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History in the Making: Strikeforce champ Marloes Coenen proves her mettle in the cage

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It seems that some mixed martial arts (MMA) fans will always think women -- no matter how hard they train and how well they fight -- are best suited not inside the cage, but walking around it holding a gigantic sign with a number on it.

Not only does a female fighter need to display skill and grit in the cage, she also holds the unfair obligation of having to be nice to look at as well.

Cristiane Santos -- "Cyborg" as she's more commonly known as -- embraces the former moreso than the latter. Her contract with Strikeforce was recently allowed to run out. She is currently without a promotion to call home.

Gina Carano was becoming more known for her looks and coy lip biting than her fights and hasn't stepped inside the cage since being brutalized against the aforementioned Brazilian.

But then there's Marloes Coenen.

Before she faces off against number one contender Miesha Tate at Strikeforce: "Fedor vs. Henderson," we'll take a look at "Rumina's" title defense against Liz Carmouche where she proved her beauty is only surpassed by her tenacity.

Let's dive in.

While it's only been less than two years that Coenen has been fighting under the Strikeforce banner, she's no newcomer to the sport.

She's been training for over half her life and made her professional MMA debut in late 2000.

To put that into perspective, "Rumina" has been competing longer than UFC Heavyweight and Light Heavyweight Champions Cain Velasquez and Jon Jones... combined.

Before arriving stateside, she spent her entire career -- save for a handful of fights in Europe -- in the Land of the Rising Sun. In that time, she built a 16-3 record.

Her American debut was against former adversary Roxanne Modafferi who had dealt Coenen her third loss. "Female Rickson" lived up to her moniker when she slapped on an armbar and submitted the American in a little over a minute.

The win was enough to earn "Rumina" a title shot against "Cyborg" in the anemic women's 145-pound division. 

In the Brazilian's 11-fight career, only one opponent lasted longer than Coenen did. Still though, the Dutch fighter was felled in the third round.

Title aspirations weren't entirely extinguished however and when Strikeforce decided to crown a women's champion at 135-pounds, they ran up "Rumina."

She failed to disappoint, winning the fight -- and the title -- by defeating Sarah Kaufman by... you guessed it, armbar.

Meanwhile, Miesha Tate had won a four-woman tournament in August 2010 to ensure she'd get the first crack after a champion was crowned.

So it was decided that at Strikeforce: "Feijao vs. Henderson," the two ladies would clash.

But it was announced -- less than two weeks before the event -- that Tate had suffered an injury during training and wouldn't be able to compete. Rather than strike the bout entirely from the card, Strikeforce found a last-minute replacement in Liz Carmouche.

10 days later, the two ladies met inside the cage.

The green Carmouche should have been easy pickings for the champion but the young American proved to be tougher than advertised.

Let's take a closer look.

Immediately into the first round, Coenen's striking pedigree begins to shine through. Training with the same camp that produced Heath Herring, Semmy Schilt, and Alistair Overeem affords a fighter the opportunity to hone their stand-up game to a science.

Battering Carmouche's legs with kicks and catching her up top with counters, "Rumina" controls the pace of the fight as she stalks her opponent around the cage.

Despite her impressive performance in the opening stanza, the champion was caught with a solid hook by the American that produced a mouse under her right eye.

Tasting what her opponent has in her stand-up arsenal, Carmouche immediately clinches Coenen up and looks for the takedown. Surviving a dangers guillotine attempt, "Girl-Rilla" begins to land ground and pound on the champ.

The younger American proceeds to pass into sidemount and takes a page out of a certain French-Canadian's book by landing devastating knees to the body and shoulder.

It isn't long before the fighter -- who found out she was fighting 10 days prior -- has the decade-long veteran and champion mounted. Carmouche is relentless, landing punch after punch until the bell sounds.

Going into the third round, Carmouche seems to be of the mindset, "If it ain't broke..." She immediately closes the distance the begins to grind her opponent against the cage, trying to find the opening needed to get the fight to the ground.

Midway through the round, "Girl-Rilla" finds it and immediately gets to full mount. Coenen survived the position in the first but she'll have to withstand the onslaught of Carmouche for much longer this time around if she wants to keep her belt.

Carmouche -- for as much natural talent as she may have -- still lacks experience and while a more seasoned fighter might have finished the fight in her position, the former Marine allows Coenen to survive into the championship rounds.

Noticeably swelling and beginning to bruise, "Rumina" takes to the center of the cage in the fourth as quickly as she did in the first. Fortune -- or rather technique -- smiles down on her as a quick takedown attempt by Carmouche is countered and Coenen ends up on top.

Standing over her opponent, smacking her legs with kicks, Coenen allows Carmouche to roll forward to her feet and lock into a single leg takedown that she quickly follows through on.

But as "Girl-Rilla" drags her opponent to the ground, she allows her right arm to be isolated while her left is caught between her body and that of Coenen's. It's the perfect position for a triangle choke.

Wasting no time, Coenen slaps on the submission and elicits the tap.

In the days after a thrilling victory by the US Women's National Soccer team, the debate over whether or not men's sports can be compared to those of the fairer sex is raging full force.

On the pitch, athletes like Abby Wamback and Alex Morgan stand as living, breathing examples that yes, the two should be considered equal.

But admittedly, they have some catching up to do because Marloes Coenen -- from all across Europe, Japan, and the US -- has been an example of that herself for over a decade now.

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