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6 Eerie Ways Ronda Rousey Is The Female Mike Tyson

The tragic losses of 2016 possibly concluded with the career death of the first UFC women’s champion Ronda Rousey. Her loss made me think of when Iron Mike Tyson was soundly beaten by Lennox Lewis in 2001. I went looking for other similarities and found some interesting results! To begin:

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1. Tyson Ended a Dynasty & Rousey Started her Own

New York Magazine/UFC / Via

Iron​ ​Mike​ ​Tyson​ ​was​ ​possibly​ ​the​ ​last​ ​knockout​ ​artist​ ​to​ ​dominate​ ​a​ ​competitive​ Heavyweight division. ​He​ ​was​ ​part of the lineage of black champions​ ​that​ ​began​ ​with​ ​Jack​ ​Johnson in 1908. The rest of the century saw a Golden Age of more black champions in Floyd Patterson, Joe​ ​Louis,​ ​Sonny​ ​Liston,​ ​Muhammad Ali,​ ​Joe Frazier,​ ​and​ ​George Foreman before Tyson arrived to claim their crown.​

I would call Tyson the final entry into the Golden Age of Heavyweight Boxing. Tyson lived in poverty before he entered the boxing scene with legendary trainer Cus D'amato in his corner. Some have suggested this age began with Muhammad Ali's (then known as Cassius Clay) "I Shook up the World" victory over the mafia-connected Sonny Liston for the Heavyweight title in 1963.

It's less widely known the man Liston beat for that title in 1962 was another D'amato student, Floyd Patterson.

D'amato trained Patterson to become the youngest heavyweight champion at age 21. He still holds the record of technically being the youngest "undisputed" heavyweight title holder. D'amato often faced the accusation of having a "paper champion" as Patterson took the prize in a tournament for Rocky Marciano's vacated title in 1956.

Ali of course led the Golden Age of Heavyweights with fights against Joe Frazier, Ken Norton, George Foreman, Earnie Shavers, and more. Patterson also attempted to regain his title from Ali but failed in his 1965 bout with D'amato in his corner. Ali chose to dance, mock, and embarrass Patterson in front of the entire Rat Pack for twelve rounds before a knockout.

Years later Tyson wrote in his autobiography that D'amato never thought he would have another world champion after Patterson. The noted trainer was in his mid seventies when he pegged Tyson as the future of boxing when he was only thirteen.

Tyson won the Gold Medal for the United States at the Olympic Games in 1984. Soon after he turned pro his trainer D'amato gained his revenge over Ali when Tyson beat Trevor Berbick for his first world title. Berbick is largely a footnote in boxing world champions but is notable for being Muhammad Ali's final opponent in a disappointing loss for "The Greatest" in 1981.

Ali visited Tyson in his corner before the opening bell and reportedly whispered, "Kick his ass for me."

Tyson honored Ali's request that night by winning the title from Berbick and became the new youngest heavyweight champion just like D'amato's former student Patterson. D'amato unfortunately passed away in 1985 soon after the legend of Iron Mike was solidified. On Tyson's victory, veteran British reporter Donald Saunders wrote in The Daily Telegraph:

"The noble and manly art of boxing can at least cease worrying about its immediate future, now [that] it has discovered a heavyweight champion fit to stand alongside Dempsey, Tunney, Louis, Marciano and Ali."

Ronda Rousey also began life with a difficult hand like Tyson. Her father committed suicide when she was only 8. Rousey herself suffered from speech apraxia and could not form words or sentences for the first six years of her life but it may also be possible everyone was just afraid to talk to even a baby version of Rousey. Her apraxia was caused in the womb by umbilical cord strangulation.

It was the start of a life spent refusing to submit and nine months of hands-on training in choke holds.

Rousey followed another similar path to Tyson in first achieving Olympic Gold in Judo. In professional sports Tyson and D'amato strove to rule an existing dynasty in Heavyweight Boxing. Rousey aspired for the UFC Women's division and title. This dream was difficult for many reasons. Chief among them was there was NO women's division in the UFC until it was created especially for Rousey!

Rousey tapped out gender barriers when she became the first female fighter to sign with the organization in 2012. UFC President Dana White said on her contract signing:

""I've never been interested in women's MMA... I'm telling you: this girl, she's nasty. She might be beautiful on the outside, she's a Diaz brother on the inside. She's a real fighter and she's very talented."

White concluded his short press release with an omen on Rousey's future when he said, "I think she's going to be a big superstar." Rousey and Tyson dominated at the peak of their first championship runs. The new UFC women's division felt much like the heavyweight boxing scene with Tyson in the late 80's with Rousey as champion.

Winning streaks are fun but almost always don't last forever. This is where I spotted the beginning of more specific similarities when I found they were both:

2. First Beaten by Vegetable (or Fruit?) Cans


The Joker was famous for saying the only thing people love more than a hero is to watch him fall. Unfortunately watching the fall of these great fighters was more like watching Batman & Robin than The Dark Knight.

Most professional fighters lose a few bouts over a learning curve on the way to the top. Both Rousey and Tyson were rare unbeaten champions when they lost at their peaks. This was not an impossible coincidence but both losses were upsets to unknowns in their sports!

Only a single bookmaker in the world laid odds when Tyson took a fight against a Tomato Can named Buster Douglas. A Tomato Can is a boxing term for a fighter put in front of a greater champion to be effortlessly knocked over. Promoter Don King thought poor Buster fit that bill for Mike's next required defense.

The fight was considered a joke when it was booked for the Tokyo Dome in 1990. The new decade was filled with nothing but promise for Tyson and Don King most likely bought the challenger a one-way ticket .

No one was laughing, however, when a motivated Douglas knocked out Tyson in the ninth round. That night HBO mainstay announcer and boxing expert Jim Lampley said, "Let's go ahead and call it the biggest upset in the history of heavyweight championship fights."

Fast forward to Rousey's career in 2010 and the Rowdy Rousey was undefeated in six title defenses. Her fans eagerly paid nearly one hundred dollars to watch short fight nights that fit into free online .GIFs posted the next morning.

Seven was not her lucky number when faced an unknown named Holly Holm in the main event of UFC 193 in November of 2015. Much like Buster Douglas, Holm was a long-shot underdog who inexplicably beat Rousey early in the second round.

Losses are tough but every boxer not named Marciano or Mayweather has them. These upset defeats at the hands of Tomato Cans, however, resulted in immediate losses outside the ring when:

3. Pop Culture Kicked them While Down!

Nintendo/ Lionsgate / Via

All athletes imagine a windfall from brand identity. Air Jordan shoes will outlive Michael Jordan but few people remember the rival footwear of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Probably because his name wouldn't fit on anything smaller than a size 14 mens.

Tyson and Rousey won two lotteries by achieving success in sports and crossing-over into mainstream popular culture. All original Nintendo lovers remember the highly popular game "Mike Tyson's Punch Out".

It was an addictive button masher title with a colorful cast of 8-bit boxers. You, the player, must defeat them all before meeting Tyson in an impossible (for me) main event. Nintendo turned the 80's most dominant champion to one of video game's original "unbeatable boss" characters.

Then Tyson lost to Douglas and Nintendo abruptly pulled his name from the game!

Players continued to press "A" and "B" at a collection of colored dots modeled after Iron Mike even after Nintendo ended the license. It may have been a subtle dig at Tyson when the final boss was renamed "Mr. Dream" after the Tokyo fight. If Punch Out" was released today a patch or DLC would replace Tyson's polygons with a Buster Douglas knock-off character.

While there is no "Ronda Rousey's Choke Out" title she also lost a top spot in popular culture after her 2015 loss. Rousey starred in a major studio's film franchise, "Expendables 3" in 2014. With a spot on a heavily-male cast Rousey's status in Hollywood as a female action hero was soaring high.

Now after two losses Expendables 4 is slated to debut in theaters in 2017. Rousey is noticeably absent from the cast list despite being a major part of the previous film's marketing less than three years ago.

Much like Tyson and Buster, Rousey's film and media appearances ground to a halt after her loss to Holm. She did appear soon after on SNL. The episode's sketches were still awkwardly based on her being an unstoppable combat machine but then hastily had to mention her defeat in a rewritten monologue.

That was likely Lorne Michael's best option after he learned Rousey already cashed the peacock check they advanced. Aside from the monologue the SNL players carried on as if she was an undefeated female juggernaut.

I imagine it was because the cast was scared to bring up the loss with Rousey. (Except perhaps for Leslie Jones. She's fearless.)

Fame has always been fickle and once an athlete is considered passed their prime they become a pariah. It was there I found the strangest set of coincidences and parallels between the two:

After their first losses, a "fake fighting" company cancelled planned appearances for Rousey and Tyson and majorly featured them in editions of the same-named event. Decades apart!

It was all thanks to same man, Vince McMahon, with:

4. The WWF's (WWE) Wrestlemania Connections

WWE / Via

The most shocking Tyson-Rousey connections I found were near identical appearances at WWF/WWE's Wrestlemania events set in two different centuries.

Tyson changed the course of pro-wrestling itself at Wrestlemania 14 in 1998. His appearance is credited as the major tipping point in the"Monday Night Wars" fiercely waged between then- WWF and major competitor WCW. WCW was the leading in ratings at the time Tyson signed to appear as "special enforcer" in a match with Champ Shawn Michaels and Stone Cold Steve Austin for the second place WWF.

In the aftermath of the main event Tyson knocked out frequent 90's WWF World Champion "Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels. The company entered an unheard of boom period with champion Stone Cold when Tyson raised his hand that night to begin the Attitude Era of the WWF.

WCW was out of business within five years.

Despite possibly saving the company from bankruptcy in 1998, few know Tyson was bumped from a previous WWF event by owner Vince McMahon in 1990. He was all set to appear on McMahon's new show on NBC, "The Main Event" this time as a referee for a rematch from another Wrestlemania!

The timing of the appearance was notable because it was scheduled so soon after the Douglas fight. Rousey and Tyson's itineraries both demonstrated how lightly they took the opponents who handed them their first losses. Rousey at least waited a few months for the SNL episode set after the Holm fight.

Tyson however agreed to appear on "The Main Event" only days after what became his first loss to Douglas in the Tokyo Dome!

After the loss McMahon imitated Nintendo and abruptly decided Tyson's fame and legitimate fight record were as meaningless as the Brooklyn Brawler's. In a last-minute cast change, Buster portrayed the referee in a Wrestlemania rematch between the late Macho Man Randy Savage and unwilling (unwanted) former sex tape star Hulk Hogan on the show's third episode.

McMahon's "The Main Event" lasted only two more episodes as the show was more short-lived than McMahon's later venture the XFL. Tyson made it back to WWF and WWE over the years after time cooled the Tokyo Upset.

Rousey's sole in-ring WWE appearance was at Wrestlemania and came before her first loss. She appeared in March of 2015 at Wrestlemania 31 and her action scene was scripted almost exactly like Tyson's in 1998. The similarities continued when she was featured with another attitude era star champion, The Rock (played by the lesser-known Dwayne Johnson).

At this Wrestlemania she teamed with the man who inherited Ali's nickname, the People's Champion, from the Greatest himself. Rousey received huge pops like Tyson when she attacked a noted WOMEN's WWF champion.

I was almost able to say Rousey attached a 90's world champion like Tyson. But on further review, her segment partner, Stephanie McMahon, did not win the title until March of the year 2000.

This similarity was missed by only three months!

Many believed Rousey stole the show with her Mania segment when she hip tossed the part-time performer and a chief WWE owner as McMahon howled in pain! (Pictured Above!)

(Stephanie balances her time these days playing an evil megalomaniac in short dresses on TV and working with the Vice President on cancer research. )

The appearance generated heavy buzz and strong hints of future story-lines in the WWE. Much like Tyson after the Douglas fight, any future plans were squashed and she has yet to appear. The WWE has not made any official statement on the lack of Rousey after such a prominent spot on a Wrestlemania card.

She may yet find her way back as Tyson did in the late 90's and appearances in the 2000's. Tyson made a comeback on WWE programming but his boxing comeback was disappointing. Rousey can unfortunately relate to that as well because....

5. Both Anticipated Comebacks were Duds

SHOtime/ UFC / Via

Tyson faced jail time after his lost to Douglas which gave Evander Holyfield the chance to rise to the top of the division. Tyson returned in a string of unimpressive wins before he "Finally" faced Holyfield in 1996.

The fights between Tyson and Holyfield were the last exciting days of Heavyweight Boxing before it fell to lighter and faster fighters like Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather, and Manny Pacquiao. The first fight with Holyfield was intended to vindicate Tyson as the greatest Heavyweight of all time.

Instead Holyfield shocked the world when he won the bout in Tyson's second upset loss with an 11th round TKO.

The 1997 rematch was set a few months later. Of course, it was marred by Tyson infamously biting off part of Holyfield's ear. I watched this fight on PPV and was legitimately scared of Tyson. It's widely known he was disqualified for biting off a chunk of Holyfield's ear. Fewer remember now it happened twice in the fight.

The second bite came even after Mills "Let's Get it On!" Lane decided just to give Tyson a warning for chewing on another man's head during a sporting event.

After Tyson went back for seconds from Holyfield, Lane said he had no choice but to stop the highly-anticipated rematch. Ironically, Lane was brought in as a replacement ref by Tyson's camp when they objected to the first choice. Fans felt cheated and Heavyweight Boxing has never recovered.

Tyson was initially banned from boxing for life though the decision was later reversed. He continued to flounder in the division before a dream match with Lennox Lewis was scheduled. Everyone recognized it was Tyson's last chance for a comeback including Iron Mike himself.

Lewis won the fight with a decisive KO in the 8th round.

Tyson sought a comeback but Lewis delivered his last defeat in 2001 and marked the end of his fight career altogether. Unlike Douglas or Holyfield this loss was not an upset. When he was knocked out the announcers stated the book had been closed on Tyson before the ref finished the ten count.

Then in late 2015 Rousey prepared for what she also saw as her one shot for a comeback. Rousey vanished for 13 months after the Holm loss to train for her fight entitled, "She's Back". That fight was set for December 30th 2016 against challenger Amanda Nunes.

Rousey said her disappearance was due to a commitment to the comeback. She said of her layoff: "Returning to not just fighting, but winning, was my entire focus this past year."

Unfortunately that entire focus resulted in a disappointing loss to Nunes at 48 seconds in the first round. After the Nunes loss the media immediately treated Rousey like Tyson in 2001. Everyone from fans, experts, and her own family now beg for her to retire.

On the subject of retirement Rousey delivered the same speech every fighter makes after a big loss. She said she needed to "take some time to reflect and think about the future."

When fighters inevitably make this statement it means they already decided they are finished or are about to begin a string of disappointing bouts. Tyson opted for the latter. In his post-Holyfield bouts he either stuck to more Tomato Cans or appeared as a parody of his former self. Sadly that was the case in his last fight against Lewis.

Tyson chose to retire after the Lewis loss. If was not due to a lack of prospects. He received lucrative offers to step back in the ring again. Tyson said at one point he felt stalked by challenger Michael Tarver who begged him for a fight. If Rousey retires she will undoubtedly be tempted back to the Octagon by other young upstarts looking to make a name for themselves by drawing blood from an old lion to look strong for the pride.

Tyson refused all offers despite heavy debt and bankruptcies after a lifetime of wasteful spending and bad investments. I've discussed many odd coincidences and similarities between the two but I hope Rousey's post-fight future does not become the same roller coaster of highs and lows as Tyson.

Brighter days may be ahead for Rousey if she realizes:

6. There is Life after Losses!

Hollywood Reporter/Espy / Via

Tyson embarked on an odyssey for redemption after his knockout. Though it took nearly as long as the Odyssey's namesake hero Odysseus he found life and success without boxing. Now the former cannibalistic "MADMAN" spends his days tweeting encouragements, performing in one-man shows, and making everyone laugh in the Hangover films with flashy musical numbers.

Whenever Rousey chooses a day job that does not involve bashing others in the skull she will have an advantage over Tyson. As previously mentioned she was already a diversified and established star outside of the octagon before her loss. Tyson was only known for boxing, his tabloid life, and marrying the girl on Head of the Class (Now illegally uploaded to YouTube, check your local listings).

Even with his trials and failures Tyson proved the wounds of a fall from the highest reaches of combat sports can be forgotten and reinvention is possible.

Rousey should consider her other options as the recent loss many have counted her out for a comeback. She claims she spent thirteen months preparing for her last fight with no outside distractions. That raises a legitimate question of what would be different in a hypothetical next fight.

After her loss, experts, media, analysts and even her own family told Rousey to quit. Rousey received the same advice from her mother. It is true most would not expect objective judgments from a fighter's parent. Rousey's mother though is far from the typical worry-wart. I was personally unaware Rousey's legacy as a female bad ass runs in the genes until I found out:

Her mother is AnnMaria De Mars, the first American world champion of any gender from the 1984 World Judo Championships from the United States. De Mars said on her daughter's future:

“I would like to see her retire,” De Mars told “I said you’re smart and beautiful — let the stupid people get punched in the face. Sorry stupid people.”

That quote may become the best motherly advice since "Life is Like a Box of Chocolates". Sally Field may even be available if Rousey's life ever receives a Forest Gump Treatment!

I want to wish Rousey the best and hope she avoids the same lulls and personal demons as Tyson. One thing all combat fighters seem to hold in common across eras, race, and now gender is the inability to know when to tap out to the inevitable screeching halt of a career.

Good Luck Rowdy Ronda, we all hope you find your own "Hangover" soon!

(If you enjoy the esoteric and micro-details from history and popular culture, visit me at: and @JSandlinWriter on twitter.)

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