I've always been on the fence with women's MMA. Yes, I understood that for females, establishing for themselves a sport that can come close to the approximation of men's MMA would simply take time. But it never meant I had to enjoy it.
Female MMA always tended to be too raw for my liking. I never approached female MMA from the perspective that "women shouldn't be doing this". Instead I just found the mechanics to be crude. Like a Leonard Garcia fight, there was a noticeable lack of grace.
But not last night. The females were the stars. Sarah Kaufman put on a fantastic performance against a very game Alexis Davis. But it wasn't a "good fight in the context of women's MMA". It was just a good fight. Kaufman's boxing is better than most men, and certainly better than a neo-nazi's.
And then there was the main event. The numbers of viewers won't reflect it, but Ronda Rousey is absolutely a star. All the ingredients are there. She's a world class talent. And here the words "world class" have meaning beyond "happens to fight in the UFC". The way she's able to transition so quickly from takedown to positioning for a submission, or sliding right into mount...these are traits we don't even get from some of our "P4P" kings.
Rousey just "gets" MMA. There's a brilliance to her game that reveals itself in the way she transitions. In understanding that each shift from one phase to the next is an opportunity. And that a takedown can be a sequence rather than a precession.
Of course, it doesn't hurt that she gives lively, candid interviews that never come across as insincere (as they do with someone like Chael Sonnen), or that she's attractive. And given everyone's love of Nick Diaz, she probably earned some brownie points from fans who love seeing a grudge that isn't manufactured, as was evident in her dismissal of Tate's injuries.
Speaking of the former champ, Miesha Tate deserves praise as well. I'm not sure she fought the best gameplan (she seemed intent on getting the fight to the ground rather than separating and striking with Rousey at distance, who is still clearly lacking in that regard), but she wasn't afraid to threaten Rousey with her own grappling prowess. Except for her boyfriend's behavior, Tate has nothing to be ashamed of.
And that's why last night was a game changer. There's a narrative moving forward. Rousey vs. Kaufman is a compelling fight, and I'm just as interested in seeing how Miesha Tate rebounds.
By now I should probably explain the ‘why' (women deserve to be in the UFC), but to me the question is ‘why not?' Women's MMA might seem barren after a few "superfights", the critics might argue, but how is this any different from the UFC's flyweight division?
The benefit of a platform like the UFC is that it draws the world's best to be in one place. Without the UFC, we never would have had Ian McCall and Demetrious Johnson underneath the same roof. Or Urushitani for that matter, who is still a valuable fighter despite the emphatic loss to Joseph Benavidez. It's not like women's MMA doesn't have a corollary.
Sara McMann has an Olympic medal that's just a wee bit shinier than Ronda's. While McMann may not be ready now, the potential is there, and already we know a bit more about how she handles pressure (McMann got into a fairly wild fight with Raquel Pa-aluhi).
I wouldn't expect the chances to be high on the UFC accepting women's MMA. But if we want to draw out the prospects, the foreigners, and the stars all in one place (and therefore give women the best measure of their abilities), it's the only chance they've got. And I think Rousey, Tate, Kaufman, and Davis proved they deserve that chance. The purpose of the UFC's existence is to display world class fighters. If someone like Ronda Rousey isn't in the UFC, while someone like Aaron Rosa is, then I have to consider that more than a modest injustice.