This Saturday, February 23rd marks one of the most historic events in modern sports. No, I am not referring to the Toronto Maple Leafs walking into Ottawa and crushing their Senators. That is not history, but merely routine. Rather, I am referring to the world of Mixed Martial Arts, as Anaheim’s Honda Center hosts UFC 157. The significance of this Pay-Per-View comes in its revolutionary main event, a 125 lb. Bantamweight title fight between titleholder, Ronda Rousey, and challenger, Liz Carmouche. This marks the first time in UFC history, that not only is the main event a WMMA bout, but also, it is the first instance of Women’s MMA at any UFC event. WMMA has been on the rise since the late 2000s, as promotions like Strikeforce, saw the uprising of WMMA stars like Gina Carano (last seen acting in Hollywood movies), and Cris “Cyborg” Santos (who is yet to fight since testing positive for PEDs after a December 2011 title defence). In their absence, WMMA has seen the birth of one of the most talented and controversial athletes in all of MMA, “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey. Her title defence this Saturday is a grand step in the right direction, not only for MMA, but for all sports, where women have always been perceived as “lesser”. This event is a much-needed step forward, for female equality in the world of sports, and the legitimacy of WMMA.
This is not first time that Ronda Rousey has been in the spotlight for an MMA event, as her impressive dominance in WMMA, charismatic appeal to the public, and controversial remarks, have made her a star in the world of MMA over the past year or so. Rousey featured in the main event of two Strikeforce events in 2012, March’s Strikeforce: Tate vs. Rousey, where she won the title in a first-round submission victory over Miesha Tate (also earning Submission of the Year honours), and August’s title defence, another first-round submission over Sarah Kaufman.
Whether you love or hate Ronda Rousey, she is the much-needed “face” of WMMA, and is largely responsible for its uprising in recent times, for a multitude of reasons. It is important to recognize first of all, that Rousey’s stranglehold on WMMA is sometimes perceived as the product of a weak division, and a lack of talent to compete with her. Closer inspection will suggest that this is not the case. Much like other dominant, streaking champions, such as Georges St-Pierre, Anderson Silva, and Jon Jones, Rousey possesses an uncanny fighting talent that few others can hold a candle to. Looking at her background, Rousey is an extremely talented Judoka, winning multiple titles and medals in Judo competition, the most impressive of all being her bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games. Her credentials have earned a 4th degree black-belt in Judo, one of the most effective grappling arts known in combat. She also trains Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, which shows in each of her six MMA victories, all wins by first-round armbar (arguably except for her “flying armbar” victory over Sarah D’Alelio in August 2011, where she was presumably too lazy to take her down first, and chose to simply armbar her whilst still standing).
Aside from her grappling prowess, Ronda Rousey has a few things going for her. She’s witty, attractive, charming, and loves the spotlight. She’s often seen in interviews, making jokes and controversial remarks, whilst sporting her championship belt and trademark grin. On the subject of controversy, Rousey is also one who knows how to stir the pot and spark a reaction from the MMA media. She’s been noted as calling out Cris Cyborg, and accusing her of being afraid to fight her, and labeling Canadian favourite, Georges St-Pierre, as a boring fighter who would have no fan-base, if not for his nationality and handsome looks. Regardless of whether or not Rousey meets praise or criticism, the rules of “all publicity is good publicity” still apply. Whether fans purchase her fights to see another first-round armbar, or in hopes of seeing her knocked unconscious, they are purchasing it nonetheless.
Opposing Rousey this Saturday, is Liz Carmouche, who is no joke herself, having formerly served United States Marine Corps. Carmouche also holds the distinction of being the only openly gay fighter under the UFC banner, referring to her legion of fans as “Lizbos”. She holds a record of 8-2 coming into this fight, and much like Rousey’s other opponents, is touted as a heavy underdog. She does not possess the same appeal and public draw that her opponent does, but nonetheless, she is a very tough competitor, and could become a WMMA star, should she win this Saturday night. Also worth noting, are the fights that support this main event, which include a number of reputable fighters, such as: Dan Henderson, Urijah Faber, MMA villain Josh Koscheck, and former 205 lb champ, Lyoto Machida. The fact that a WMMA bout is leading the way for all of these fighters, speaks volumes of the rise of women in the sport, and the progression of female equality in a male-dominated sports world.
However, this fight has not come without it’s fair share of backlash, and ignorant responses from the public. While most, like myself, see this as a historic event and great opportunity for WMMA to make its mark, old-world elements of sexism and misogyny still exist on the surface. Some of the angered responses I’ve read on forums and articles, include that the co-main event between Henderson and Machida, is the “real” main event, and multiple fans claiming that once the WMMA title fight is about to begin, they will simply turn off their televisions or leave the bar. Sadly, these opinions are present among a staggering amount of MMA fans, likely gym-monkeys who are too self-conscious about the fact that an 125 lb woman can kick their ass. These are not true fans of the sport, as Rousey has never partaken in a boring fight once in her career, and has put on a remarkable display of MMA in each of her six fights. It is unfortunate that such a historic and opportune event must be stained with ignorance and sexism among its fan-base. Regardless, UFC 157 promises to be an entertaining event, and the start of something crucial for WMMA: a global stage. Rest assured, this will likely be the first of many UFC events to feature women in the main-event slot. Congratulations to Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche for earning the opportunity, and best of luck to both.
Rousey: Submission Rd 1 Koscheck: Decision
Machida: Decision McGee:(T)KO Rd 2
Faber:Submission Rd 2