She may have ended her UFC career with two straight losses, and fight fans are still divided over her decision to take her talents to the world of sports entertainment. But former UFC women’s bantamweight champion and current WWE superstar Ronda Rousey was recognized Thursday as the headlining member of this year’s UFC Hall of Fame class, as well as the Hall of Fame’s first female inductee since its establishment in 2003. Rousey, who was inducted into the Modern Wing, was joined by Pioneer Wing inductee Matt Serra, Contributors Wing inductees Bruce Connal and Art Davie, and the classic UFC 139 battle between Dan Henderson and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, which made the Fight Wing.
As recalled by CBS Sports, Rousey entered the UFC in February 2013 after the promotion absorbed former competitor Strikeforce’s women’s bantamweight division, where she reigned as champion at the time of the company’s dissolution. After her move to the UFC, Rousey defended her title six straight times, ending the fight via first-round stoppage in all but five of those defenses and having a memorable rivalry against Miesha Tate. Her dominance of the octagon helped her become a “pop culture sensation,” according to CBS Sports, as mixed martial arts, particularly women’s MMA, continued to grow in popularity.
After a dominant 12-fight winning streak dating back to her MMA debut in 2011, Ronda Rousey lost her title at UFC 193 to Holly Holm, who surprisingly knocked out the highly favored champion in the second round. One year later, Rousey suffered her second and last MMA defeat, losing via first-round TKO to reigning UFC women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes. She then pursued her ambition to become a professional wrestler, signing with WWE earlier this year and making her in-ring debut at WrestleMania 34, where she and Kurt Angle defeated Triple H and Stephanie McMahon in mixed tag team action.
Although neither Dan Henderson nor Mauricio Rua were inducted as individual fighters, their UFC 139 battle made it to the UFC Hall of Fame’s Fight Wing as one of the most memorable fights in the promotion’s history. As detailed by MMA Junkie, the underdog “Hendo” got off to a hot start against the favored “Shogun,” only to get outfoxed by the Brazilian standout toward the end, as Rua landed a record 71 more strikes than Henderson in the fifth and final round.
Despite Rua’s valiant late-fight heroics, Henderson still won the fight by unanimous decision, with all three judges favoring him, 48-47. MMA Junkie described their battle as “possibly the greatest five-round non-title fight in UFC history.”
Aside from Ronda Rousey, Matt Serra was the other UFC inductee who made the promotion’s Hall of Fame this year, as he was recognized for his nine-year career that ended with his retirement in 2013. While Serra’s 11-7 career record was not especially noteworthy on paper, CBS Sports wrote that he pulled off a huge upset at UFC 69 in 2007, when he knocked out Georges St-Pierre in the first round of their welterweight championship fight.