Make no mistake, no matter how last night’s main event was going to end, it was going to be an important moment in UFC history. For the first time in the promotion’s history, two female athletes would be competing in the UFC. Squash match or not, the historical significance of the fight and the freshly minted UFC Women’s Bantamweight title were enough to bump the fight up to main event status.
I’ve seen dozens of writers today write about how “predictably” the main event ended, but I can’t help but feel that this does a severe injustice to the fight we were treated to. Yes, it ended in a first round armbar victory for Ronda Rousey, and no, literally nothing else about this fight was predictable.
This is in large part a credit to challenger Liz Carmouche. Few people gave Carmouche any sort of chance to win, as clearly reflected by the betting odds for the fight. Yet for the first time last night, Carmouche was able to expose holes in Rousey’s game, and make the women’s champion look beatable. She wasn’t Rousey’s slightly-resistant grappling dummy – she was a very worthy challenger who almost finished Rousey with a rear-naked choke, and has teeth marks on her arm to show for it. Let’s all stop and admit that none of us expected this from her.
Let’s make sure to give Ronda Rousey her proper dues as well. Rousey responded to the stiffest test of her career the only way she knows how to: by cranking an arm until something taps or snaps. She managed to score her seventh victory by way of first round armbar in just as many professional fights, living up to the hype that she had been justifiably receiving. It may not have been her prettiest victory, but she survived the challenge and kept calm under pressure.
Above all else though, Rousey and Carmouche deserve respect for shattering not only the ceiling for women in the UFC, but the glass ceilings that fans placed on female fighters. Say what you want about women not being as strong or fast as men, or that the talent pool isn’t as deep (as opposed to the stacked men’s flyweight division), or keep talking about the ability to dunk a basketball like it even remotely matters*. Just don’t say that women don’t belong at our sport’s highest level of competition. If you value the quality of the fights over the sexes of the athletes, you walked away from last night’s main event excited about future women’s matchups.
Elsewhere on the card:
- I’ll admit that before the event, I thought a case could be made that Henderson vs. Machida was the real main event. On paper, Rousey vs. Carmouche was little more than a squash match designed to give Rousey the title. Meanwhile, on paper, Machida vs. Henderson was a legitimate fight for light-heavyweight number one contendership. Unfortunately, anyone who sat through Machida vs. Henderson was reminded that things rarely play out in real time the way that they should play out on paper.
If Rousey vs. Carmouche was everything fans can look forward to from the UFC’s newest acquisitions, then Machida vs. Henderson was everything fans were already sick of. A “too elusive to be interesting” fighter more concerned with winning rounds than putting on a show? Check. An aging fighter on testosterone replacement therapy? Check. A judge ignoring the things he’s supposed to be looking for and picking the winner of the fight based on a vague notion of “Octagon Control?” *sigh* Check. “Forgettable” barely describes this one.
- Yes, Machida is next in line for a shot at the light-heavyweight title, although Dana White didn’t exactly sound thrilled to be announcing it. “It wasn’t a barnburner,” said White about Machida vs. Henderson. “It wasn’t the most exciting fight you’ve ever seen. You won’t be writing stories about this fight until the end of time. But Lyoto won the fight. He beat the number one contender.”
- Urijah Faber knew he needed to put on an extra special performance against Ivan Menjivar if he wanted job security, and did exactly that. You don’t see too many standing crucifix-to-rear-naked choke finishes, but then again, you don’t see too many fighters as creative and athletic as Urijah Faber. When he’s matched up against the Ivan Menjivars of the division, the end result is something special.
- Court McGee was a tough-as-nails middleweight, is now a tough-as-nails welterweight, and continued to look solid against lower-end competition with his victory over Josh Neer. I don’t see a Demian Maia-esque resurgence at welterweight in McGee’s future, but then again, I didn’t see one for Maia, either.
- If Robbie Lawler knocking out Josh Koscheck isn’t at least an honorable mention for “Most Satisfying Beatdown of 2013,” then a lot of heels are going to get their asses kicked by old-school warriors this year. However, I was surprised to see how many people thought that the fight was stopped too early. It’s one thing not to like a fighter, it’s another thing to want him dead.
- Lawler rightfully took home the $50k Knockout of the Night bonus for his performance. Meanwhile, Koscheck may very well find himself unemployed. I’m sure Dana White likes Koscheck, just as I’m sure he likes Jon Fitch, too. By the way, Fitch not only made less money than Koscheck does per fight, but he also had a higher “ranking” when he was released.
- Submission of the Night honors did not go to Ronda Rousey, but rather, Kenny Robertson for his first round kneebar submission over Brock Jardine.
- Fight of the Night went to the three round war that was Dennis Bermudez vs. Matt Grice. These two featherweightst absolutely stole the show with this fight. In the end, Bermudez won by decision.
Ronda Rousey def. Liz Carmouche via submission (armbar), 4:49 of Round 1
Lyoto Machida def. Dan Henderson via split decision (29-28 x 2, 28-29)
Urijah Faber def. Ivan Menjivar via submission (rear-naked choke), 4:43 of Round 1
Court McGee def. Josh Neer via unanimous decision (30-27 x 3)
Robbie Lawler def. Josh Koscheck via TKO, 3:57 of Round 1
Brendan Schaub def. Lavar Johnson via unanimous decision (30-27 x 3)
Michael Chiesa def. Anton Kuivanen via submission (rear-naked choke), 2:29 of Round 2
Dennis Bermudez def. Matt Grice via split decision (29-28 x 2, 28-29)
Sam Stout def. Caros Fodor via split decision (29-28 x 2, 28-29)
Kenny Robertson def. Brock Jardine via submission (kneebar), 2:57 of Round 1
Neil Magny def. Jon Manley via unanimous decision (30-27 x 2, 29-28)
Nah-Shon Burrell def. Yuri Villefort via unanimous decision (29-28 x 2, 30-27)
* By the way, if dunking a basketball is the measuring stick of whether or not a person is a good athlete, then our sport’s most accomplished light-heavyweight is, well, you’ll see: