Heading into their Strikeforce bantamweight showdown on March 3, 2012, Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey created high expectations for women's mixed martial arts (MMA), which still faces an uncertain future. And in a rollicking battle at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, they delivered.
After an intense back-and-forth match, Rousey slammed home a crushing armbar for the submission win at 4:27 of the first round.
With the victory, Rousey took the promotion's 135-lb. title, and the unofficial helm as the "face of women's MMA." The victory didn't come easy, as the game Tate refused to go, fighting off an initial armbar attempt earlier in the round that appeared to damage her arm, prior to the finisher, where her lib was visibly mangled and bent far beyond the point where most fighters would've tapped.
In short, it was one hell of a performance by both and destroyed any lingering stigma that women's MMA can't be exciting or marketable. With a dizzying series of transitions on the ground, and Tate unloading early on the feet, the fight showcased women's MMA on a level that hinted at a massive upside if the sport can be harnessed, promoted and showcased properly.
With the victory, Rousey upped her ledger to 5-0, all via armbar submissions in the first round. With her previous longest bout a mere 49 seconds, she showed a necessary reservoir of resilience. Tate popped her a couple times on the feet, and created some tough positions; taking Rousey's back on a couple occasions, she forced "Rowdy" Ronda to back up her pre-fight trash talk by escaping the potentially dangerous spots.
Rousey did, en route to a brutal armbar finish.
With the victory, Rousey took the mantle of women's MMA on her talented shoulders. With Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos' one-year suspension ticking away, Rousey now has Sarah Kaufman as her likely first defense. She'll need to work on her standup defense and overall game, but that's one hell of a women's superfight to look forward to.
What's sobering to consider is that Rousey has plenty of time to improve and is obviously in the beginning of her improvement curve to become a well-rounded mixed martial artist. All in all, it was a memorable performance, and precisely what the ladies of MMA needed to make a statement that they belong on the big stage, with the attendant promotional mojo to develop the sport.
For complete Strikeforce: "Tate vs. Rousey" results and detailed blow-by-blow commentary of the televised main card fights click here. Undercard recap and wrap-up here.
Jason Probst can be reached at Jason@jasonprobst.com or twitter.com/jasonprobst.