Ronda Rousey, Liz Carmouche set to make history
In days leading up to UFC 157, MMA combatants are ready to go.
Ronda Rousey, 26, is the world's first female UFC Champion. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer / February 16, 2013)
Spent from her latest workout with coach Edmond Tarverdyan, Rousey answered questions that she had been asked too many times before, all centering around one impending Saturday night that could very well change the landscape of the Ultimate Fighting Championship and the world of mixed martial arts.
With the questions having grown stale and the real training all but done, the fight that seemingly everyone can’t stop talking about had transfixed into the fight that Rousey can’t stop thinking about.
“I’m just getting mostly impatient and focused — impatient and intense,” Rousey said on Saturday. “I think about it all the time.”
These are the final days before Rousey, a beautiful savage that has created a media storm the likes of which the MMA world has never seen, defends her UFC women’s bantamweight championship against Liz Carmouche in the main event of Saturday’s UFC 157: Rousey vs. Carmouche pay-per-view at the Honda Center in Anaheim.
It will be a night overflowing with firsts.
Rousey, the uncrowned first lady of MMA, stands at 6-0 in her brief but astounding professional career, all of her one-sided fights ending in the first-round via armbar. Subsequently, she was the first female fighter to sign a UFC contract and was then crowned the first-ever UFC women’s bantamweight champion after she was the last to hold the Strikeforce bantamweight title and the latter was absorbed by the UFC.
And on Saturday, likely some time after 9 p.m., Rousey and Carmouche, the first openly gay UFC fighter, will enter the caged confinement that is the UFC octagon for the first women’s fight in the organization’s two-decade history.
Plenty of hoopla, plenty of story lines and plenty of firsts, but for Rousey and her GFC camp, it’s still plenty simple.
“It’s a fight,” Tarverdyan said. “It doesn’t really make a difference for Ronda.”
All Rousey has done in the arena of MMA is win her fights, first going 3-0 in the amateur ranks before making her pro debut in March of 2011. It was a debut she would win in just 25 seconds and the roller-coaster rise of Rousey had begun.
Just as all of her fights have ended in the first round, they’ve all ended with her signature armbar — including her three amateur bouts. Only her Strikeforce title victory over rival Miesha Tate in March of 2012 — it took her 24 days shy of a year to go from her debut to winning a championship — extended past a minute. Thus, many have concluded she’s only good — albeit exceptional — at one aspect of the fight game. Rousey and Tarverdyan disagree, though, as her work in the gym has seen the overall game of the former two-time United States Olympian judoka develop rapidly. In particular, her striking has prospered, with her footwork and the power in her right hand improving rapidly.
“Ronda’s looking very, very good,” Tarverdyan said. “She’s improved a lot. She improves every fight.
“She performed very well and she’s gonna do even better for this fight.”
Tarverdyan points out the triple-jab combination she began her first and only Strikeforce title defense with. It backed up noted striker Sarah Kaufman and led to a clinch, an eventual takedown and impending doom in the form of an armbar that’s become as signature for Rousey as her sound bytes and stunning looks.
Consequently, Kaufman holds a victory via unanimous decision over Carmouche, who enters the bout as a 12-1 underdog. It’s a status Carmouche is perfectly fine with, however.
“The pressure isn’t on me, it’s on Ronda,” said Carmouche on Monday in Burbank, where she began fight week with a media luncheon at Morton’s The Steakhouse. “I’m going in as the underdog and the pressure’s all on her. ... The pressure’s off [me].
“That’s what fuels me is just to try to prove everybody wrong.”
Carmouche, 29, is riding a two-fight winning streak, though her most notable bout is likely a loss, as she nearly upset then-Strikeforce champion Marloes Coenen in March of 2011, winning the championship bout’s first three rounds before she was caught in a triangle choke and was submitted in the fourth. Carmouche brings an 8-2 record into the cage, with seven wins by stoppage — five via knockout and two by submission. However, the best aspects of her game are seen as her clinch work and ground-and-pound, which, at least going off pedigrees in comparison to Rousey’s past as the first American female to win an Olympic medal in judo when she took bronze in 2008, don’t seem to bode well for the San Diego-trained former United States Marine.