Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Ronda Rousey did it again, this time in the eight-sided cage. She became the first woman to win a fight in the UFC and the first women's champion to defend a UFC belt. How high can her star rise?
UFC 157's main event of Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche was a perfect introduction to Women's MMA for the average UFC fan who hadn't seen it before. These ladies can fight and it is often thrilling and very enthralling. So often the MMA media, bloggers and fans talk about the need for a Bonnar/Griffin moment, a fight that just drops jaws. The UFC got that last night, and it was a fantastic fight right when they needed it.
It doesn't matter if you like Rousey or can't stand her, she is going to be a crossover star for the UFC even if she drops a fight or two. She is too interesting, too personable in interviews and too damn good at fighting to just fade away. Women's MMA arrived with a bang and it is here to stay. I doubt it will become a centerpiece of many cards, but in the future expect one or two fights featuring girls on a PPV or card.
On to the other talking points:
- Ronda did it again. First round, armbar, tap, win. It wasn't easy this time as Carmouche put a up a fight worthy of a Marine, but in the end Rousey is just too good at grappling. Carmouche pulled off a nice escape from kesa gatame, a position not often used in American MMA, and got to Ronda's back. But kesa gatame is a pinning position in Judo and something Rousey would have drilled for hours on end, so when she was able to deftly slip out of a heel hook attempt back into the position there was no chance for Carmouche to pull off the same escape twice. Carmouche made this a contest because athletically she is on a par with Rousey, but Rousey has spent her life grappling while Carmouche only came to it recently. There will be fighters to challenge Rosuey in the future but she will be an elite fighter for as long as she straps on gloves and enters the cage.
- Ronda's mother pointed out that the thing she saw in Ronda that set her apart from the other children doing Judo is that she refused to lose. She didn't grasp onto reasons to quit, she got mad and pushed through. We saw that last night - that neck crank would have forced a great many grapplers to tap, but Ronda endured out of sheer stubbornness. There were teeth marks in Carmouche's arm because her forearm was across Ronda's mouth and I can assure you that is a miserable experience for both parties. There can be little doubt that Ronda is a mentally resistant fighter - you don't medal in an Olympic sport being mentally soft - and she has brought that razor sharp focus and determination to bear in her MMA fights.
- Miesha Tate and Cat Zingano both attempted to angle their way into title contention with inflammatory tweets about Rousey's fight tonight but I feel the most interesting match up would be Alexis Davis. A very good ground grappler, Davis might be the type of fighter that causes Rousey to use her Judo to keep the fight standing and try out more of her striking. It might not be the most thrilling match to watch but it would tell us a lot about how Ronda is developing as an MMA fighter. The only hurdle to this match is that Ronda spends time at Cesar Gracie's gym where Davis trains, but I don't think this will be an issue. To be at an international level in an Olympic sport like Judo, you either have to become a social recluse at all the tournaments you are forced to compete in or you have to deal with fighting your friends on occasion. I don't know how close Davis and Rousey are, or if they even know each other at all, but I doubt Rousey would have any qualms mixing it up with Davis.
- Lyoto Machida was the rightful winner of that fight. While he didn't blow the roof off the building, he employed the same style he has used his entire career and Dan Henderson acted like he was seeing it for the first time. Machida played with distance, opening it at times when Henderson attacked and at other times Machida stood his ground and landed good counters. Basically all of Henderson's offense came from those lead leg kicks that are meant to set up his right hand, but it never really paid off. Machida did get hit a few times by Henderson and didn't fall apart, so lets hope this puts an end to the myth that Machida is glass-jawed.
- The amount of anger against Machida really surprised me. This is how Machida fights, and most times the result is a highlight reel moment where he catches his opponent clean. But other times it can result in a less than thrilling match. Do fans remember the booing after the Tito Ortiz fight? Or the Rampage fight? Not every fight can be a barn burner, especially when the guy across the cage is as tough as Henderson. Yes Machida had a boring fight, get over it.
- Dan Henderson may have lost tonight but I think he has a strong case for being the best American-born MMA fighter to date. His resume is outstanding with wins over Carlos Newton, Murilo Bustamante, Wanderlei Silva, Vitor Belfort. Rousimar Palhares, Renato Sobral, Rich Franklin, and Shogun. He was also competitive with Anderson Silva, Rampage Jackson and Lyoto Machida. And lets not forget that he knocked out Fedor Emelianenko, beat Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and Giblert Yvel, all heavyweights. It is tough to find an American fighter with any thing approaching that level of accomplishment.
- Urijah Faber and Ivan Menjivar turned in a great fight. Right off the bat Menjivar hip tossed Faber into a scarf hold and Faber reversed him perfectly. Faber then went to work with excellent ground-and-pound and finished the fight with an awesome standing back take to get the choke.
- Let us not forget just because Faber's dominant title run ended a little before the WEC merged with the UFC that he is still one of the best sub-155 pound fighters on the planet. Some may roll their eyes at Faber being in title contention yet again and complain the UFC is trying to force the issue, but he is still a deserving and elite Bantamweight.
- Court McGee won in a less than impressive fashion. He is very much a jack of all trades and master of none. He has no skill that sets him apart, and it makes his fights rather forgettable as a result. He did hurt Josh Neer to the body in the first round and while he did in fact go back to the liver in the second round, McGee just didn't have the power in his strikes to really make an impact.
- Robbie Lawler got a solid win over Josh Koscheck. While I though the stoppage was a little early, I won't fault Herb Dean for stepping in. There is something about how Koscheck reacts to getting punched that causes these somewhat early stoppages with him. Maybe this is the universes way of balancing things out for all the eye pokes Koscheck has gotten away with.
- I do not think Josh Koscheck will be cut. Koscheck still has quite a bit of name power having fought Georges St. Pierre twice and having been the original TUF bad boy. He cuts a great promo, and either knocks out his opponent or gets knocked out. The UFC gets their money's worth when he fights so I expect him to remain on the roster.
- Brendan Schaub fought a smart fight, taking Lavar Johnson down and keeping him down. It was a little concerning for Schaub that he couldn't pass Johnson's guard, who is not known for his ground game. Schuab has been working on tightening up his jiu jitsu with the Gracies in Torrance, California, and while his efforts bore only a little fruit in this fight, don't give up on Schaub. Rarely do skills transfer from the gym to competition cleanly or quickly and if Schuab is intent on becoming this more of a ground fighter it is difficult to change your whole game in one fight.
- Michael Chiesa overcame some hardship, dropping the first round to Anton Kuivanen. Then in the second round he caught the back and choked Kuivanen out. Chiesa has an excellent attack from the back and considering how often fighters will give up the back in MMA - some when they scramble back to the feet, others simply because they feel safer there than mounted - Chiesa could choke out a lot of fighters.
- Matt Grice and Dennis Bermudez put on an all-time scrap. What a great fight and come back by Bermudez but my joy for it was somewhat blunted by the fact that not one judge scored the third round a 10-8 for Bermudez. I was debating myself on if it was worthy of 10-7, I decided against it but I thought it was as crystal clear as 10-8 comes. In any event it was an awesome fight.
- Some good fights on the Facebook section of this card also. Nah-Shon Burrell and Yuri Villefort put on a great fight, back and forth with some technical striking and grappling. I thought Villefort won the first two rounds, but it was close. Hope both guys get a second fight in the UFC, I think they both earned it.
- Kenny Roberstson pulled out a nice ripper submission, I won't call it a knee bar because it seemed to attack the hamstring and not the knee. In any event, KJ will be putting out a Judo Chop on that submission so keep an eye out, because we've seen it before!