The UFC hype machine was in full swing in the weeks leading up to Saturday’s UFC 157 event. Perhaps more than most other cards, UFC 157 stood to make history, as it would mark the debut of the promotion’s women’s bantamweight division, and the attention it got from both the MMA and mainstream media certainly made the event feel special.

Much of that attention was centered on main-event competitor Ronda Rousey, whose rapid ascent to the top of the women’s MMA ladder was a major contributing factor to the destruction of a UFC gender barrier that had been in place for nearly 20 years. Stories about the first UFC women’s champion appeared prominently in USA Today, CNN.com and other media outlets for whom MMA is not typically on the radar. Take nothing away from Rousey’s challenger, Liz Carmouche, who is now more famous than she probably ever dreamed as a result of her participation in the fight, but Rousey was clearly the star of the show on Saturday night.

Besides Rousey, who retained her UFC women’s bantamweight belt with a win over Carmouche, no one is probably happier about the fight’s outcome than the UFC’s executives. Not only did Rousey, around whom the promotion clearly intends to build its women’s divisions, win, but the fight itself was one of the best of the evening. Many people thought the UFC was taking a big risk in headlining a card with its first female fight, but the bout’s thrilling nature proved those doubters wrong.

All this being said, did the fight truly live up to the considerable hype that surrounded it? Let’s take a closer look.

In the promotional push before UFC 157, fans were told that a.) Ronda Rousey was an extraordinarily tough and dangerous fighter who b.) finished her six previous opponents in the first round and who c.) used the same armbar to submit all of them. They were also told that d.) Liz Carmouche, a former U.S. Marine, was definitely a worthy opponent, having bested seven of nine opponents, finishing five, and therefore e.) the fight would be one to remember.

Anyone who watched the fight Saturday night would be hard-pressed to argue against all of these criteria being met.

Rousey proved her toughness by gutting out a first-round armbar win once again. Carmouche lasted longer than any of Rousey’s previous opponents and for a brief period had the champion in serious danger when she took her back and nearly had a rear-naked choke sunk in. Rousey would not relent, however, and ended up scoring a memorable submission after escaping Carmouche’s attack and maneuvering the fight to the mat.

The bout didn’t win “Fight of the Night,” but it nevertheless will be the fight on the UFC 157 card that is viewed with the most significance. Beyond Saturday’s event, though, Rousey vs. Carmouche also lived up to the hype as being the most important moment yet for women’s MMA. Sure, Gina Carano got on television first, but it was for a second-rate fight promotion that hitched its proverbial wagon to Kimbo Slice and was promptly shut down when that gamble didn’t pan out. Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino was, before Rousey came on the scene, viewed as the most dangerous female fighter in the game, but her reputation has been tarnished by a steroid suspension. Not only that, but she fights in a 145-pound weight class the UFC does not yet offer for women, and as more females at 135 pounds are signed by the promotion, her hold on the attention of fight fans will continue to diminish. Invitca FC made waves in 2012 when it became the first prominent American MMA organization to exclusively feature female fighters, but that promotion doesn’t have anything close to the drawing power that the UFC has and will likely be relegated to being a de facto farm system for female prospects before they sign with the UFC.

Here’s the bottom line: Saturday’s fight between Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche was the most significant moment thus far in the history of women’s MMA, and therefore more than lived up to the abundant hype the UFC applied to it.

Photo: Ronda Rousey has her hand raised in victory (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

About The Author

Eric Reinert
Staff Writer

Eric Reinert has been writing about mixed martial arts since 2010. Outside the world of caged combat, Eric has spent time as a news reporter, speechwriter, campaign strategist, tech support manager, landscaper and janitor. He lives in Madison, Wis.