FILE - In this Dec. 6, 2012, file photo, mixed martial arts fighter Ronda Rousey shows off her UFC bantamweight championship belt presented to her by UFC president Dana White during a news conference in Seattle. With her Olympic pedigree and merciless mixed martial arts success, Rousey finally has a showcase worthy of her talent. Rousey and Liz Carmouche are about to make history in the main event at UFC 157 in Anaheim on Saturday, in the first women's bout in the promotion's history. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Neil Davidson, File)
Ronda Rousey, shown here at a weigh-in at Palms Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, is the sport's most recognizable female fight. (AP)2011 Forza LLC
It might seem unfair to claim that the weight of the entire women’s MMA movement is on Ronda Rousey’s shoulders, but make no mistake - this is no rash hyperbole. A few years ago, it seemed utterly unlikely that female fighters would step into the hallowed blood stained Octagon. Why would they? After all, was there never a seemingly more staunch opponent of this final female fighting frontier than Dana White. He vowed he did that it would not ever happen. But it did.
Ronda Rousey - Liz Carmouche
Fast forward to this coming Saturday night and not only will Rousey be staring across the cage against her opponent Liz Carmouche in a UFC 157 bout, but she’ll be the headline act. How fast things have changed. As for pressure, the Olympian will need to put on a show to match the hype and historical significance. As for how tough Carmouche will be for Rousey let’s take a look.
Firstly let’s call a spade a spade. For a marquee fight of this historical magnitude, Carmouche is not the fight that whets the most appetites, but it does provide the opportunity for Rousey to look spectacular - a soft platform from which to launch fireworks. The ultimate fight would undoubtedly be against Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos but that will have to wait.
Carmouche [8-2] a former Marine is undoubtedly a physical specimen with a very good ground game with ground and pound a particular specialty. But her limitations are also glaring. Her standing game is limited. Opponents who cut off distance ultimately find success, as Sarah Kaufman did in her win over Carmouche at Strikeforce Challengers 17.
And therein lies the problem. How does Carmouche counter Rousey who has the best overall game in women’s MMA? A fighter who has struggled to find an opponent to go longer than just over four minutes with her in any bout. Rousey is head and shoulders above her rivals.
Saturday night will likely prove to be an explosive opening night to Rousey’s UFC curtain raiser. Here’s hoping though that a fight against “Cyborg” and the likes of the ever-improving Sarah McMann are on the horizon after an all too likely swift dispatch of Carmouche.
Dan Henderson - Lyoto Machida
With the Rousey - Carmouche fight likely to be over before fans return to settle down after after their second helping of chips and salsa, what better way to ensure an ultimate crowd pleaser by scheduling a five round fight between two fighters desperate for one more title shot?
Let’s thank those eager 205 pound beavers, Henderson and Machida. Henderson [29-8] the former Strikeforce champion was scheduled to fight Jon Jones, injury stopped him and the 42 year old has been absent from the sport for 15 months. To say he might have a tinge of ring rust might be an understatement. But he is athletic and remarkably durable and rarely in a bad fight.
As for Machida, his last fight was a resounding second round knockout of Ryan Bader on UFC on Fox 4. The question will really be how much can an old Henderson hang with a young Machida who can claim he is still in the prime of his career. One thing worth bearing in mind that despite age, Henderson has never been knocked out. When you have steel whiskers it allows you to move forward and be aggressive and establish some ground and pound. But how much will age play a factor in five rounds. Fans may love a five stanza fight-off but how much this favors a veteran of Henderson’s age is another matter.
Fans can expect a close fight that tees up a historical finale starring Rousey as she sets off on her rampaging UFC journey.
Igor Guryashkin is a freelance journalist whose extensive work on combat sports has been featured in ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com. He splits his time between New York and Louisville. Follow him on Twitter: @iguryashkin.