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Rousey retains belt, draws ire from fans

Former Olympian submits Tate in third round; draws Sara McMann for Feb. 22 bout

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Ronda Rousey makes her entrance to defend her bantamweight title against Miesha Tate at UFC 168 Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

UFC 168: Rousey vs. Tate

Miesha Tate extends her hand to shake Ronda Rousey's after Rousey submitted Tate with an arm bar to successfully defend her bantamweight title at UFC 168 Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Launch slideshow »

UFC 168: Weidman vs. Silva

Anderson Silva is wheeled out on a stretcher after breaking his leg during the second round of his middleweight title fight against Chris Weidman at UFC 168 Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

The boos of 15,620 fans rained down on Ronda Rousey as she walked down the aisle to the fitting song, “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett.

Rousey had no issue with the vocal dislike; and it just confirmed that she was every bit the villain in her UFC 168 fight against her rival, Miesha Tate, on Saturday.

“I wasn’t surprised (by the boos),” Rousey said. “I was aware of the role I was in.”

Rousey dispatched Tate by submitting the latter with a trademark armbar 58 seconds into the third round to retain her UFC women’s bantamweight title.

It was what came next that solidified Rousey’s status as one of the top villains in the UFC.

Tate extended her hand, moments after her defeat, offering it in a sign of respect to Rousey for beating her. Rousey refused Tate’s humble gesture, turning her back and celebrated, which sent the fans in and out of the MGM Grand Garden Arena into a rage.

The crowd’s boos drowned out any word Rousey spoke in her post-fight interview in the octagon, while some on social media voiced their displeasure.

Rousey stood firm. She felt Tate disrespected her, and would only shake Tate’s hand if she apologized for comments she made about those close to her.

“Boos aren’t more important than my family,” Rousey said. “(Handshakes) means something to me.”

Rousey, whose next fight is already lined up, took little damage against Tate, and their bout earned Fight of the Night honors.

Sara McMann is next for Rousey, slated for a Feb. 22 card in Las Vegas. McMann provides Rousey with another set of challenges. McMann, like Rousey, is an Olympic medalist, winning a silver medal in freestyle wrestling in the 2004 Athens games.

Rousey embraced the challenge, adding she wanted to stay active so she was willing to take another fight eight weeks from now.

“I’m in the best shape of my life now,” Rousey said. “I’m hungry. This is what I love to do.

“Hopefully I have another good show for you.”

***

Much of the talk leading up to this fight was focused on the rivalry between Rousey and Tate, which was captured for the world to see on the most recently completed season of “The Ultimate Fighter.”

There was no love lost. The two didn’t touch gloves prior to the fight, and Rousey’s scowl seemed to be a permanent fixture.

The talk of the fight will be focused on Rousey’s refusal to shake Tate’s hands after the fight, but it doesn’t take away from Rousey’s most brilliant performance to date.

Rousey couldn’t secure her patented submission hold in the first five minutes, and was dragged into the second round for the first time in her career.

Rousey wasn’t nervous, per se, but she felt antsy, used to trying to finish bouts in five minutes or less – a holdover from her judo days.

It was only after Rousey got to the third round that things clicked: She didn’t have to sprint through matches.

“I feel like my biggest challenge fighting is I’m in a rush,” she said. “Judo matches are only five minutes long. I always feel like I have to get it done in that time frame. After that first round ended, I was feeling antsy because I was in the second round. When I got to the third round, I was tired and I was finally learning how to be patient.”

Rousey also found herself in a few bad positions, whether it was on her back, even for brief moments, or having to take a few shots from Tate, who took every opportunity to stand with Rousey when she could get it.

Rousey answered the challenge to all of them, crediting her training with Rener and Ryron Gracie, and "Expendables 3" castmate Victor Ortiz for helping her gain confidence over training camp, which came with the challenge of filming a season of a reality TV series and a pair of movies.

Rousey will take a few days to relax before starting to focus on her bout with McMann.

Tate, meanwhile, is unsure of what is next.

She has lost two fights in a row, and has lost to Rousey twice, meaning a third meeting isn’t in the foreseeable future and will be a long road back.

Tate was visibly upset about losing the fight. She had her hood up, apologized for giving short, succinct answers and was disconnected from the goofiness that may come with press conferences at UFC events.

The silver lining that did come, however, was she gained a new following.

Whether it was mouthing the lyrics to her walk-out music or just being a gracious loser, she came off the likable and one fans want to see succeed.

“The fans -- they’re seriously awesome,” she said. “I can’t thank them enough. I can’t apologize for letting everyone down.”

Paul Delos Santos can be reached at 990-2416 or mail to [email protected] Follow Paul on Twitter at twitter.com/pauliedelos.

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