UFC 157: "Rousey vs. Carmouche" goes down this Saturday night (Feb. 23, 2013) from the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. The pay-per-view (PPV) event is headlined by the first-ever women's bantamweight championship bout in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) history as Ronda Rousey takes on Liz Carmouche.
Supporting the main event is two pivotal bouts -- one in the light heavyweight division as Dan Henderson meet Lyoto Machida, and the other in the bantamweight division as Urijah Faber and Ivan Menjivar collide in a rematch from 2006.
With the top three bouts of the UFC 157 garnering most of the attention from both fans and media, it's time to break down what, besides a paycheck, a victory on Saturday means for the six athletes carrying the UFC 157 fight card.
Let's find out:
Everyone knows the stakes are extremely high for Rousey on Saturday night as she enters her first UFC fight and title defense. With this fight receiving more attention than Rousey has ever had before, the pressure for "Rowdy" to deliver a stellar performance is greater than ever.
Many have said the future of women's mixed martial arts (MMA) in the UFC hinges on Rousey's success, and while that may be true for the long term, we at least know the UFC is committing to female MMA beyond Saturday with the recent booking of Miesha Tate vs. Cat Zingano at The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale.
A win for Rousey at UFC 157 means so much more than defending her title, remaining undefeated and becoming the first female to have her hand raised inside the Octagon. It means WMMA is here to stay and gives UFC matchmakers the freedom to start booking female fights on a regular basis.
If female MMA is still in the UFC in two, five or even 10 years - Rousey's victory at UFC 157 will be looked back on as the launching pad for its success.
Would a victory over Rousey for Carmouche at UFC 157 be the biggest upset in MMA history? Probably not, but it would certainly be up there among the most memorable.
"Girl-Rilla" opened as a colossal 12:1 underdog on the betting lines, which means very few are giving the UFC's first openly gay fighter a chance of winning.
If Carmouche can take Rousey out of the first round, survive the armbar attempts or even simply just avoid being taken down, all those things would be considered wins in some most books. Actually having her hand raised at the fight? That seems downright preposterous.
On the opposite end of the spectrum to Rousey, if Carmouche wins and WMMA isn't in the UFC two, five, or 10 years from now, you could very well point back to the night in Anaheim where Carmouche scored a monumental upset.
No one truly knows the UFC's long-term plans for WMMA, but we know it includes Rousey. Carmouche winning is a double-edged sword. It would be by far the biggest win of her career but it could also be the beginning of the end of female's fighting in the UFC.
Henderson, a former two-division Pride FC champion, waited nearly one year for his crack at the UFC light heavyweight title after defeating Mauricio Rua at UFC 139. And when the time finally came "Hendo" went down with a knee injury that forced him out of his scheduled UFC 151 title fight with Jon Jones and sent him back to the suddenly very crowded contenders line.
Finally healthy and prepared for his first fight since Nov. 2011, Henderson faces arguably his toughest challenge in years in the form of Machida, a former UFC light heavyweight champion.
A win over an opponent of Machida's caliber means a lot on its own, but with UFC President Dana White recently saying the 42-year-old would earn a title shot with a win at UFC 157, defeating "The Dragon" appears to be the only hurdle in Henderson's path back to the No. 1 contenders spot.
Depending on how the fight plays out, a win for Henderson could either mean he is going to be the one to face the Jones vs. Chael Sonnen winner later this year, or perhaps he will opt to fight one more time to solidify his place as the top contender at 205-pounds
Machida, a Former 205-pound champion, is in a bit of an odd position going into UFC 157. It was less than one year ago at UFC on FOX 4 where Machida was promised a title shot in the light heavyweight division following his devastating knockout of Ryan Bader, but the shot never materialized. Now "The Dragon" is in the co-main event of a massive PPV against a legend of the sport and people are only talking about what happens if Henderson wins.
In a perfect world, a win for Machida would mean he gets the title shot he rightfully earned at with his win over Bader last year. Unfortunately, the world of UFC matchmaking is far from perfect and there's a very good chance the Brazilian will have to fight again before the belt and would be passed over for Daniel Cormier or Alexander Gustafsson. It's easy to see how a fighter could be frustrated being in a position like Machida; however, if he keeps winning, there will be no denying him a title shot.
With that said, if Machida can become the first man to finish Henderson with strikes, that would send a massive statement to the rest of the division and a case could be made for him to be the next No. 1 contender.
"The California Kid" returns to the state of his nickname for the first time since Nov. 2011 as Faber takes on Ivan Menjivar in a rematch from 2006.
Despite losing a one-sided decision to current interim UFC bantamweight champion Renan Barao last July, Faber is still right there in the title picture at 135 pounds. Considering Faber is one of the biggest names in MMA to compete in the smaller weight classes, it only takes a couple -- or possibly even one -- stellar performance for him to land right there back in the title picture.
As strange as it may sound, what a win for Faber at UFC 157 means is really dependent on Faber's rival Dominick Cruz, who has been sidelined since May 2012 with a knee injury. Cruz is the undisputed champion of the weight class, but his return date to competition is unknown at this time. When he is ready to fight again, though, it will be a match against whoever is the interim champion at that time. Currently the interim belt belongs to Barao, and depending on Cruz's return time he may or may not defend the belt again.
If Barao does defend the strap, there's a very good chance Faber will slide into the role as the next challenger. Is Faber most deserving of the spot? Probably not. But few fighters at 135 pounds move the needle like Faber and it's very possible the UFC throws him into another title fight.
Regardless, a win for Faber puts him very high up in the division, but exactly how high up is dependent on Cruz's recovery and the state of the interim belt.
Saturday's fight against Urijah Faber is by far the biggest of Ivan Menjivar's career. The "Pride of El Salvador" has the chance to catapult up the rankings into title contention, but against someone as talented as Faber it won't come easy.
Menjivar has a chance to move near a title shot when he took at Mike Easton at UFC 148 last July, but came out on the losing end of a decision in what was arguably his worst performance since joining the UFC roster. Big opportunities like that don't come around often; however, the 30-year-old is back in a great position after a beautiful armbar submission of Azamat Gashimov at UFC 154.
In 2013, a win over Faber means much for any fighter. "The California Kid" is one of the most accomplished and highly regarded competitors in the history of the sport and having his name in the win column on your resume is a major milestone. Menjivar has been through it all over the course of his career, but he's never defeated someone like Faber.
Menjivar winning would mark the first time Faber has ever lost back-to-back fights, but most importantly, it would add a fresh face to the bantamweight title picture.