LAS VEGAS • Ronda Rousey's long-awaited comeback ended in 48 seconds.
The American suffered another pounding on Friday, 13 months after the first defeat of her career, when Amanda Nunes won by a technical knockout less than a minute into their mixed martial arts (MMA) fight in Las Vegas.
The 28-year-old Nunes barely broke a sweat against a helpless Rousey to easily retain her UFC women's bantamweight belt.
Referee Herb Dean stopped the rout 48 seconds into the opening round after Nunes landed an overhand right, followed by a straight left to Rousey's head.
"She had her time. She did a lot for this sport. Thank you, Ronda Rousey. I'm the champion, the Lion," said the Brazilian (14-4).
Rousey entered the octagon first with her trademark scowl, but the angry demeanour quickly turned to desperation as the former champion looked out of her class from the moment Nunes backed her up with the first overhand right.
The 29-year-old from Los Angeles had not fought since she was pummelled in similar fashion by Holly Holm at UFC 193 in Melbourne in November 2015.
Following that loss, Rousey went into seclusion and kept a low profile in the build-up to the Nunes fight by declining any interviews.
The Holm loss has also shattered the mystique that Rousey had developed during the 12 straight wins that kick-started her career. She is now 12-2 overall.
Rousey, a former Olympic judo medallist, is one of MMA's biggest stars and has helped widen the sport's global appeal. So it was no surprise that her return after a protracted absence created a huge buzz, with organisers predicting record pay-per-view buys.
The American earned a guaranteed US$3 million (S$4.34 million) payday, matching Conor McGregor for the highest disclosed payout in UFC history. She is also set to receive an undisclosed share of the pay-per-view revenues.
Nunes was paid US$100,000 to show and another US$100,000 as a win bonus for her first title retention, apart from her undisclosed share of pay-per-view revenues.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect for fans on Friday was Rousey's inability to put up any semblance of a defence. She was rocked by a number of overhand rights before finally being wobbled one last time, appearing to be out on her feet. She managed to stay up by holding on to the side of the cage with her right hand.
After it was over, Rousey did not stick around. She exited the cage quickly without doing any interviews, leaving many to wonder if she will ever return to her old form or to the octagon at all.
Nunes, the winner of five straight fights, was dismissive of Rousey.
"She's going to retire and go to movies and make a lot of money now," she said. "You have lots of talent in this division. Forget about Ronda Rousey."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS