Ronda Rousey is the most dominant female athlete alive, right?
Maybe not. A few other women have a legitimate claim to that title. And if Serena Williams can smash her way through the US Open to wrap up a Grand Slam – an actual, honest-to-goodness, calendar-year Grand Slam, the first since Steffi Graf did it in 1988 – then let’s change that answer to “no.”
Williams already holds all four major titles and is gunning for her fourth straight US Open. A title at Flushing Meadows would be her fifth straight major (she already holds all four titles) and her fourth straight US Open. She will have won nine of the last 14 majors. The last 15 times she has been in a tournament final, she has walked away with the trophy. Her 2015 record: 48-2.
Will America finally embrace Serena Williams?
Rousey’s claim to the Most Dominant Female Athlete title is certainly strong — by one reckoning, she’s the most dominant athlete, period, male or female. She has a habit of quickly dispatching her opponents. Eight of her 12 professional fights lasted have lasted less than a minute. Fellow Olympic medalist Sara McMann made it to the 66-second mark and was the first fighter to lose by some manner other than armbar.
The quick fights put Rousey in a Catch-22 situation. We don’t know how she handles adversity because she simply hasn’t faced any since her judo career, in which she was a legit Olympic medalist but not an undefeated machine. In MMA, Rousey is so efficient that she’s rarely tested.
Williams is in less of a hurry. She sometimes seems to be using the first set as a warmup. Then she turns it up to a level no one can touch.
And Williams, unlike Rousey, loses every once in a while. That’ll happen in a career of more than 850 matches. In the weekly grind of the WTA tour, Williams sometimes isn’t at her best.
When she’s healthy and dialed in, though, she’s as unbeatable as Rousey. No one can handle her serve, which has topped out at 128mph this year. No one can outslug her from the baseline.
Rousey has beaten seven of the top 10 in the current UFC rankings. Williams has beaten the rest of the WTA top 10 many times over. Several players have beaten her once in several tries. Last week in Cincinnati, Williams improved her career record against against Halep to 6-1 and against No 7 Ana Ivanovic to 9-1. She’s 10-1 against Caroline Wozniacki, 5-1 against Petra Kvitova. She has never lost to Lucie Safarova or Karolina Pliskova.
The only player in the top 10 with two wins against the world’s No 1 is Maria Sharapova. As of 2004, the Russian star had a 2-1 record against Williams. Since then? Williams has won 17 straight.
That dominance shows in the WTA rankings. Williams has 12,721 points, more than double those of No 2 Simona Halep (6,130). Her Romanian rival moved up to second by reaching the final in Cincinnati last weekend but fell to Williams’ onslaught of 15 aces and 83 winners.
Little wonder that ESPNW gave Williams the No1 1 seed in its online bracket for the Best Female Athlete Ever. Rousey is in the competition but isn’t seeded.
So if you’re judging Williams v Rousey, the question is which you prefer — someone who competes a couple of times a year and plows through anyone placed in front of her, or someone who has been winning consistently since her teens and is having the best year of her career at age 33?
Put another way – would you rather have your house bulldozed, or would you rather have it methodically torn apart?
Or do you consider one of the other possibilities?
A dominant team sport athlete (Elena Delle Donne): Brittney Griner had the hype and the dunking ability. Delle Donne, the second pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft behind Griner, is redefining pro women’s basketball. She’s 6-5, so the inside scoring, shot-blocking and rebounding won’t be a surprise. But she can also take the ball outside to hit 3-pointers, and she’s sinking a staggering 95.3% of her free throws. She’s averaging nearly 24 points per game – only Maya Moore (20.6 per game) is also over the 20-point mark – threatening Diana Taurasi’s league record of 860 points in a season.
The case against Delle Donne: her team is clinging to third place in the Eastern Conference with a 17-11 record. Delle Donne might be a better candidate for “best” athlete instead of “most dominant.”
An athlete miles ahead in infrequently contested events (Katie Ledecky): three years ago, at age 15, Ledecky announced her presence in the swimming world with authority, winning the 800m freestyle in the 2012 Olympics.
The next year, Ledecky won four world titles — the 400, 800 and 1,500m freestyle, along with the 4x200m relay. If not for Missy Franklin’s six world titles, Ledecky would’ve taken all the headlines from the championships.
This year, Ledecky dominated the long-distance races as usual.
800m? Won by more than 10 seconds, set a world record.
1,500m? Won by nearly 15 seconds, set a world record.
400m? Won by nearly four seconds, set a championship record.
She also left the long-distance realm and took aim at the 200m freestyle, challenging reigning world champion Franklin and Italy’s Federica Pellegrini. No record, no rout, but Ledecky won that one, too.
Add the 4x200m freestyle relay in which Franklin was surely glad to be competing with Ledecky instead of against her, and Ledecky merely won five world championships this summer.
Someone with an epic win streak (Gwen Jorgensen): triathlon is not the sort of sport that usually sees one person win race after race. The men’s ITU World Triathlon Series has had five different winners in eight races this year.
The women’s series has had three, with an asterisk — the only two races Gwen Jorgensen didn’t win were the ones in which she didn’t compete. She has won 11 straight races dating back to April 2014.
Someone who simply wins much more than the others (Marit Bjoergen): Last year’s World Cup cross-country skiing standings saw three skiers with more than 1,000 points. Heidi Weng had 1,332. Therese Johaug had 1,388.
That was her fourth World Cup season title. She also won three gold medals in Sochi. And three in Vancouver. And 14 world championships. And 93 World Cup events.
Someone who only competes against men (Danica Patrick): No, she hasn’t won a bunch of races, but when was the last time she lost to another woman?