Two Women Enter

UFC 157: Thunderdome

I don’t remember watching a bad women’s MMA bout. I’ve seen some mismatches that resulted in one-sided beatdowns, but those beatdowns were always extremely entertaining. I will never forget the sight of Kim Couture fighting through a broken jaw in her professional debut at the Thomas and Mack Center against Kim Rose. What Couture lacked in experience and skill, she clearly made up for in heart.

Former Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight Champion Marloes Coenen nearly lost her belt after being down on all the scorecards in her bout against Liz Carmouche in July 2011, but an Anderson Silva-like triangle choke sealed a dramatic victory for her, and for Strikeforce.

The bottom line is: Female fighters almost always deliver the goods when they are put in the spotlight.

They fight like they have more to prove than just being able to beat their opponent. No, women fighters are on a bigger mission to prove they belong in mixed martial arts on equal footing as their male counterparts. You can see them dig deep into their “hell reserves” when the fight gets tough—never giving up, never giving in to the pain.

Julie Kedzie and Gina Carano exemplified that on Elite XC’s inaugural card that helped usher in mixed martial arts to Showtime’s premium cable audience. Carano followed that performance with a TKO-victory over Kaitlin Young in the first network MMA broadcast on CBS. When Carano lost her Strikeforce belt to Cris “Cyborg” Santos in the first women’s main event for a major MMA promotion, fans were left wanting more professional female fights after an exciting bout that ultimately retired Carano to Hollywood stardom (not too shabby).

On a night that saw Ronda Rousey claim the Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight Title from Miesha Tate in Columbus, Ohio, we were treated to not only that breathtaking main event where Rousey dislocated Tate’s elbow, but also a knock-down-drag-out brawl between Sarah Kaufmann and Alexis Davis that served as a title eliminator bout. Kaufmann would go on to lose to Rousey via armbar in her first title defense five months later in yet another women’s main event in San Diego’s Valley View Casino Center.
Rousey is the real deal.

These are the reasons why I’m not at all worried about the history-making UFC 157 card, featuring not only the first women’s UFC bout and main event, but also the UFC’s first openly gay fighter in Liz “Girl Rilla” Carmouche versus the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey on February 23 on pay-per-view.

The critics are rubbing their hands together, frothing at the opportunity to write their stories about “a failed experiment,” whether it be an upset of the dynamic former Olympian by the retired Marine,or low pay-per-view sales. None of that should matter. Unless your name is Lorenzo Fertitta or Dana White, or you own a cable system, you shouldn’t be too concerned about sales or upsets. What you should be concerned with is, are you entertained?

Along with this “experiment” comes Liz Carmouche, who is a class act. The Girl-Rilla is a former Marine who has been nothing but cool under the heat of the spotlight. It is as if she has been preparing for this moment her entire life, owning interviews and demonstrating a positive outlook toward nearly everything that has been thrust in her direction—from the haters who say she doesn’t deserve a title shot or that UFC newbies should not be headlining over legends Dan Henderson and Lyoto Machida to the people who don’t believe she has a shot in hell against Rousey.

“It only motivates me to prove them all wrong,” she says with an easy smile that suggests she’s done a million interviews in her time.

Dana White may state that he inserted Carmouche because she was lobbying for the fight and nobody else wanted to fight Rousey, but regular observers and Liz herself will concede that she is meat being thrown to the wolf that is Rousey. While the UFC may have a vested interest in having their diamond in the rough defend her belt successfully, a happy, accidental discovery is this poised, professional, grounded, and centered woman named Liz Carmouche.

Make history ladies, and have fun while you do it. I’ll see you in Anaheim.

Mike Straka is co-host of TapouT Radio on SiriusXM, and he is the UFC correspondent on Fight Now TV. His book Fighting Words: In Depth Interviews With The Biggest Names in Mixed Martial Arts is available everywhere books are sold.
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