It was last December when the UFC revealed that it was creating its first women’s division and that Strikeforce bantamweight Ronda Rousey would become the promotion’s first female champion. But that was only the beginning for the 26-year-old Californian.

In fact, 2013 could easily be described as “Ronda’s Year” for not only the promotion, but the sport. Rousey’s skills were not only enough to convince UFC President Dana White that women belong in the UFC, but she quickly took over as the face of women’s MMA. In a year that featured longtime champions and pay-per-view kingpins Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva fall from grace, it was Rousey who emerged to take their place.

February saw Rousey defend her belt for the first time as she headlined UFC 157 against Liz Carmouche. Carmouche gave Rousey all she could handle initially, but Rousey extended her run of first-round armbar finishes to seven (10 if you include her amateur career) to retain her title.

Outside the cage, Rousey’s star power grew as she landed multiple movie roles, including spots in The Expendables 3 and Fast & Furious 7.

Midway through the year, news came that Rousey would coach the 18th season of The Ultimate Fighter opposite No. 1 contender Cat Zingano. However, a knee injury to Zingano prompted the UFC to select the woman that Rousey defeated to earn her Strikeforce title, Miesha Tate, as the opposing coach.

The reality show saw Rousey and Tate at each other’s throats throughout, setting up a highly anticipated rematch at UFC 168 in December. Tate vowed she would not succumb to another armbar—like she had under the Strikeforce banner—and for the first two rounds of the contest, she was right. But Rousey proved why she’s the champion, coercing a tap from Tate in the third round to keep the 135-pound belt around her waist and cap off a monster year.

Will 2014 be the same kind of year for Rousey? Only time will tell. But the former Olympic judoka won’t be out of action long, as she’ll return in February at UFC 170 to face fellow undefeated fighter Sara McMann.

Honorable Mention: Tecia Torres, Holly Holm
The MMA Corner’s 2013 Awards were selected by our staff of writers and photographers. Unless noted otherwise, the nominations were open to all fighters, promotions and events that took place during 2013.