A lot of things were different for Ronda Rousey going into her match against Liz Carmouche at UFC 157. Yet in the end, it was the same ending as all of her other MMA fights. One key difference was that for the first time in the history of the UFC, a women’s match was the headliner. On a weekend that will see Danica Patrick start the Daytona 500 as the first female pole-sitter, the meteoric ascension of Ronda as the first true female MMA superstar was enough to push veteran male MMA fighters Dan Henderson and Lyoto Machida into supporting roles on this fight card. In fact, not only was this the first female headliner, it was the first female fight period in the UFC. Ronda’s previous championship was with Strikeforce. It took a star of Rousey’s magnitude to entice UFC president Dana White to finally after 20 years conduct a women’s match-up.
The biggest difference for Ronda Rousey wasn’t in setting UFC history, it was that she was in serious trouble in this fight. As with other opponents, Rousey quickly backed Liz Carmouche into the cage, taking her to the ground in top position. However, Ronda made a costly mistake. In going for Liz’s arm, she gave up her back. Carmouche latched onto Rousey’s back as Ronda stood up. Liz went for the standing rear naked choke, but to her credit Ronda wouldn’t let Liz lock up her legs. Still, Liz had complete control of Ronda’s head and neck. She transitioned from going for the standing rear naked choke to a neck crank. It looked like the the match would soon be over as Liz contorted Ronda’s head and neck to the side. I think there might have been fighters who would have tapped out. But Ronda stood in there and took the pain eventually prying apart Liz’s legs and dropping her to the ground.
Eventually, Ronda was able to get side control on Liz. This time Ronda did not immediate go for the arm. Maybe this match is a lesson in patience for Rousey. She instead pounded Carmouche’s face with left hand punches. More importantly than that, Ronda would not give up her back this time as Liz repeatedly tried to go for the the triangle from the bottom. It would be Liz who made a mistake, one that eventually cost her the match. On her last attempt to triangle Ronda, Rousey was able to slip under Liz’s attempt and roll her right leg over Carmouche, catching her in the spiderweb. At that point, Liz was in serious trouble. Only the clock could save her at this point. It took a while, but in the end Ronda was able to pry Liz’s arms apart and put Carmouche’s right arm into her signature arm-bar. Liz immediately tapped out. There were only 11 seconds left in the round. But if Liz hadn’t tapped out immediately, 11 seconds would have been more than enough time for Ronda to break Liz’s arm.
Albeit only a 1 round fight, it was packed with thrills, tension, the look of a monumental upset and finally the crowd favorite coming back to prevail. It might not have been the perfect script for Ronda Rousey, and certainly not Liz Carmouche, but for the UFC and women’s fighting it was. A blow-out Ronda win would have just re-inforced the belief that it’s Rousey on top with no challengers. A boring fight would have been horrible for the cause of getting more women’s fights in the UFC. Even a Carmouche upset might have been bad for the product. Ronda would still have been the bigger star and draw. It was still more important for her to win. Now, had it been Cyborg or Gina Carano beating Rousey, that would be different. And speaking of Cyborg, the fact that Ronda was pushed by Liz has the chat rooms ablaze with talk that Cyborg would beat Ronda. First of all, Cyborg needs to come to 135 if she wants Ronda. No reason for Rousey to accomodate Cyborg and go to 145. Secondly, while Ronda did show a mistake of being so eager to get into arm bar position that she can give up her back, I imagine Ronda will work on that. Not only that, she made the adjustment the second time she had Liz down when she was more patient and didn’t allow Liz to get her back. But that’s the future…maybe…if Cyborg can stay clean. Today is today. And on this day, Ronda and Liz combined to give fans a fight filled with high skill and high drama. Hats off and congratulations to both.
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RONDA ROUSEY D. LIZ CARMOUCHE (SUBMISSION VIA ARMBAR, 4:49 ROUND 1)