The Greatest Title Fights in UFC History Part One: Women’s Bantamweight
In this ongoing series for TuffGnarl.com, I am isolating a single UFC title fight from the annals of history and identifying it as, by far, the finest of the pack—the single greatest division-specific championship bout in UFC history.
We’ll start off modestly in the organization’s youngest weight class, the women’s bantamweight division, and work our way up.
Event: UFC 157: Rousey vs. Carmouche
Fight: “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey vs. Liz “Girl-Rilla” Carmouche
Ladies first. Ronda Rousey was the lightning rod women’s MMA needed. She was brash, opinionated, attractive, aggressive, articulate and had a wicked gross armbar game. The world was watching, and even my friend Tom Bowker, who until then had shown no signs whatsoever of being interested in the fight game, proactively called me up to be party to witnessing how Rousey’s UFC debut went.
And check out these supporting fights, in case you’re still in denial that the UFC has saturated their pay-per-view product:
- The co-main event was Lyoto Machida vs. Dan Henderson
- The sub-co-main event was Urijah Faber vs. Ivan Menjivar
Court McGee faced Josh Neer, Robbie Lawler faced Josh Koscheck, Michael Chiesa, Dennis Bermudez and Sam Stout all also competed.
Seriously, what the hell, modern UFC? We’ve got at least three UFC Fight Pass main events going on on one card. UFC 179’s co-main event: Glover Teixeira vs. Phil Davis. The biggest draw after that? Fabio Maldonado. Get outta here with that bull!
At the end of the night, however—and let’s all agree that there shouldn’t be a title fight on this list that didn’t afford itself main event status—the main event between Liz “Girl-Rilla” Carmouche and “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey still demanded the most attention.
And it deserved all of it.
Ronda Rousey was making her UFC debut, defending her title against a game competitor in Carmouche in what the first ever penis-deficient combative contest in the history of the oldest mixed martial arts organization in America (unless you count Joe Son’s fight against Keith Hackney; if you do, I don’t blame you).
Yes, Rousey has since competed past the first round (at the time, she’d defeated every opponent within five minutes by armbar submission), but this fight was and still is the first and greatest test of her MMA acumen.
The reasons this fight earns top billing instead of Rousey vs. Tate 2, its closest competitor and a truly deserving alternative, are threefold (not counting the fact that it served as a co-main event):
- Historically, it was an immense occasion. After years of resistance, UFC president Dana White had finally seen the light. Having earlier stated that women would “never’ fight inside the Octagon, he’d finally been convinced by Rousey, who still today receives comparisons to a prime Mike Tyson due to her scary ability to finish opponents quickly. In this fight (and, actually, every fight since), she delivered just that and it blew the doors wide open for what has become one of the most consistently entertaining divisions in the UFC.
- Liz Carmouche had Rousey in legitimate trouble. Just past the one minute mark in the first round, “Girl-Rilla” slapped on a distressingly tight rear-naked choke on the imported champion and was cranking it with everything she had. Fortunately for “Rowdy,” Carmouche hadn’t secured the choke under her chin and she was able to break free and go on to win the fight. However, it still stands as the closest anyone has come to wresting the belt from the women’s bantamweight champ.
- Aside from its historical significance, there was practically no supporting storyline. Rousey, a Olympic bronze medalist in judo, was taking on Carmouche, an openly gay tough-as-nails former marine in the first-ever women’s match on Zuffa soil. That was the whole story. There was no animosity between the women, no vitriol exchanged. Outside of the cage, they were cordial to one another–kind, even — but inside the cage it was all business. Most of the time, a lack of background push diminishes the fight when it arrives–there’s a reason why rivalries in sports are such enduring motifs — but this time it didn’t matter. This time the storyline, for all shapes and purposes, was how monumental the moment was. Rousey vs. Tate had already happened in Strikeforce and the result was a definitive one. Though their rematch both crossed the five minute mark and had the backing of an entire season of The Ultimate Fighter, it still played second fiddle to Weidman vs. Silva 2, and that says something.
Check out the full fight below:
A freelance MMA, entertainment and business journo born, raised and residing in Miami, FL, Jesse Scheckner is a musician, cinephile and recovering ne’er-do-well who still believes Mickey Rourke’s finest days in film have yet to come. He isTuffGnarl.com‘s editor-in-chief. Follow him on Twitter: @JesseScheckner.
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