Cat Zingano was shattered. Whatever pain was throbbing in the shoulder Ronda Rousey had just pulverized with a devastating armbar 14 seconds into their championship bout at UFC 184 Saturday night was the least of it. This was the fight she'd waited her entire life for, and it was over before she could breathe, much less brawl. She was supposed to be Rousey's toughest challenger to date, and the fight was short enough to turn into a Vine. The sport needed this. She needed this. Rousey needed this. Zingano couldn't deliver.
She knelt to the ground, shaking her head. What in the hell had just happened?
"I was just stunned and speechless and caught in that moment," Zingano said.
Rousey had uncoiled with such fury and ferocity, it felt like the entire sellout crowd at Staples Center had just been in a violent car accident together. The kind of wreck that happens so fast, all you remember afterward is the adrenaline that surged at the moment of impact and coursed through your veins while your ears kept ringing.
Fourteen seconds, but man, what a 14 seconds ...
"There's very few situations where a fight goes 14 seconds where the crowd is cheering and going crazy and looking at each other with their mouths open," UFC president Dana White said.
This was one of them. No one was apologizing afterward.
"I feel like we took a women's co-main event and sold out the Staples Center," Rousey said. "There's nothing hanging over that. I'm very proud of what I did tonight."
This is how Rousey talks. She says something confidently and leaves it at that. She doesn't undercut the statement with faux humility afterward. She doesn't worry how people will react to it, or whether they bristle at her swagger.
She just puts it out there and lets it be.
Be yourself, let the world deal with you.
It's why she connects with people, why they wear "Rowdy" T-shirts and buy her fights on pay-per-view. In the four years since she turned professional after a distinguished Olympic career, Rousey has become as famous for her attitude as for her accomplishments. Yes, she's now 11-0 with four title defenses that ended in the first round. But she resonates because of who she is.
For a town known as fake, Los Angeles is remarkably good at recognizing the real thing. There's so much filler and fluff everywhere you look, when someone authentic comes around, they stand out.
"We met for lunch and it took me 10 minutes," said her agent from William Morris Entertainment, Brad Slater. "There was talent from a mile away."
Slater met with Rousey before the UFC ever had a women's division. White didn't think it would succeed. Her trainer, Edmond Tarverdyan, didn't want to have anything to do with her at first.
"The first day she came to the gym and tried to get my attention, I didn't even want to work with her," Tarverdyan said. "She knew that she had to show her skills were as good as any man out there."
They were then. They're even better now.
"She transitions from one submission hold to the next so well," said UFC Hall of Famer Chuck Liddell. "It's just slick. That's the best word for it. Slick. I've seen some really good submission guys who don't do it as well as she does ... and she's still getting better, too."
That's why she can headline a card like this and sell out a 17,000-seat arena. Rousey isn't just a great female fighter -- she's a great fighter. This isn't some gimmick. She's got game.
After the fight, White usually holds a news conference with the winners of the main event card. He stands at the center of the podium and holds court. His big personality always wins the room. But on this night, for maybe the first time ever in the history of the UFC, it didn't feel like White had to be there. He was, of course -- he always is. But you got the feeling Rousey could've carried this one herself.
"She doesn't have a publicist," Slater said. "No one could do a better job of selling Ronda Rousey than she does for herself."
The thing is, it never feels like she's trying to sell you. She kind of is who she says she is. And in an era where feminism has become more about self-actualization than removing obstacles that contribute to gender inequality, Rousey pops.
"Her whole attitude is, 'You don't have to live up to anyone else's expectations of you,'" said her mother, AnnMaria DeMars. "You just have to be you."
Rousey was just that on Saturday night. Fierce, intense, thrilling and violent. She was way too good for Zingano, and yet it was still completely fascinating to watch.
You wonder how long she can hold our attention this way. At some point, will fans tire of her greatness?
"She needs an up-and-comer that's going to give her a run," Liddell said. "She needs a fight where everyone's going to say, that girl gave her a run."
At the beginning of his UFC career, Liddell went on a similarly dominant run. Eventually the field caught up.
"As far as women fighting, there's such a distance between the superb fighter and all the other ones," Liddell said. "But you have to start somewhere. And there will be more people coming in. It's going to be more competitive one day."
For now, though, Rousey just might be good enough to command the stage on her own. White can stand in the middle of the podium and sell her. Slater can pitch her for television shows and movies (she's in the new "Entourage" movie and "The Athena Project" and will star in a new feature film which will be announced next week). Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino can challenge her.
But Rousey is more than a fighter now. She's an attitude. Rowdy isn't a nickname -- it's an alter ego, like Beyonce's Sasha Fierce. You say it, or you wear it on a shirt, and it means something.
Say what you mean and leave it at that. End the fight in 14 seconds and don't apologize. Because man, that was an incredible 14 seconds.