Ronda Rousey v Alexis Davis Preview: Takedowns and Grappling

Ronda v Mcmann Thumbnail

Judo Newaza vs BJJ This Weekend

2 UFC events last weekend and 2 more this coming 4th of July weekend has left me in an MMA mood. While the fight with Alexis looks like an even worse match up than the Tate/Mcmann fights, Alexis being the best grappler Ronda has faced, does pose problems Ronda has never encountered before.

Ronda’s BJJ Is Largely still Judo based

Ronda’s armbar comes fast, with strength and from any position. We have seen her get it off throws, side control, mount, guard, turtle and even by jumping into it from standing. This unwavering belief that she can sink this in means she doesn’t do typical behaviors someone more cautious in MMA would. Namely controlling dominant position and softening them up with strikes before going for the submission. A a result of this, she does not appear to be good at retaining half guard/mount to land strikes to set up a pass. She could well be and just hasn’t had the need to, but in her matches she has often switched (and finished the fight) with the armbar just as she concedes dominant position. Against Alexis, if Ronda goes for the armbar early while Alexis is fresh, Alexis’ BJJ awareness might well escape it and put her into a dominant position in Ronda’s guard.

As a passer Ronda does not rely on GnP but speed

Ronda is a standing passer looking to use mobility to confuse the guarder. The slow methodical “bjj method” of passing via control and moving to half with a strong cross face, mixing in strikes is not a skill set Ronda seems to display. Striking during passing can be very effective against the strongest guards as that can pressure mistakes that an expert guarder might not otherwise commit. Standing passing is a very good tactic vs someone not well versed in BJJ but vs Alexis who has very good guard retention, Ronda is unlikely to find success. Alexis has managed to always find guard after getting taken down awkwardly (100% in fact) and I do expect her to do the same against Ronda. Of course Ronda has the option to simply back off and force a stand up re-start, but if stuck in closed Ronda could have problem (see below).

Ronda has a strong instinct to turtle still

Finding safety in a “turtle” is one of the most important instincts wrestlers/judokas have to un-learn when doing BJJ. There are some other moves that are not instinctual in wrestling/judo that are actually good in BJJ – such as stepping over a whizzer is typically bad  (you will get put on your back) or jumping on someone’s back in general. Aside from her head grabbing, the main reason for her conceding her back is from her fleeing to the turtle during scrambles. She flees to turtle after failing to sweep from bottom and even when the RNC is on (rather than trying to slide her back to the mat the “bjj way”). If Alexis’ BJJ is savvy enough, she could catch Ronda during these fleeting back exposures and get the back where Alexis is good at the RNC.

Alexis’ Guard is both frustrating and versatile

Alexis employs high closed guard (closed but high up almost around your shoulders). This helps to kill posture making it hard to land GnP and also to pull out of it by standing/posturing out. Ronda appears to have no patience to work proper BJJ passes and would rather power out by posturing/standing to get a re-start on the feet or work her standing passes. Alexis has been very good at sinking armbars/omaplatas during this pulling out and/or switching to a footlock when you do this. Ronda has not met a good positional switcher in BJJ which Alexis is, and we will get a good chance to see how she fares this weekend.

One has to remember, Ronda is good, but she still has to obey the laws of leverage and gravity. If Alexis gets into a dominant position, Ronda’s tactic of using strength to escape bad spots is not going to overcome a strong crossface. The question thus remains if Ronda will concede some kind of opening on the ground. We have seen her make zero mistakes against an opponent she respects (ie against Mcmann she risked no throws) but against someone like Alexis what is her mental state?

Ronda is almost a 20 to 1 favorite, but conversely the 10 to 1 on Alexis pulling off the upset seems like the better punt.

Here’s the video preview again in case you missed it. Enjoy the fights this weekend.

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