However, Peña’s lofty perch is due almost exclusively to her shocking 2021 defeat of Amanda Nunes, which Nunes effortlessly avenged before retiring and vacating the belt earlier this year.

 

After her two-fight series with Nunes, Peña is just 3-3 in her last six, with two submission losses in that stretch. Submissions, of course, are Rousey’s bread and butter. You can see where we’re going with this. It’s probably not as tough a matchup for Rousey as it looks.

The pair also have some history. Rousey actually served as a coach on the season of The Ultimate Fighter that Peña won, and Peña called Rousey out several times at the height of her title reign.

Peña, who will most likely get the call to fight for the vacant bantamweight title in the near future, is also without an obvious opponent, especially after her fellow top contender Mayra Bueno Silva failed a drug test.

A fight with Rousey, whether there’s a belt on the line or not, would be the biggest of her career.

Holly Holm

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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 15:  (L-R) Ronda Rousey faces Holly Holm in their UFC women's bantamweight championship bout during the UFC 193 event at Etihad Stadium on November 15, 2015 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

It could be said that Holly Holm single-handedly ended the Ronda Rousey era—though she did it with her shin, not her hand.

The former boxing champ gave Rousey her first taste of defeat with a devastating head kick KO in 2015. And while Rousey didn’t continue fighting for very long after that, Holm is still competing in the UFC bantamweight division—and remains one of its top fighters. In fact, had the 41-year-old not been submitted by Mayra Bueno Silva in her last fight, she would likely be a frontrunner for a crack at the vacant bantamweight title.

Rousey really wasn’t the same after her loss to Holm—in or out of the cage. She receded from the limelight almost completely after the knockout and seemed to lose all of the confidence that carried her through her earlier fights. Even eight years later, it’s a bit difficult to imagine her willingly stepping into the Octagon again. Then again, maybe a shot at redemption would interest her. The timing couldn’t be much better, with Holm seemingly nearing the end of her career and looking much more beatable than she once was.

If by some miracle this fight actually occurred, it would be one of the biggest rematches in UFC history—even if it’s not particularly relevant to the bantamweight title picture at the moment.

Miesha Tate

3 OF 4

 

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 17: Miesha Tate prepares to fight Marion Reneau in their bantamweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on July 17, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Miesha Tate was the greatest rival of Ronda Rousey’s career—even if it wasn’t a particularly competitive rivalry.

The pair fought twice. Their first encounter occurred way back in 2012, under the Strikeforce banner. That night, Rousey won by first-round armbar—like she won all of her fights back then. Their second meeting a little less than two years later, this time under the UFC banner. Tate put up a better fight the second time around, but ultimately tapped to an armbar in the third round.

Tate, who later became a champion with a dramatic submission win over Holm, never got another crack at Rousey, and for a long time, a third fight between them looked impossible, as they were both retired.

Yet after a lengthy stint as an executive with ONE Championship, Tate returned to the UFC in 2021. She’s 1-2 in her second run with the promotion. She defeated Marion Reneau at bantamweight in her first fight back, then lost a pair of decisions to Ketlen Vieira and Lauren Murphy, the latter of which marked her debut at flyweight.

While her days as a title contender are clearly over, she is something of a women’s MMA legend herself, and would certainly be a suitable welcome back for Rousey, both in terms of her name value and her skills.

Valentina Shevchenko

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LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 4: Valentina Shevchenko prepares to fight Alexa Grasso in their Women's Flyweight fight during the UFC 285 event at T-Mobile Arena on March 4, 2023 in Las Vegas, NV, USA. (Photo by Louis Grasse/PxImages/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Louis Grasse/PxImages/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Pitting a returning Ronda Rousey against Valentina Shevchenko would be a bit cruel. Shevchenko recently lost the flyweight title to Alexa Grasso, but has long been considered one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in women’s MMA, and there’s no reason to believe she’s fallen off. She would be a huge betting favourite to beat Rousey in 2024.

However, she is one of the few women currently on the UFC roster with accomplishments to rival Rousey’s. While she has never achieved the same level of fame as the former bantamweight champion, the Kyrgyz striker was one of the most dominant champions in UFC history. In fact, it could easily be argued she has achieved far more than Rousey from a competitive standpoint.

If Rousey wants to come back to a fight that will really mean something for her legacy, a fight with Shevchenko would be perhaps the best option. This will be true no matter the outcome of Shevchenko’s upcoming rematch with Grasso, set for September 16, however, Rousey is probably more likely to take the fight if the former flyweight queen suffers a second consecutive loss. Presuming the fight occurred at bantamweight, Rousey could also look forward to a size advantage, which would probably be a source of comfort.

It’s definitely unlikely, but it would be a huge fight with massive implications for the legacies of both legendary champions.

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