Scrutiny’s spotlight shone down upon Ronda Rousey on Saturday in Anaheim, Calif., and she delivered.
Rousey retained her Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s bantamweight championship in the UFC 157 main event, as she submitted Liz Carmouche with a first-round armbar before a raucous crowd there to see the first-ever showdown between two females inside the Octagon.
Carmouche tapped out with 11 seconds remaining in round one, her right arm hopelessly entangled in the champion’s web. Carrying the torch for the women’s mixed martial arts movement, Rousey has finished all seven of her professional opponents by first-round armbar.
Carmouche provided the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist with her sternest test yet. The challenger transitioned to Rousey’s back a little more than a minute into the bout and tried to spring a shocking submission, first with a standing rear-naked choke and then with a gruesome neck crank. The 26-year-old judoka could not hide the fact that she was in distress, but managed to free herself from danger and forced Carmouche into a far less advantageous position.
Rousey powered into top position and assaulted the Team Hurricane Awesome representative with a series of punches to the face, setting the stage for the finish. Soon, Carmouche was trapped and her efforts to escape proved fruitless, as Rousey isolated the arm after a prolonged struggle and secured the tapout.
Next comes the difficult task of matching Rousey with someone other than Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos, the onetime Strikeforce champion who recently inked a deal with Invicta Fighting Championships. The logical choice figures to be the winner of the forthcoming matchup between Miesha Tate and the undefeated Cat Zingano at “The Ultimate Fighter 17” Finale on April 13. Tate gave Rousey a difficult fight under the Strikeforce banner in 2012, while Zingano has finished six of her first seven foes.
In the wake of UFC 157 “Rousey vs. Carmouche,” here are six other matchups that ought to be made:
Lyoto Machida vs. Jon Jones-Chael Sonnen winner: Machida captured a split decision over Dan Henderson in the co-headliner, likely sewing up a rematch with light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, provided “Bones” can get past Sonnen at UFC 159 in April. “The Dragon” kept Henderson on the perimeter, where he was unable to connect with the devastating right hand for which he has become known. Machida was left unconscious by a standing guillotine choke from Jones at UFC 140 in December 2011 and will likely enter the cage as a substantial underdog should the two meet again.
Dan Henderson vs. Rashad Evans: Henderson took a significant step backward in the light heavyweight division, and one has to wonder whether time has run out on realistic pursuits of UFC gold. The oldest active competitor on the UFC roster, he turns 43 in August. Whether he ever fights for the title again or not, Henderson will have his nose stuck in meaningful fights until he walks off into the sunset. Evans finds himself at a career crossroads of sorts, having dropped a disappointing unanimous decision to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 156 on Feb. 2.
Liz Carmouche vs. Miesha Tate-Cat Zingano loser: All signs indicate that Carmouche raised her stock in losing to women’s 135-pound queen Ronda Rousey in the main event. The 29-year-old Marine threw caution to the wind, went after Rousey and almost pulled off the upset before succumbing to the champion’s patented armbar in the closing seconds of round one. Tate and Zingano will toe the line against one another in the second-ever women’s bout inside the Octagon at “The Ultimate Fighter 17” Finale in April.
Urijah Faber vs. Brad Pickett-Mike Easton winner: Faber was in rare form in dispatching Ivan Menjivar with a standing rear-naked choke, as he became the first man since 2002 to submit the Tristar Gym veteran. The Team Alpha Male patriarch remains in the championship hunt at 135 pounds, even though he has lost his last five bouts in which a title was on the line. American Top Team’s Pickett will lock horns with the gifted but enigmatic Easton at UFC on Fuel TV 9 on April 6 in Sweden.
Robbie Lawler vs. Nate Marquardt-Jake Ellenberger winner: Lawler had not competed inside the Octagon in more than 3,000 days, but he made certain the masses would remember his return. The 30-year-old former EliteXC champion stopped the world-ranked Josh Koscheck on first-round punches and, in the process, established himself as a viable threat to the welterweight division’s elite. Marquardt and Ellenberger have a date on March 16, as they will collide at UFC 158 in Montreal.
Court McGee vs. Dan Miller-Jordan Mein winner: What McGee lacks in pure talent and athleticism he more than makes up for with work ethic, conditioning and drive. “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 11 winner halted a two-fight losing streak with a unanimous decision over Josh Neer and appeared to like his new haunts at 170 pounds. The 23-year-old Mein -- who has won eight of his last nine bouts -- will make his promotional debut at UFC 158 next month when he faces former International Fight League champion Dan Miller.