It's the first women’s mixed martial arts (MMA) match in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) history. The first to, therefore, headline a major pay-per-view (PPV) event. And the first women’s 135-pound title fight, too.
Got it? Good. Now get used to it (hopefully).
A lot’s riding on this one for the UFC, as they go all-in on Rousey, and, perhaps, women’s MMA. Facing the tough Carmouche, Rousey has a challenger with nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Carmouche put on an outstanding performance on short notice in challenging then-champ Marloes Coenen for the Strikeforce Bantamweight championship (the belt she’s vying for here). Carmouche outwrestled Coenen and outhustled her in numerous transitions, piling up a solid points lead prior to getting triangled in the fourth.
"Girl-Rilla" will have to bring that kind of upstart spirit against Rousey, and it starts with denying "Rowdy" takedown setups, which for Rousey comprises clinches and nasty throws.
Rousey’s stand up is pretty much a rumor at this point, and in the few instances where she’s had to deal with heavy leather in striking range, she pretty much blows through it, bereft of technique, but it hasn’t mattered thus far. Nobody’s been able to punish her, and most striking in women’s MMA isn’t evolved enough to capitalize on what are basically bull rushes.
In the clinch, Rousey should be able to dominate, and Carmouche, who carries a much smaller frame for a 135-pounder, is sure to get tossed. Once on the ground, it’s key that she work to secure a stall position such as half-guard or guard and hang in there for a standup, so she can get to her feet.
The right gameplan will be surviving a few of these, nailing Rousey with strikes as she wades in, and hoping Rousey gets increasingly frustrated as the one glaring hole in her game – stand up – causes her to stress and fatigue when it becomes more of a factor.
Otherwise, Rousey is taking her down, working to mount, and softening her up with a few punches to demonstrate women definitely do belong in the UFC. And then she’ll deliver her trademark armbar, which at this point seems the most unstoppable obvious play in the sports since the Chicago Bears lined up William "Refrigerator" Perry on short-yardage situations.
You know it’s coming, but there isn’t much you can do to stop it.
Check out a complete breakdown of the UFC 157 main event between Ronda Rousey vs. Liz Carmouche below:
The scope of the event isn’t likely to effect Rousey, as she was eminently composed in dispatching tough Miesha Tate to take the belt, despite having a four fights lasting a total of just over two minutes. It pretty much resembled a black belt working out with a purple belt, and the scary thing is that Rousey has such a huge upside in terms of rounding out the rest of her game.
For Carmouche, not getting tossed on her head is key early, as well as landing a shot or two, anything, really, in the critical opening exchanges without getting driven to the mat. Anything short of this will foreshadow a repeat of Rousey’s six previous first-round submission smashes.
There’s also the entertainment factor. If pushed into a tough, taxing fight, will Rousey’s gas tank for MMA be sufficient? We’ve seen how eminently gifted fighters like Brock Lesnar can completely fall apart once the full scope of an MMA bout weighs on them, and become gassed/discouraged pretty fast.
On a purely physical and technical level, Rousey is reminiscent of vintage Mark Coleman, when the Ohio State wrestling terror burst on the scene at UFC 10 in 1996. Coleman was a vibrant incarnation of what was possible in the grappling element of the game, given a specimen blessed with world-class skills and athleticism.
No longer was "grappling" a game relegated, per-se, to clumsy takedowns of a Gracie or the seemingly foolproof strategy of cooking opponents from the guard until they invariably blundered into a trap. Coleman brought violence and destruction in an onslaught that made far better viewing fare.
Thus far, women’s MMA has pretty much had "Cyborg" Cristiane Santos as its best representation of how good the striking game could be. Everyone else has been several degrees removed, at best. Rousey makes grappling in women’s MMA a hot-button proposition for any foe caught in her web, and, more importantly, seems inherently comfortable with her role as the heir apparent.
It’s hard to see this one going any differently.
Rousey isn’t just a star, but one of those rare athletes that seems confident in seizing the mantle because of utter confidence in their ability. She’ll respond to the big stage in grand style, taking down Carmouche in the opening minute. She’ll work from there to soften up Carmouche with some big-time ground strikes (Rousey’s stand up is still incredibly raw, but she can hit hard as hell on the ground), prior to Carmouche giving her back and being submitted via rear naked choke or, if Rousey wants to make a statement, a ground-and-pound barrage that prompts a referee intervention.
Rousey via technical knockout.
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the UFC 157 PPV main card action, which is slated to start promptly at 10 p.m. ET. Up-to-the-minute updates and fight-by-fight coverage will begin to flow earlier than that, however, around 6:30 p.m. ET with the "Prelims" bouts on Facebook and FX.
Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst