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Coach may have doomed Ronda Rousey’s fight, career

It took just seconds after Ronda Rousey was battered to defeat against Amanda Nunes on Friday night for public scorn to turn immediately to the man who accompanied her to the octagon.

Edmond Tarverdyan, Rousey’s coach, caught much of the heat for his pupil’s loss to Holly Holm 13 months ago and can expect more of the same this time around. The Ultimate Fighting Championship is a modern organization with a young fan base that spouts much of its opinion on social media.

While it is Rousey who must live with a second blemish on her record and the likely end of her mixed martial arts career, it is Tarverdyan whom many will hold accountable for a failure to improve her boxing and striking skills.

Rousey was an Olympic judo bronze medalist and used those attributes to dominant effect at the start of her time in the UFC. However, she could neither match nor withstand the punches of first former world boxing champion Holm and then the conquering UFC bantamweight titleholder Nunes, whose fists unleashed a torrent of pain upon her more famous challenger.

Some will insist that Rousey’s demise came from a lack of confidence, a failure to cope with the Holm loss and the aftermath of it. Some will feel it was borne in mental frailty, which played itself out in a bizarre media boycott leading up to the contest.

Yet a more technical look points towards poor preparation. Women’s MMA is a very different sport to the one Rousey entered in 2011, and far more again from how things were when the UFC admitted female fighters and installed Rousey as its inaugural champion three years ago.

Take Nunes for example. The Brazilian-born, Florida-based power puncher lives and breathes the sport, has made a comfortable enough living from it that she has been able to give it her complete attention, and set her heart on being the best in the octagon, unbothered by distractions such as Hollywood or photo spreads or a rash of commercials.

As the fame of women’s fighting increased, thanks almost solely to Rousey, so too did the standard of combat, and it is the latter part that she could not keep pace with.

It is harsh to say, but she was in some ways a one-trick pony. What a trick it was, the devastating armbar, to which no one had an answer. Until they did.

Tarverdyan had no tactical answer to Holm and even less of one to Nunes’ blistering straight and overhand shots. Even with all that time to recuperate and prepare, Rousey did not learn an effective jab, the first and most basic tenet of boxing, one of MMA’s core disciplines.

Maybe she was unwilling to learn, but either way Tarverdyan was unable to either persuade Rousey of the value of a viable jab that serves as protection as much as offense, or unable to teach it to her.

Tarverdyan’s vocal critics include Rousey’s mother Annmaria DeMars and others close to her, who have long wished that she would place her career in the hands of another mentor. Rousey refused.

Meanwhile, current UFC fighter Jake Ellenberger saw his career stall with a weak run littered with defeats under Tarverdyan, before switching to new tutelage recently. Another Tarverdyan fighter, Rousey’s boyfriend Travis Browne, has gone 2-4 in his last six fighters, the only wins coming against the now-retired Brendan Schaub and Matt Mitrione, who is no longer with the UFC.

This is an unforgiving sport and if you wait to make a change, you may quickly find it is too late. As recently as last November, Rousey was talking about retiring undefeated, while those who love MMA hoped she would stick around for a long while to build a glittering legacy.

Now most want her to go, quite simply, for her own good.

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