Photos via USA Today
MMAmania's Brian Hemminger takes a closer look at Saturday night's UFC 157 main event between women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey and challenger Liz Carmouche. What's the key to victory for both ladies? Find out below.
History will be made tomorrow night (Feb. 23, 2013) as the first women's bout will be held inside the Octagon between UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey and challenger Liz Carmouche in the main event of UFC 157 in Anaheim, California.
Rousey has quickly vaulted to the top of the world of MMA due to her incredible finishing ability, her charisma and her aggression. The "Rowdy" one remains unbeaten without having ever seen the second round of a fight and has finished every bout of her career via armbar.
Carmouche is the first openly gay fighter in UFC history and she was also the only girl who not only said "Yes" when asked to be Rousey's first UFC opponent, but she actually asked for the fight. The former Strikeforce title challenger and US Marine has a tall task ahead of her but one thing's for certain, she won't be intimidated.
Will Rousey vault herself to an even higher level of superstardom with a tremendous showing? Can Carmouche bring the Ronda hype train to a crashing halt? What's the key to victory for both women?
Record: 6-0 overall, 0-0 in the UFC
Key Losses: none
How she got here: Ronda Rousey had world class athleticism in her blood. Her mother was a world champion judo player and Ronda followed her in footsteps. Starting early in judo, Rousey made it to the Olympics by the time she was just 17 years old at the 2004 games in Athens.
In 2008, she not only qualified, but this time she medaled, earning a bronze in Beijing but when it was all over, she was done with judo and wanted to try something else. She began training in mixed martial arts and made her amateur debut in 2010, crushing all three of her opponents inside the first minute with her go-to move, the armbar.
Upon switching to a professional realm in 2010, she didn't slow down, crushing all four of her opponents via first minute armbar, even Strikeforce fighters Julia Budd and Sarah D'Alelio at 145 pounds. With talk that she could be the one to dethrone the champion, "Cyborg" Santos.
Instead, she announced she was first going to drop to 135 pounds and challenge for the title there, and she confidently talked her way into a title shot against Miesha Tate, winning the belt last March, which turned her into a superstar overnight.
Rousey continued her string of success against former champion Sarah Kaufman, tapping out the Greg Jackson-trained fighter in less than a minute in her first title defense last year before being brought to the UFC as its first womens' champion.
How she gets it done: Rousey is so athletic, flexible, powerful and skilled, she just needs to keep doing what she's been doing and that is rush in, overwhelm her opposition and force them to tap out.
Since dropping down to 135, her strength advantage is even more severe in the cage. Rousey is brutal in the clinch because she's capable of tossing you directly on your head at any given moment, or at least dragging you to the canvas if you put up any resistance.
Rousey has been working hard to round out her game, and her striking technique has improved by leaps and bounds. Don't be surprised if she tests the waters there against Carmouche, who had trouble with Sarah Kaufman's jab in Strikeforce.
While Carmouche is a pretty good wrestler, she relies much more on brute strength and pure heart than anything on the canvas. Rousey is silky smooth with her grappling and can transition to an armbar from just about any position so don't be surprised to see her attack from just about anywhere whether it be in guard, on top or even something crazy like a flying armbar (which she's done before against D'Alelio).
Record: 8-2 overall, 0-0 in the UFC
Key Wins: Kaitlin Young (Invicta 2), Jan Finney (Strikeforce Challengers)
Key Losses: Sarah Kaufman (Strikeforce Challengers 18), Marloes Coenen (Strikeforce: Feijao vs Henderson)
How she got here: Carmouche spent several years in the marines, doing three tours in Iraq and she wanted to do something more once she got out. The "GirlRilla" began training in mixed martial arts and quickly took a liking to it, making her pro debut in 2010.
Just five months later, she was already fighting in Strikeforce and by November of the same year, she crushed former women's 145 pound title challenger Jan Finney to move to 6-0 overall. When Miesha Tate went down with an injury, Carmouche stepped up on short notice to challenge Marloes Coenen for the women's bantamweight title.
In the title fight, Carmouche nearly shocked the world, taking Coenen down and pounding away, landing the most strikes in a women's fight in Strikeforce history, but was submitted in the fourth round in what many called the female version of Sonnen-Silva I.
The former marine lost her next bout against Sarah Kaufman, getting outstruck on the feet by the more technical boxer and having her nose bloodied, but she never stopped pushing forward and pressing the action.
Since then, she's won two straight fights in the all-women's Invicta Fighting Championship promotion, stopping both opponents with her overwhelming strength and power on the ground. When Ronda Rousey needed an opponent for her UFC debut, Carmouche gleefully accepted the challenge.
How she gets it done: Obviously this isn't going to be easy, simply because Rousey is so incredibly gifted and intimidating, but one thing Carmouche has going for her is she will not wilt mentally, simply because she's been through so much in her life already being one of the first openly gay fighters in MMA and the first in the UFC.
In pure power, Carmouche should have an advantage on the feet and she's never been afraid to eat a punch to dish one out. Don't be surprised if she stalks forward in the pocket and really tries to land that massive shot against Rousey on the feet.
Also, Carmouche is one of the most physically powerful women at 135 pounds and she will likely not be afraid to shoot in and try to put Rousey on her back. We've seen the "Rowdy" one look incredibly smooth when she's in complete control, but what happens if she starts eating ground and pound? It's all a gigantic question mark.
Carmouche has seen plenty of second, third and even a fourth round in her MMA career and if she can drag this fight into the later rounds, she'll have a better shot of pulling off the tremendous upset.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight is the incredible amount of pressure on both women. Rousey is used to the spotlight, having been on the US Olympic team and been a media darling for a year now. She is used to all the interviews and obligations and Carmouche is very new to this. While the "GirlRilla" has been handling everything like a champ, it can be very overwhelming the first time you have to deal with it.
Carmouche is already a pretty heavy underdog, but if she lets the pressure of the situation get to her, it could get even more difficult for her to pull off the big upset.
Bottom Line: There has yet to be a Ronda Rousey fight that wasn't jaw-dropping. The former Olympian possesses an incredible skill-set and can overwhelm even the most talented women fighters in the world including back-to-back first round finishes over Strikeforce women's bantamweight champions. She is incredibly aggressive and as long as Carmouche plays along and they go toe-to-toe for the entire duration of the fight, there's no way this bout can be boring. It's almost certainly going to live up to the ridiculous expectations.
Who will come out on top at UFC 157? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!