Ronda Rousey has finished all six of her opponents with first-round armbars. | Esther Lin/Forza LLC/Getty
Love it or hate it, women have arrived in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
The UFC 157 headliner between Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche could prove to be just the beginning, as the promotion has already demonstrated a commitment to signing some of the top 135-pound female talent available. Of course, much of the success of the newly formed division depends on Rousey. The Olympian must shine in her Octagon debut or risk slowing the momentum of the entire women’s movement. If her matchup with Carmouche turns out anything like her previous fights, “Rowdy” will not disappoint.
UFC 157 on Saturday also brings a key light heavyweight scrap to the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., with Dan Henderson squaring off against Lyoto Machida. The winner could be in line for a 205-pound title shot; the one downside is that Henderson and Machida have only three rounds to make their case.
Here is a closer look at UFC 157 “Rousey vs. Carmouche,” with analysis and picks:
Sherdog Fantasy MMA: UFC 157 Free Fan Pick’Em
UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship
Ronda Rousey (6-0, 0-0 UFC) vs. Liz Carmouche (8-2, 0-0 UFC)
The Matchup: Rousey’s rapid ascent to superstardom paved the way for women to enter the Octagon. Once upon a time UFC President Dana White declared that female fighters would never compete for his promotion, and, now, he is as big a Rousey fan as there is. Without Rousey, Invicta Fighting Championships would still be the pinnacle for women pursuing a career in MMA.
With that in mind, this matchup is more about introducing the Olympic judoka to a larger UFC pay-per-view audience than anything else. While Carmouche has a compelling story and a respectable resume, few had her pegged as the opponent for Rousey’s UFC debut. Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos remains the most interesting potential foe for Rousey, but the two sides appear to be a long way to coming to terms to make that bout happen. Another former Olympian, Sara McMann, looms as an attractive opponent down the road, assuming her progression as a fighter continues.
If the UFC and Rousey are to be believed, Carmouche was the only one willing to take the fight against the organization’s inaugural bantamweight champion. A former Marine and the first openly gay fighter on the UFC roster, “Girl-Rilla” undoubtedly has plenty of mental toughness to go along with her physical attributes. Carmouche fought twice for Invicta in 2012, bullying both Ashleigh Curry and Kaitlin Young with heavy ground-and-pound from mount. Perhaps her most notable performance came in defeat, however, as she dominated then-Strikeforce 135-pound ruler Marloes Coenen in a March 2011 title bout before succumbing to a triangle choke in round four; think female version of the UFC 117 meeting between Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen.
Carmouche is at her best when she can control the pace of a fight and impose her will in the clinch and through takedowns. She has demonstrated good instincts in scrambles and transitions on the floor and is accustomed to being able to physically overwhelm the majority of her opponents. With her standup still a work in progress, Carmouche struggles when she is unable to get a fight to the ground, as she did in losing a unanimous decision to Sarah Kaufman at Strikeforce Challengers 17.
This will be problematic against Rousey, who has rarely been on the defensive in six professional appearances. Miesha Tate fared the best against the Californian, attacking with her limited standup and even briefly taking Rousey’s back at one point in their encounter in March. Tate lasted 4:27 against the champion, by far the longest of anyone who has stepped into the cage with Rousey.
At this point, Rousey is leaps and bounds ahead of most of her foes in terms of strength and athleticism. Although her striking has rarely been utilized, she was proficient enough to punch her way into the clinch against Kaufman, take her down with an inside trip and quickly transition to her signature move. Rousey will be able to negate everything that Carmouche does well. In tie-ups, “Rowdy” can get the Team Hurricane Awesome member to the floor using trips, tosses or throws. Rousey is so skilled at isolating an arm on the mat that she has not had to utilize any other maneuvers thus far in her career, and there is no reason to think that this matchup will be any different.
The Matchup: Rousey is probably developing a solid all-around game during her time between fights, but when the lights come on, all she has needed is her bread-and-butter. Nothing changes here. Rousey taps Carmouche with an armbar in round one.
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