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Her Buster Douglas moment

It was Ronda Rousey's Buster Douglas moment. Those who watched it were stunned. Those who read about it the next morning did a double take. And more than a few people were wondering where it leaves her career.

In 1990, Mike Tyson was also unbeaten and had the same aura of invincibility as Rousey. Like her, he put opponents away rapidly and with ease. But on Feb. 10 in Tokyo he faced the little-known Douglas as a 40-1 favorite and was knocked out in one of sports' biggest upsets.

Rousey's fight also took place on the other side of the world, on Sunday in Melbourne, and the result was also shocking. Holly Holm, ranked just eighth in their weight class and underwhelming in her two previous UFC fights, knocked Rousey out in the second round.

Rousey started the fight on the attack, perhaps looking for another quick win. But she found herself chasing Holm around the Octagon, all the time taking hard punches and kicks. She struggled to get Holm on the ground, thanks in part to Holm's superior reach. Even when Rousey began to apply her signature armbar, Holm eluded it and continued the barrage. A nasty kick to the head finished Rousey off.

Like Douglas, who held his own for 10 rounds with Tyson, Holm did not win on a fluky blow. She was the comfortable winner of the first round. Andrew Richardson, the analyst for SB Nation, wrote: "Holm fought perfectly. She circled away from Rousey's bull rushes expertly and repeatedly countered while doing so, which frustrated Rousey and caused her to fade quickly. Even when Rousey did slow down, Holm remained composed and picked her opportunities, which resulted in the brutal head kick knockout."

Holm, 34, was 33-2-3 as a boxer, holding WBA, WBC and other titles. She then transitioned to mixed martial arts, where her record improved to 10-0 with the Rousey win.

In the past, boxers like Holm have not fared well in MMA, compared with wrestlers and judokas, like Rousey. This had prompted numerous commentators, and Rousey herself, to suggest that she could beat even a top male boxer like Floyd Mayweather in the cage or a street fight. But it turned out a top boxer who fought intelligently, like Holm, was more than a match for her.

Many analysts faulted Rousey for fighting with overconfidence, engaging with Holm with punches rather than focusing on going for a takedown. But Rousey's trainer, Edmond Tarverdyan, disagreed. "Ronda is smart enough to take the fight where she is best at and today she did," he told ESPN. "Holly stopped an attempt on an armbar and stopped some of the takedowns. She did a good job."

Rousey had also spent a lot of time before the fight talking about taking a break and forging a career in Hollywood. It is certainly possible that mentally her edge was dulled at least a little.

What's next for Rousey? At 28, she is young for the Octagon. The median age of a UFC champ is currently 31. The UFC president, Dana White, suggested immediately that a rematch would be in the offing.

Bookmakers rank Rousey as the favorite in a rematch, though by about 3-2, not the 10-1 or 12-1 she was favored over Holm the first time. There is every reason to think Rousey will regain her belt, perhaps soon.

But Tyson may provide a cautionary tale. Before the Douglas fight, he was 37-0 with a series of brutal signature wins. Though he did reclaim his title eventually, the post-Douglas era mostly featured losses to fighters like Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis and wins over bums.

Rousey will win again, and may even be the best again. But she will never again be invincible.

The queen is dead. Long live ? ? ?

Here are the five fighters best equipped to be the UFC's biggest name in the months ahead:

5. Holly Holm One fight vaulted Holm from unknown to one of the game's bigger names. A win in a Rousey rematch will prove wrong those calling her a fluke. But should she lose, she could sink without a trace.

4. Jose Aldo Currently ranked No. 1 in most lists of the best pound-for-pound fighters, Aldo has dominated the featherweight decision since 2009. A rib injury has kept him out of the ring for a year, and a lot will ride on his comeback fight against ...

3. Conor McGregor McGregor has taken the UFC by storm, with his fists and mouth getting him attention. After a win in January, he jumped out of the cage and confronted Aldo, who was sitting at ringside. The lower-key Aldo just laughed. Now the two will meet Dec. 12 in Las Vegas for the undisputed featherweight title. The winner will have a real claim to the spot as the UFC's top dog.

2. Jon Jones Jones has inherited the unbeatable mantle once held by Rousey. He is 21-1 in MMA, with the only loss coming on a disqualification for illegal elbows. He has taken on all comers in the light-heavyweight division and seldom been challenged. But Jones was stripped of his title and suspended when he was involved in a hit-and-run accident in New Mexico. Now reinstated, and only 28, there is no reason to think he will not return to his previous dominance in 2016.

1. Ronda Rousey Yes, there's no getting around it. Ronda Rousey is still the UFC's biggest star. Part of her appeal lay in her invincibility. That is gone, but it has been replaced by an equally appealing comeback story line. Love her or hate her — and based on the reaction to her loss, many fans hate her — Rousey makes news. If the loss motivates Rousey to get better, her continuing stardom will be assured.

— New York Times

Her Buster Douglas moment 11/17/15 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 17, 2015 5:34pm]
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