By DERON SNYDER
At first glance, there isn’t much in common between “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey and “Iron” Mike Tyson.
The second and third glimpse doesn’t help much, either.
But Rousey, a 5-foot-7, 135-pound dirty blond, is dominating mixed martial arts just like the former boxing champ tyrannized his sport 30 years ago.
Tyson was a 5-10 heavyweight with a close-cropped haircut when he made his pro debut in March 1985. One year later, he was 19-0 with 19 knockouts. The carnage included a dozen KOs in the opening round, half of those within the first minute.
His menacing sneers, explosive punches and unreserved fury made him a must-watch attraction, simultaneously leaving many foes shaken and stirred, intimidated and defeated before entering the ring.
Yet, despite throwing his “punches with bad intentions” and a burning desire to drive opponents’ “nose bone into the brain,” Tyson never dispatched a challenger in less 30 seconds. That’s how long it took against poor Marvis Frazier, whom Tyson dropped like a bad habit.
But Rousey, 28, makes Tyson look like a slacker. Her last two fights COMBINED have lasted a half-minute.
Defending her bantamweight title for the fifth time, she needed just 14 seconds to beat Cat Zingano Saturday night at Los Angeles. The throng of 17,654 at Staples Center didn’t seem disappointed in the quick work.
“There are very few situations when a fight goes 14 seconds and the crowd is cheering and going crazy, looking at each other with their mouths open,” UFC president Dana White told reporters in a postfight news conference. “Everybody knows how awesome Ronda is, but everybody was looking at each other with their mouths open because she was fighting Cat Zingano and this was going to be a tough-ass fight.”
That would’ve been a first for Rousey (11-0), who used her trademark armbar to force Zingano into submission. It’s the same hold that caused eight other opponents to tap out, though Rousey had won her previous two bouts via knockout, most recently in July against Alexis Davis in 16 seconds.
Only one of Rousey’s 11 bouts has lasted past the opening round; only three of her first-round wins have exceeded 60 seconds.
Unlike Tyson, who ended his bouts with a vicious punch or ferocious combination, Rousey typically uses a few seconds of subtle, strategic grappling before gaining control of an opponents’ arm and nearly snapping it like a chicken wing. The move against Zingano came out of nowhere, after the challenger recklessly launched a flying knee at the outset.
After they tumbled to the canvas, Rousey got on top quickly, wrapped her legs around Zingano’s right shoulder and leaned back on the arm, bending it upward in grotesque fashion. A stunned Zingano remained kneeling in the spot for several seconds before Rousey came over and hugged her.
“She’s really good, but that wouldn’t happen again,” Zingano told MMAjunkie.com. “I just want to know what I need to do to get in there again. Who’s No. 2? I’ll fight them. I’ll get back. How do I get this again?”
Feeling bad for her vanquished foe, Rousey immediately offered a rematch. But it will be awhile before Zingano or anyone else gets a shot at the champ, because she’s taking a break to film another movie, her fourth since 2013.
The bronze medalist in women’s judo at the 2008 Olympics, Rousey has become the face of MMA – and not an unattractive one at that. She wisely is maximizing her celebrity outside the ring, snagging covers for ESPN Magazine’s 2012 “Body Issue” and a Maxim issue in 2013, and appearing in this year’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition.
A potential opponent, undefeated Brazilian Bethe Correia, said Rousey is “selfish” and is “not a good champion. She just thinks about herself, about making movies, dressing well and showing up,” Correia told MMAfighting.com Saturday through a translator. “I’m not gonna be like this. … I’m gonna be the people’s champ.”
Sorry, but Rousey already holds that title, as well.
No one begrudges her moves to set up the non-fighting portion of her life, which could begin within another year or two. Acting and modeling is a lot easier than taking knees in the gut and elbows to the face.
“One profession has a much-long shelf life than the other,” Rousey told USA Today a couple of summers ago, after being extended for the longest fight of her career (4:49 against Liz Carmouche). “ … I was kind of forced to realize statistically there is a chance you could get permanently hurt or even die. There’s only so many times you can roll the dice.”
Tyson rolled them 37 times and came away a winner before losing his belt and air of invincibility to Buster Douglas in Tokyo. He eventually retired with a 50-6-2 career record.
Rousey is too smart to stick around that long, so enjoy the show while you can. But don’t blink.
Like most of her opponents, she’ll be gone in a flash.