That time of year
It seems impossible to credit that we have come to the end of another year, but here we are! It's around this time that people start to make "Best of" lists, ranking everything you can think of, from "Biggest Political Mistakes" to "Best Film of the Year". Sport is no exception, and it doesn't matter what's your poison, you will be inundated with all sorts of rankings, from "Ten Best Test Innings" to "The Five Fastest Racing Camels of 2015".
It's been an exciting year in sport, and I could pick from a dozen codes to make my own list, but if I were to sit down and think of the "Biggest Sporting Upsets of 2015" there is one moment so far ahead of the rest that it deserves to stand alone—MMA (mixed martial arts) fighter Ronda Rousey's shock defeat at the hands (or feet) of Holly Holm in the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) Women's Bantamweight Championship. More than just a sporting moment for the ages, it's a lesson we can all take something from, whether we play sport or not.
Anyone can be beaten
Leading up to the fight, no one seemed to give Holm a chance, and Rousey was widely seen as unbeatable. The bookies who set the odds are not swayed by sentimentality, for them it is a business, and they happily anointed Rousey as the favourite—and with good reason. She was unbeaten over her career, champion for three years, and the holder of numerous records, including the fastest average victory time for any weight class in the UFC, not just her own.
The sheer unexpectedness of the knockout shocked the sporting world, but proved the old adage that there is always someone better than you out there. Any sportsperson who goes into a match assuming that they are guaranteed to win is sure to end up learning this hard lesson (like Australia's cricket team being beaten by Bangladesh in Cardiff in 2015).
It also proves that if you believe in yourself, anything can happen, even against seemingly impossible odds (like England winning the Ashes against what was considered one of the greatest Test sides ever assembled, also in 2015). In sport, just like in life, you've got be in it to win it, and if you turn up you've given yourself a chance. Equally, you don't get that unlikely job if you don't even turn up for the interview, but once you are there, anything can happen.
Pride goeth before a fall
Rousey has a bit of a reputation for trash talking and is perceived to be more than a little bit arrogant, so there were a lot of people happy to see her humbled. To be fair, I think that people show a lot less tolerance when it is a woman acting so aggressively and refusing to be meek and mild, but for me it's always been something I dislike in a sportsperson, regardless of gender - Anthony Mundine and David Warner being classic examples.
Whatever the reasoning, there is no doubt that when someone talks themselves up too much, people actively want to see them knocked down a peg or two. The reverse holds, we tend to admire athletes who simply go about their business, and let their results do the talking.
The same applies in all walks of life. If you spend your time telling everyone how good you are, or tearing down others, people will be hoping to see you take a fall. You may get by for a while on talent or luck, but eventually it will catch up with you and you'll reap the harvest you've sown. But, if you practise a little humility, and give others their due, then you'll find people will be cheering you on.
It's how you lose that matters
Above all the others, though, is the most important lesson of all. The true test of character lies in adversity, and who we really are is illuminated more by defeat than it is ever in victory. It is easy to talk a big game when you are on top, but true champions stand up when everything is going against them. They either find a way to win, or they go away and work harder until they are ready for the next round.
Getting knocked down may have felt like the biggest test of her career, but for Ronda Rousey the real test lies ahead of her. How she goes down in the history of UFC will be determined by how she responds to this setback. Now that she has tasted defeat there are two paths she can take. One is to never again recapture that belief in her own ability, which will show it was based on a false sense of invincibility. The other is to pick herself up and learn from being beaten—and come back stronger and better than ever.
It's the same choice we are face with every day. How we respond to being knocked down, to not achieving the things we strive for, is the true test of our character. I have no doubt "Rowdy" Rousey will keep on trying—will we?