Ronda Rousey July 2014

First, it was ex-boxing champ Holly Holm who signed a new contract with the UFC. The 32-year-old Holm has a 33-2-3 record as a boxer and is 7-0 as an MMA fighter. She signed with the UFC just last week.

The move happened just as the organization began to realize there were no viable challengers on the horizon for bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey to face in her next fight.

Though Rousey will take some time off for arthroscopic knee surgery, her 16-second demolition of Alexis Davis at UFC 175 showed a tremendous evolution in her natural fighting ability. When she is ready to fight again, Holly Holm will be just one of three potential opponents.

Still, Holm herself cautions that she may not be ready for a Rousey fight right away.

She is recovering from a broken left arm suffered in her last MMA fight, and she admits her ground game is not exactly ready for prime time. She is likely to have at least one or two fights with other bantamweight contenders before securing the title shot.

Another possibility for Rousey is the former face of women's MMA: Gina Carano. There is only one snag reportedly in the way that is holding up the deal. Apparently Carano's Hollywood legal team needs to iron out some details before they sign off on the contract.

Both UFC President Dana White and Primary Owner Lorenzo Fertitta will be meeting with Carano and her lawyers this week in Los Angeles, and White is confident that a deal will be done.

As far as how the actual fight will go, it seems hard to believe Carano can walk right back into the spotlight and be as dominant as she used to be. Still, the general consensus is that no tuneup fight is necessary for the women's MMA pioneer.

Even Rousey advocates an immediate path to the title shot for Carano.

"I think it would be the best thing for women's MMA," Rousey said in May. "I think it would be the highest profile fight that could be done. I don't think it would make sense for her to come back and fight somebody else and take the risk of maybe losing and not being able to capitalize on the fight between me and her. I think it would make more sense to go straight to a title fight."

The third option is Cris "Cyborg" Justino (12-1, 1 NC), who is reportedly preparing for a fight at 135 pounds for Invicta in December.

The UFC has an exclusive partnership with Invicta. This will make it much easier for Justino to get a UFC deal done, but it will likely hinge on how the female phenom does with her weight cut.

Of all likely opponents for Rousey, this one makes the most sense. Both women have been vocal about wanting to fight each other, and Cyborg matches up with Rousey much better than Holm or Carano.

Cyborg is an active fighter in superb health, and she is responsible for retiring Carano back in August of 2009 with a TKO registered in the last second of the first round of that bout.

The rust Carano will have to shake off and the fundamental need for more technical training that Holm faces are huge stumbling blocks. Both will eventually fight Rousey if all goes well, but the timing has to be right.

Rousey's UFC 175 performance gave fans of MMA a reason to start looking at the UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion as a female version of Mike Tyson.

Just who will be the female version of Buster Douglas and dethrone Rousey remains to be seen.


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