When mythic events happen — even tragedies — they often allow us a peek inside the world of human beings and how they operate. It’s even better when multiple mythic events align. You just have to train yourself to see the strings that connect them.

Enter Ronda Rousey, an MMA fighter trained in judo but who specialized in brutal berzerker tactics. Billed as unstoppable and ‘a shark who swims alone’, voted the Best Female Athlete Ever, she got to her position on top of womens’ athletics via as much hype as skill. Rousey’s signature style was to get inside her opponents’ OODA loop — ‘Observe, Orient, Decide, Act’ — and hit them with such speed and brutality that they could not recover and reorient themselves.

Advertisement

These are the same tactics that ISIS uses against the West. They build themselves up with hype and PR to attract followers, and then they engage in barbarous violence as widely as they can, to prevent international authorities from reacting efficiently. How do you stop an enemy like that?

Ask Holly Holm, kickboxer and UFC champion, who understood how Rousey operated and calmly took her down. Holm evaded Rousey’s early blitzkrieg attacks, then retaliated with hard, skilled strikes that degraded Rousey’s ability to fight. When Rousey was weak enough, Holm ended the match with a devastating knockout kick. And then — perhaps most importantly — after the fight Holm embraced her defeated opponent, while showing respect and constraint. Skill, power, and compassion are the tools Holm used to defeat Rousey.

Let’s not extend the metaphor too far. Rousey will be back; she’s not a bad person, just a big of an egoist, and now that she’s learned a bit of humility she will hopefully rise to even greater heights as an athlete.

Advertisement

But you could not ask for a clearer lesson on how to stop the tactics of a berzerker. Lessons like that resonate, and they teach us how to handle other events far away from the myths that generated them. One legendary fight in the MMA ring may provide us clues on how to deal with berzerkers on the global stage.